MBA interviews – different B-schools seem to have different processes to shortlist candidates. Especially with the interview season becoming online, many campuses decided to do away with the Group Discussion (GD), with SPJIMR being a notable exception, sticking to its guns, and conducting the Group Interviews as per their conventions.
The Symbiosis institutions also had three rounds in the selection process – WAT, GE (Group Exercise, if you are wondering what it is) and PI. Let us see how these experiences went for a candidate who attended the process for three institutes – SIBM Pune, SCMHRD and SIOM Nashik.
To be clear, this is a series of articles based on different MBA interviews and the interview experiences. To read the other articles of this series, click on the following links:
- Great Lakes
- IMT Ghaziabad
- IIM Rohtak
- IMT Ghaziabad #2
- IIM CAP
- S P Jain
- IIM CAP #2
- IIM Rohtak #2
- IIM Lucknow
The MBA interviews and the WAT round
Just for a difference, we will go round-by-round, covering all the colleges one candidate appeared for using their SNAP score; this will put things in perspective on the sharp contrast each of the exercises offered.
1) SIBM Pune: The plain vanilla WAT
This was, by far, the most straightforward question (the SIOM one was a bit weird, and we will come to that in some time).
“You are given a time machine and Rs. 50 lakhs. You can travel backwards or forwards as per your wish. What would you do?”
The time given to complete this one was 12 minutes, and the word limit was 120-150 words.
2) SCMHRD: The slightly tricky WAT
This one was not as straightforward as the SIBM Pune WAT. The SCMHRD WAT was slightly tricky in the sense that there was not a direct question/statement given, based on which the candidate could write an answer.
There was a picture followed by a one-liner. The picture had a hotel waitress trying hard to balance three plates – one in each of her hands, and one on her head – while the one-liner stated something on the lines of “The local mail system is ‘not pressurized'”.
The time allotted was 20 minutes, and the word limit was 500.
The candidate who shared their experience mentioned that they had taken that ‘not pressurized’ (within quotes) part as the pivot of their answer, stating it was an irony and bringing in the picture to convey the actual situation of the local mail system.
3) SIOM Nashik: Was this a WAT at all?
Out of all the MBA interviews and their processes, this was the weirdest. It resembled a Statement of Purpose (SoP) than an actual WAT.
The question was: “What are the things that matter the most to you? Why do these matter to you in the context of you becoming an Operations Management Expert in the future?”
Again, the time allotted was 20 minutes and the word limit was 500.
4) SIIB: The most challenging and the most interesting of ’em all
For a change, this WAT process had three questions, all of which had to be answered within a total span of 30 minutes.
The following are the three questions that were asked:
- Strong leadership sometimes undermines participative democracy.
- A long RC-esque passage that talked about how market operates on sentiment, with emphasis on COVID-19 and the post-COVID ‘green shoots’. There was a comparison of how China’s economy has been witnessing a rebound, while some other countries were still plunging downward. This particular question asked the candidate to reframe the guidelines mentioned in the passage in simple terms, along with a few suggestions.
- This was again a continuation of the previous question, with the same passage to be used for reference. The question had something that dealt with how the markets are speculative based on the popular perception.
(Sidenote: The candidate in question chose not to attend the subsequent rounds of the SIIB process. (And it had nothing to do with the kinds of questions that were asked in the WAT :P))
Moving on! To the next round – the Group Exercise (GE)
The process stayed true to its name. The Discussion was one part of this round, while there were other components as well. All the three GEs the said candidate was
The process proceeded along the following lines:
Topic given to the candidates – prep time of one or two minutes – each one presenting their view in a minute – floor open for discussion and arriving at a consensus – one of the members to close the discussion.
1) SIBM Pune: The truest sense of a Group ‘Exercise’
The candidates were given a set of 8 blocks. Each of these blocks contained some text or an image. Each image was worth 200 points, and each text was worth 100 points.
The candidates were given 600 points each (there were 6 members in the group, and 2 panelists). Each of them had to spend those 600 points compulsorily, choosing some sets of pictures and text. From those, they had to form a coherent narrative.
The ‘Exercise’ started with each candidate justifying for 45 seconds the reasons they chose the blocks. Now, some of them had chosen the same set of blocks, while the others had different choices.
Not a fish-market GD; quite the opposite
The next 10-12 minutes revolved around arriving at the final set of blocks and agreeing on one narrative. There were two broad themes – (i) Education and the digital divide, and (ii) Sports and the inequitable opportunities. This was a fairly straightforward GD (or rather, GE) with the members more or less agreeing on the second theme almost immediately.
2) SCMHRD: A walk-in-the-park topic, but an intense discussion
The topic here was very relevant, and stayed true to the ‘CURRENT’ of Current Affairs.
I’m curious. What’s the topic?
The topic: “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the unorganized/informal sector very drastically. Suggest ways to improve this situation.“
There was a lot of ground to cover in this topic, and the members seemed to jump directly to conclusions. One of the candidates had to get the facts right, stating the Labour Laws that were brought in, the mass migration that happened, the percentage of workforce which were in the ifnormal sector, and so on and so forth. Once that was done, the GE became more streamlined.
3) SIOM Nashik: The contextual topic with little to no familiarity
Ah, I know! The title kindles some level of curiosity.
The topic for the GE was: “Kumbh Mela is an event that requires a lot of planning on different verticals – transport, accommodation, finances, logistics, and sanitation and health. How would you ensure the event progresses without any untoward happenings?”
Again, this topic required some sense of direction since it was easy to get lost in the genericness of the topic. There had to be a clear demarcation of the different aspects of the event that had to be discussed, while bringing them together to form a coherent discussion.
This, unfortunately, was dangerously close to a fish-market GD. Luckily though, the panelists decided to call the House to order, and they took it upon themselves to kind of streamline the process. Then, it was a breezy discussion.
Now, on to the final round of the MBA interviews – the Personal Interview (PI) itself!
At this point, it must be noted that SIBM Pune had all the three rounds of the process on one day, and the other colleges mentioned had their WAT on a separate day, while the GE-PI happened together on another day.
1) SIBM Pune: The one with the panelists who never got convinced
The “never got convinced” part makes you think that this was all about “Why MBA?” WRONG. That was not the case. It was about the candidate having switched multiple jobs; any amount of explanation – as you might have guessed from the heading of this segment itself – did not seem to convince the panelists.
The other “HR questions” were smooth. There was nothing major on the undergrad subjects, and after a point, it became a discussion on what the candidate wanted to do in the long-run.
The panel consisted of two males, and the interview lasted for around 12-14 minutes.
2) SCMHRD: The one where it was all about the SoP form
When the said candidate was wondering if they had gone overboard with the set of questions asked in the form that had to be filled before the day of the GE-PI, this itnerview reassured the candidate.
This interview did not begin with the cliched “Tell us about yourself” question, but the whole interview was around the panel wanting to know about the candidate. “Why did you choose to do this?”, “Why not that?”, “What did you do at this particular moment you just mentioned?” were some of the questions thrown. While the panel did ask cross-questions, it was not stressful, and they were okay to let go of the candidate when they realized they would not get the answer they were looking for.
3) SIOM Nashik: The one with the (sometimes creepy) personal questions
The MBA interviews can comprise personal questions, which is okay. But here was an interview where the questions touched upon a level of creepiness. Questions that started with the family situation, moved on to the relationship status of the candidate; some questions could be answered and others had to be dodged.
Overall, it was not a stressful interview experience, but one that definitely left the candidate wondering if it was a dinner-table discussion or a formal personal interview. Again, this one did not have any question that touched upon academics or current affairs.
Overall, how did these MBA interviews proceed?
SIBM Pune’s process had a bit of wait time, and needless to say, it was agonizing. SCMHRD was the best of the lot, having a very streamlined process end-to-end. SIOM did not have a mechanism as such, but it did not matter as the candidate pool (at least on the day the said candidate attended the process) was not huge.