Aayush Gupta, a management graduate from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad has a special relationship with competitive exams and selection processes. He cleared the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) with a 99.7 percentile score and subsequently aced all his interviews.
Earlier in his academic career, Aayush had also aced the Delhi University Joint Admission Test (JAT), which is considered to be amongst the most challenging undergraduate entrance examinations. He subsequently also co-founded two internationally recognised social entrepreneurship ventures during his undergraduate level. He also founded the first Asian Chapter of International Financial Management Association and also spearheaded IIM-A’s first international case competition with Harvard Business School and HEC Paris (École des hautes études commerciales de Paris).
Speaking to The Better India, provides some insights and tips that can help aspirants be successful in the challenging personal interview (PI) rounds.
1. Reach out to alumni from specific institutes:
“To understand the workings of a particular institute it would be best to reach out to the alumni or current students there,” says Aayush. They will be able to assist you with the PI preparation. Aayush says that he tapped into his network and spoke to as many alumni as he could and that gave him a better insight into how each institute functioned and what he should be prepared with while appearing for the PI.
“Find out what the institute wants from its students and see if you can deliver that,” he adds.
2. Prep yourself for the oft asked questions:
“You will have a fair idea of some of the often-asked questions. Ensure that you start preparing answers for these and practise them. Looking for these repeated questions on Quora or other prep material online is a great starting point. To gather more information about these questions, I also started having pointed conversations with people to gather as much information as I could,” he says.
3. Stay up to date with current affairs:
“This is one aspect that you just cannot neglect. You must stay updated about everything happening around you and ensure that you have a basic to good understanding of the topic. Besides reading the newspaper and following the editorials of good newspapers, form a discussion group with friends to get a better and wider perspective. Also during these discussions always keep an open mind and listen to everything being said,” he says. Having said that, Aayush also warns aspirants against faking an answer and says it is best to say you do not know the answer.
4. Exude confidence in your interview:
“One of the best things you can walk into the interview room with is your confidence. Look at it like a conversation and try to engage the interviewers as much as possible. Make the conversation flow with ease and put forth your points in a well-structured and cohesive manner,” he says. Even if one feels stressed it is important to not let that show during the interview. “Maintaining a calm demeanour will also help you think through what is being asked of you,” he adds.
5. Be ready for ‘googly’ questions:
“No matter how well you are prepared there are chances that the interviewers might throw a googly in your direction. Do not get flustered by this. If you feel the need, ask them to either repeat the question or take a moment to formulate a response to it,” he says. Also remember that you need not know the answer to every question that is asked. Saying ‘I do not know’ is also an answer.
6. Create an institute format curriculum vitae (CV):
One thing that worked for Aayush was creating a CV which was as close to the institute’s format as possible. He says, “For this as well I reached out to alumni and requested them to review the same and incorporate the changes they suggested. At least with IIM A, B and C I tried to do this as this also shows how keen you are on getting into that particular institute.” He also suggests that while filling out the form issued by the institute, one must answer the question to the point and not put out more information than asked for.
7. Be well-versed with your application form:
“Everything you fill out in your application form can and will be questioned – therefore ensure that you are sure of everything that you put down. One must also be ready to defend and support the points that you have mentioned in your application form,” says Aayush. He also adds that doing some back-end research on every sentence that has been put down in the application form will hold the candidate in good stead. “You cannot falter in this aspect and remember to put your best foot forward while answering questions about your own application form,” he says.
In conclusion, he says, “What is most important is your own confidence levels – be 100 per cent sure of that and have a can-do attitude when you appear for the examination. Do not let any sort of self-doubt creep in. Be comfortable in your skin.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)