Dear Readers/Future Managers, I’m sure you’ve opened this article because you had a stellar CAT performance and are expecting some awesome B-School calls, so hearty congratulations! However, this happiness is rather short-lived because immediately creeps in the anxiety of cracking the PIs, which we realize is actually the tougher half of the journey.
You ask anyone for guidance on PI Prep – coaching institutes, seniors, alumni, batchmates – they are bound to effortlessly give you the most tedious tasks by saying, “Nothing much bro, just do Acads, Current Affairs, Personal Questions and CV-based… Sorted!”
So, let me break this down for you into simpler, doable stuff.
Begin with Personal/HR-Based Questions:
The MOST important (and I cannot stress on this enough) is ‘Tell Me About Yourself’. You have a minute to sell yourself and create a first impression, and stuff that you mention here can potentially decide where your interview steers. Have a paragraph that talks about every major aspect of yours while focusing on your strength areas. For the other questions, it is most essential to link them with actual stuff that you have gone through.
I used to think, as a 20-year-old, what have I really done to be able to answer such heavy stuff? But honestly, it just requires some quality introspection or literally speaking, a replay of your lifetime to realize that every action, decision and consequence has contributed in making you what you are today, and that just has to be woven into a perfect answer. Worry not, you will have already covered a major chunk of these questions while filling out your stage-2 application forms. Just finalize those, tweak them into verbally narratable pieces and this portion is brushed off.
Next comes Academics (Acads).
You must assume (and it is true to some extent) that interviewers know something about everything. You may be doomed to fall from a management background like me, or you may have specialized in something as bizarre as diamond cutting. The panellists often ask you basic but fundamental, practically applicable questions. They won’t ask you a complex term from the deepest caverns of a valuation problem (there's no time for that), but you are expected to have broad knowledge of core areas that you have studied.
Remember that they have your marksheet in front of them and know what subjects you have studied. Pick a subject or two and be prepared to answer relatively complex questions based on those. I have more often than not been asked to name a subject I enjoyed in my graduation, and over 75% of the technical questions revolved around that.
You must understand that as an interviewer, you would not paint a good picture of a person who asks you to question them on, say Corporate Finance but can’t answer stuff. All in all, academics is a major area of focus particularly for freshers and those in their final year, and should not be ignored at any cost.
Next on your agenda should be CV/Resume-Based Questions.
You may club them with personal questions, but I tend to consider them as a separate area of preparation. This segment, simply speaking breaks down into all the headers which form your resume/biodata/CV – certifications, awards, internships, projects, interests, hobbies. This is stuff that you have yourself undertaken, mostly voluntarily, and so, you are expected to be able to answer what you did.
The preparation simply requires you to skim through your past projects, internship reports etc. to be able to recall the objective, nature, research methodology etc. and also read up on current trends related to that field or topic. For example, I had done a project on Blockchain in Stock Markets, thus, I needed to be abreast with what the present position of this issue is.
Secondly, DO NOT take your hobby lightly. Look outside the obvious, for you can be (and will be) asked the most unexpected questions from the area. For instance, I mentioned that I have an interest in art and painting. In my IIM Lucknow interview, I was asked to name some painters from the Flemish region of Europe! Come on, I’m not doing a PhD in painting for God’s sake! Such questions are curveballs which the panellists purposely throw at you to check how you react under pressure, and at the end of the day, you are not expected to know everything under the sun!
Finally, Current Affairs.
This has one and only one solution – READ. THE. NEWSPAPER. Preachy people will tell you to read only The Hindu, Mint, Indian Express and what not. Trust me, it doesn’t matter. Just read whatever your household subscribes to! Now I will be very frank with you; I detested this portion the most. I was one of those children who get constantly pestered by their parents to read the newspaper, but don’t even glance at the headlines!
PI Prep was the time when I had no choice but to start reading, and I chose to read only select sections like the National, the World and the Editorial. On successful completion, I rewarded myself with the guilty pleasure of enjoying a gossipy read of the Delhi Times!
With this, you have covered most of what is in your hands. And if you have read this far, I’m thankful to you for listening to my rant, but I hope this helps simplify what you need to do in the stressful period between your CAT results and the busy interview phases. It’s tough. But we constantly worry about the next part of our life without realizing that we’re right in the middle of what we used to look forward to!
And worry is nothing but undernourished enthusiasm.
So just hang in there. I myself was in your shoes up until a few days back. The lack of stability and foresight is no better than standing in quicksand, but trust me, everything turns out the way it has to.
Vanyaa Kansal, is a final year student of Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS) from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, University of Delhi. She secured a CAT percentile of 98.83, XAT 96.3, and she has calls from IIM Calcutta, Lucknow, Indore, Kozhikode, Shillong, CAP, Bangalore's PGPBA, and XLRI BM+HRM among others. She has converted SPJIMR for the Finance Specialization in the batch of 21-23.