The admission process for the Indian School of Business (ISB) is a multi-dimensional process that is to be pursued with utmost patience and diligence. ISB judges its candidates at every step and the interview round is a critical cog in the wheel. While the interview isn’t often a make or break factor, a strong interview can certainly help you seal the deal, whereas a superficial conversation can seriously impact your chances of securing an admit.
Prashant Tibrewal, Founder and Mentor at ISBmantra, put together detailed guidelines about the ISB interview and what to expect during the interview. The ISBmantra Team of Former Admissions Officers at ISB, also brings in their cumulative experience to present winning tips and guidelines to succeed at the interview.
ISB is known to extensively engage their alumni to conduct admissions interviews. Through this process, ISB looks to pair a candidate with a panel of two to three alumni who may have profiles similar to the candidate – though this is not guaranteed.
A typical ISB interview lasts about 25 to 30 minutes in which the interview panel strives to judge a candidate on their profile, experience, future goals, and fitment. Since ISB draws from a large, diverse pool of alumni, there is an inevitable variability that comes with the process. This lends a lot of dynamism and leeway to the panel, to be able to gauge a candidate in a tone, style, context, and length that may suit the panel.
The Interview and the Interview Day
On the schedule day of the interview, you will be required to be present at the venue about an hour in advance. In the wake of COVID-19, ISB interviews are slated to be held virtually. Connectivity issues, waiting rooms, stretched interviews could be a common sight during these online engagements. In the case of technical difficulties in connecting, ISB, in the past, has also moved the video interview to a telephonic one
ISB interviews are designed in a way where the alumni panelists are categorically advised not to put candidates under any undue stress. This should spell relief for a lot of candidates who are concerned about the level of grilling in these interviews. But at the same time, alumni panelists are specifically asked to follow the proverbial “One Inch Wide, Ten Inches Deep” rule on key profile points like work experience, projects worked on, clarity of future goals, claims staked in the essays regarding personal and professional virtues, etc.
Work experience: The interviewers shall be delving deep into your work profile, responsibilities, functions, team structure, project delivery, approach, alternative methodologies, business decisions, work culture etc. You must make sure you are really, really well versed with your engagement at work. You may totally expect the panelists to get into the rigors of the projects mentioned in the application, and personal values presented in the first essay.
Future Goals: This is a highly critical piece of jigsaw which can make or break a case for a candidate. No good business school in the world would admit a candidate who is just looking for an exit route from their current job or function, or hoping to leverage the MBA to magically transition to a leadership role. ISB is no different. It attaches a huge value to a candidate’s clarity of their goals. Quality of previous experience, soft and hard skills acquired, requisite educational qualifications, industry or functional knowledge, and correlation to one’s transferable skills are some very important components that interviewers would look to understand in the context of one’s career plans. Further, key factors such as a new technical bubble in their domain, competitive landscape, projected impact of a pandemic, scope and expected growth rates, success ladder slopes, and generic peer pool should be well covered during the preparation. Any aspirant, who has all these fundamentals clear to the core, can hope to ace this part of the interview with utmost ease.
At the same time, it is okay to not have a fixed goal in mind. MBA opens up many new avenues for graduates to choose from, and it is justified to have no one option fixed in your mind. But at the same time, there is a difference between keeping your options open and knowing nothing of your options. For e.g. you could be mulling over whether to go for private equity, venture capital, trading desks, or M&A. It shows your thinking to be streamlined in terms of sector and how you are open to different kinds of roles on offer in investment banking. But to not know anything structurally, and still aim for folk legends of McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Accenture, Amazon etc. can invite some difficult conversations during the interview.
Guesstimates/puzzles/current affairs/hobbies: ISB requires of its potential graduates to be aware, smart, and multilateral in nature. Any vibrant cohort shall consist of students who are both smart thinkers and all-rounders. Aspirants should be well prepared for basic guesstimates and puzzles. Questions related to current affairs, politics, sports, economy, etc. aren’t asked very often during the ISB interview, but if there are any mentions in your application of your interest in one of these areas, the interviewer may be tempted to understand the authenticity and depth of your interest.
Application-related Questions: Having submitted a strong application with a variety of personal and professional examples, the application becomes an important source of enquiry for the interviewers. It’s highly likely that the interviewer may pick a particular example you have listed in one of your essays or in the application form and go deeper to understand the challenges you faced, your role in the larger scheme of things, and why the activity/project was important to you and/or the organization.
Sanjay Dhingra, ex-ISB Admissions Officer and Chief Mentor at ISBmantra says, “It is often noticed during the interviews that candidates find it hard to defend their achievements as stated in the essays and application form, since most of those achievements are inflated or not well thought out. You must make it a point to state only those facts in your application that are realistic, defensible, and genuine; and that you prepare on them religiously and with solid details to back them up.”
Summarily, candidates must keep in mind that a successful ISB interview is a balanced mix of robust preparation on their individual profiles, deep and verified knowledge of their functional domains, an absolute crystal-clear view of their future goals, and an aware & informed mind.
The Cheat Sheet
Given the dynamic nature of the interview process, one should work towards developing the right approach to answering different categories of interview questions, instead of rehearsing exact answers for a pre-defined list of questions downloaded from the net. Below are the key tips for preparing for a successful ISB interview, informed by our experiences in preparing hundreds of candidates in the past.
⦁ Prepare a 45-60 second elevator pitch. Most of the interviews start with a typical “Tell us about yourself” question. First impressions can leave a lasting impact; hence a crisp, concise, and precise elevator pitch will take you a long way in the interview.
⦁ Keep a storyline in mind—why did you choose your major, what took you to your first job, why MBA, why ISB, what post-MBA, long-term aspirations. Brownie points galore if you are able to weave a coherent story.
⦁ Be ready to address any red flags. A gap year, inconsistent job changes, too high or too less full-time experience, your ability to contribute to the class if you are from a purely technical background, are some of the difficult questions that may come your way, so be prepared to explain them diligently.
⦁ Remain calm and confident. ISB is always looking for reasons to select you. As long as you give them a few good reasons, one or two questions not answered well are not going to be a deal breaker.
⦁ Last but not the least, dress well. Whether the interview is physical or virtual, formal attire with a well-kempt look does add to your personality and presence.
Check out here, Real Interview Experiences of candidates from a diverse range of profiles as documented diligently by ISBmantra.
⦁ When does ISB start giving interview calls?
ISB starts inviting candidates for interviews approximately 10-15 after the application deadline. The candidates should make sure they add the ISB mailer domain to their whitelist so that their mails do not land into spam. ISB conducts interviews on a rolling basis. You may therefore expect an interview invite up to a week before the declaration of admit decisions.
⦁ How much time do I get to prepare?
Candidates generally get around 4-6 days to prepare for the interviews. It may therefore be wise to not wait for the interview invite to kickstart your preparation if you are fairly confident of your profile and test score.
⦁ What if I am not based in India at the time of the interview?
The candidate should reach out to the Admissions Team at the earliest and explain to them the situation. For reasons such as work, family, or health-related travel, ISB is flexible enough to conduct the interviews virtually.
⦁ What if I am not available on the day I have been invited for the interview? How can I reschedule the interview?
Since this is one of the biggest interviews of someone’s professional career, such instances are very rare. But in case the candidate is absolutely unable to attend the interview on an allotted date, the ISB Admissions Team is very flexible in helping the candidate reschedule the interview.
⦁ How long does the ISB interview last?
The interviews generally last 25-30 minutes. It is possible that a few interviews last just about 15 minutes, while a few others extend to up to 50 minutes.
⦁ Will I be asked academics or subject-related questions in the ISB interview?
ISB interviews are generally known for deep dives into the candidate’s profile, functional areas, and future goals. It is very rare for the interviewers to test your academic knowledge.
⦁ What are the documents that I need to carry to the interview?
A candidate must carry their passport with them for identification purposes. There is no need to carry any other documents.
About the Author
Prashant Tibrewal is the founder of ISBmantra and Admit Square Consulting and has mentored 1000+ MBA aspirants to get into top global universities such as Harvard, Stanford, INSEAD, Oxford, HEC, ISB, etc. Over the last 10 years, Prashant has worked closely with candidates from a diverse range of profiles and has mentored applicants with GMAT scores as low as 610 to make it to ISB.
With a strong focus on ISB and a team of Former ISB Admissions Officers on Board, ISBmantra offers personalized interview prep with its Interview Builder Assured Admit with over 80% success rate and a moneyback guarantee. Feel free to drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more.