Came back from ISB this weekend, after interviewing Round 2 candidates for the batch of 2011. Its funny (or is tragic the word) that inspite of the sheer amount of open source information available out there…courtesy Pagalguy (and the likes), more than 50% students dont come prepared, in the real sense!

One of my favorite ways to start an interview is with the following question – “How have you prepared for this interview?”. More often than not, the response will be pagalaguy, alum interaction, current batch friends etc etc.

The next question then is “Identify 5 questions that you have prepared for best, through all your sources”…and the great part is that most come up with the same 5 odd sections. But thats where it ends.

When told to come up with their responses to those 5 questions, the lack of preparation shows. Its not really lack of preparation because they say all the right things…walk the safe path. Its essentially lack of clarity.

At the very basic level, ISB is looking at 2 things

1. Why MBA?

2. What after MBA?

— Why MBA —

THIS is the most important section. It is NOT funny how many people want to do an MBA just because they are bored of what they are doing, feel they have to finish their education as early as possible or think of it as a magic wand that will allow you to shift from IT to Investment Banking!

DO NOT state rehearsed answers – “I want to acquire business skills” “I need an MBA to prepare a business plan” “An MBA will teach me leadership and management skills”!

Understand that an MBA will not do any of these. Thinking that an MBA makes you a leader is equivalent of thinking that a bat makes you tendulkar! An MBA is a tool…which will allow you to apply yourself and become what you have to.

There are no right answers to this, because everyone has their own right answer. So dont give answers that are socially desirable. Because we are not recruiting you to make please the world…we are recruiting you for you!

Also be practical. Consider one example – ISB is not a cheap school and if you take a full loan, the EMI comes to 35K or so! So when I hear a budding entrepreneur state that ISB will help him flesh out his business plan and then he will start right after, my first reaction is “and what if you plug this 20 lacs into your business”…”what’s plan B”…and thats where the discussion stops!

— What after MBA —

Oh cmon…how can you NOT know the answer to this! Worse still, how can you not know everything about what you wish to do. 300 students want to enter McKinsey, but do you know what it takes to get in! Get a reality check.

When we see an IT guy with 10 years of experience who wants to join marketing, or a sales guy with 4 years of experience who wants to enter corporate finance, the obvious question is…what will this 1 year offer you that you think this change is possible! And they have no clue! They just think that an MBA will do that automatically for them!

This question…the most fundamental one that everyone expects…is easily the worst answered in my experience. People havent thought through it…they are clueless…which would have been fine had you done your homework and figured out where people similar to your background eventually go and what they do! But not knowing it and sitting at an ISB interview is totally unacceptable.

Equally important is to have a Plan B. If you will not get the industry shift, then what? If your business will not materialize, then what? If you do not get a 12 lac job, then what?

How can students not have a Plan B. Ok…I exclude the tiny section that tends to balance itself on overconfidence, but for the remaining, the question is more of a “oh shit…i didnt think of it” reaction! CMON!

This year, I most likely will see 13 students join the next batch, interviewed by me! I make it a point to note their contacts and look them up the next year. And I wish the ones that we have rejected had a chance to sit through the interviews of these 13 individuals and realize what a big difference clarity in thought brings!

The punchline – Be extremely sure of what an ISB MBA will do for you…and why you need it in the first place!

All other questions can be omitted…they are simply fillers!

PS: I love helping out students who are preparing for ISB (selectively though), because for me the school’s future is decided by who goes in! If anyone out there feels I could be of help, please feel free to contact! I would be more than happy!