The R1 ISB interviews for Class of 2012 are almost over. Delhi was the last venue (severely postponed because of the Ayodhya verdict – no the panel was not involved in declaring it!!) and a few remain at ISB itself and telephonic. Results are scheduled for Nov 15th and we are pretty much on track.

This year was slightly different from last time. I dont know if its the likes of Pagalguy or the GMAT coaching institutes that define the flavor of the year, but something has got to be happening out there to this respect. It reminds me of MTV’s Artist of the Month (when MTV still used to be about music, most of you might not even remember or believe that!). All you got to hear through the 30 odd days was that artist, and rarely anything else.

So while last year, candidates smoked up Social and NGO shit as their future goals, this year it was entrepreneurship.

Which is, if you really think about it, the most terrific and fool proof longterm goal mankind can ever come up with. It doesnt require you to be one till now, doesnt require you to give out any details and because its the future, you can cook up anything.

Panel: “So you want to be an entrepreneur in the future? Whats your timeframe?”

Candidate 1: “10-15 years”

Panel (thinking to themselves): “This guy might also know what he will be wearing when he is signing his will”

Panel: “So what are the ideas you have been working on?”

Candidate 2: “Ohh..really havent given it much thought. I have a few ideas, but they are too premature to be discussed”

Panel: “Still, you must have something”

Candidate 2: “ummm, I would like to do something to solve the traffic problems in Delhi”

Candidate 3: “I want to start my own consulting firm”

Candidate 4: “I want to be able to do something meaningful to society”

Candidate 5: “I want to start my own private equity fund”

Phew! ISB surely draws a lot of society movers.

You know, I admit. Its out fault. Asking a candidate for long-term goals is a very poor question and if it were to me, I would remove that essay and question all-together. Short-term goals are important, because they define what you intend to do post-ISB and whether thats realistic (Read: How to Prepare for the ISB Admissions Interview). But long-term are not testing the candidate on anything.

They are bound to come up with such socially desirable or not-thought-through responses. I wouldnt know myself what my long-term goals are. I know (I think) what I want to do in life, but thats the means, not the goal!

However, the good thing this year, or that matter every year, is that candidates seem to be well prepared (or I fear, well-coached) for interviews. Why MBA questions are dealt with far higher confidence, sound justified and appear to be realistic given the candidate’s profile.

The candidates are also loosening up a bit, which I personally love. I hate interviews wherein the candidate is nervous, sweating and is under a lot of unnecessary stress. Personally, I like calling the candidates in and ALWAYS have a quick conversation leading to the interview room, hopefully to relax them. Come up with a stupid joke (which I am so good at anyways), have small talk or just place my arm around their shoulder (in a few, but yes – actually done, cases!).

Unfortunately, there are instances wherein the panel, for whatever reasons, makes the interview into a stress one. I HATE THAT. Absolutely abhors sitting with panelists, either alums or admin, that feel they are in some god-like seat meant to be the superior party in the conversation. Reactions to candidates’s responses such as “I dont agree with you at all”, “You are not going to get into consulting, I can tell you that”, “What can I ask you, you dont even have 3 years of experience”, “I dont believe that you are handling this kind of responsibility at work” are deplorable. Who gives them the right and authority to say such things, and more importantly, what are they trying to get out of making such remarks! Whats the idea, corner the candidate or explore his/her strengths?

I recall my interview at Delhi in 2005. With just 2 years of experience, all I had to offer was my energy and passion. Nothing beyond that. And I knew that! And when I responded that my options after MBA are to go back to consulting or to enter finance (given my stats experience and interest in the field), one of the panelists picked my resume from one its end, held it like a piece of shit and went “If I were a finance company, I would never shortlist this resume”.

There was no need for that statement and there are surely finer ways of putting the same thought across. My response was a simple, “Then I am glad you dont work for a finance company!”

Give it back to them! ISB is the one that has shortlisted you. So dont take their shit, just because you want to desperately get in!

Waiting for the next round and all the best to those that went through this one!