How To Approach Your IIM Interview

The IIM interview season has already started and aspirants would be trying to get as much insights as they can right from how to dress for the interview to how to reduce India fiscal deficit without affecting our growth!

Amidst all of this clutter how does go in with the right perspective? What is the state of mind with which one should approach an interview?

The Interview Is Not A Test

For almost every aspirant this interview is a test, albeit an oral one, in which they will be interviewed or interrogated and they have to somehow find a way to get though this successfully.

Everything — your answers, your body language, your facial expressions, your composure — is determined by this, your attitude towards the interview. The panel being this set of two or three gods (benevolent or violent) upon whose mercy your life hangs.

To start let us drop the test metaphor and try to view the interview as something else.

The Panel Is Your Prospective Client

Why is the panel your client? Firstly, because they have a problem — they need to fill a certain number of seats. Well that might not seem like a problem but it is. It is problem because they want the right candidates for the seat. And finding the right candidate is not an easy job because just aptitude  won’t do, they expect the candidate to have many more traits that cannot always be evaluated objectively. Hence, the IIMs go through the trouble of organising interviews spread out across the country and across many weeks. If every seat they have to fill is a problem, then each IIM needs about 300-400 solutions.

What is your job? To convince them that you are one such solution.

Why the prospective client metaphor?

Simply because it determines what attitude you take to the interview. Prospective clients can be very similar to interview panels: generous,expressionless, grumpy, combative, high-handed and many more as those among you with work experience will attest.

So how would you handle a prospective client?

How Would You Handle a Prospective Client?

  • Would you be walking in trembling and under-confident?
  • Will you sit passively across the table and expect them to ask questions and provide answers or will you try to establish a connection?
  • Will you go unprepared or will you go in with the best pitch you can make about your form and your product?
  • If the client throws a tantrum or is asking you uncomfortable questions will you sweat and give up or will you handle it with poise to the best of your abilities?
  • Would you give false information and expect the client to not question or probe further or will you say I am not aware of that I will get back to you on that one?

The answers are self-evident and so are the traits you need to display Self-Belief, & Confidence, Communication Skills & Personableness, Preparedness & Purpose, Poise & Ability to Handle Stress, Honesty & Prudence.

A Test Of Potential

You might not have all the above traits in abundance but a few of them like Honesty are must-haves. The rest of the traits cannot be imparted through specific courses at an IIM but can only be polished through the presentations and internship you will be required to do as part of the program.

So at some level you are supposed to demonstrate these traits to some extent and show that you have the potential to become a business leader if you get a chance to learn at a premier business school like an IIM.

This might seem similar to the Selling/Marketing Yourself  idea and may be it is to a certain extent, but there is a vital distinction you have to make —  you are not marketing yourself to an individual like in B2C Marketing (Business-to-Consumer), you are marketing yourself to an institution like in B2B Marketing (Business-to-Business).

So all the traits we spoke about have to displayed with the assurance of a solution-provider than with the spirit of a salesman.

If you are able to approach your interview through this lens, I am sure you will be able to give a good account of yourself in your interview.

All the best,


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