The personal interview stage for selection into the IIMs becomes very crucial when you haven’t done well enough to sell yourself in the group discussion stage. This thought was playing back again and again in my mind as i was waiting for my turn to be interviewed for selection into IIM-L. Since I was assigned the last serial number in my group, I had to wait for almost two and a half hours for my turn. After waiting for those two long hours, finally my turn came.
I entered the room, a bit nervous about what was going to happen in the next few minutes. I greeted them and sat down after taking permission from the panelists. There were two of them — one of them asked me to hand over my certificates to him while the other panelist had taken a pose which gave clear indications as to what was coming my way. He had leaned back on his chair, put his hands behind back, folded them and was resting his head on them. And so began my memorable interview experience.
He began by saying that they don’t want to take engineers at Lucknow. All the engineers have the same mindset. He questioned me why should they take me despite the fact that i am also an engineer. I tried to sell the engineer community by saying that the engineers have strong analytical skills if not better. Since they have gone through a rigorous 4-year engineering course, they are capable of handling the 2-year rigorous management course. They are also good team players as they are likely to have worked in teams on some projects and assignments. He tried to refute my view by saying that that is the problem. The engineers have only strong analytical skills but lack creative skills. I tried to counter this argument by saying that engineers are also creative and it can be seen in their innovative final year project.
(#1: Later i felt that i should have tried not to defend the entire engineering community but should have tried to showcase how i am different from regular engineers.)
As expected, next question came what was my final year project. I tried to explain to them that my final year project is to create a robot that can assist the visually challenged person by using GPS and infrared technology. A stick is mounted on the robot which is held by the visually challenged person. The first panelist asked me what’s the benefit of it if we are still using a stick. I said that in the current case, using a stick the person builds a visual map in his memory but while using my project he can traverse even in “unseen” locations. The second panelist, who was always trying to counter my statements, said that this is nothing innovative. If i had designed some chip which can be implanted in the brain to help the person create a visual map, then that would be called something innovative. The people in Japan and China have already made robots which can massage your body. That is called innovation. I didn’t back down from my stand and i stated that although i have heard about such developments, but i haven’t heard that it has been successful.
(#2: I think i should have tried to bring into focus also the constraints of equipments available in India. Also, the fact that I was not knowledgeable enough to work in field of nervous systems. But, i think at that time they have got on my nerves.)
Now, they looked for the first time at my personal data form and then asked me where did i live. I replied that i live currently at Guwahati. Then began the part of interview which made it special. They ask me what do I know about Guwahati. What kind of crops and industry are present at Guwahati. At that time, the only thing that flashed in my mind was bomb blasts. But i considered that as not a good enough answer and at that time, i couldn’t even remember the Assamese tea. I said I don’t know. They laughed and then said that I have been living there for almost 4 years and still don’t know anything about GuwahatiI said that my actual home is in Bihar and not in Assam.
(#3: I wonder how i missed to look upon my local area’s history and geography)
The first panelist asked me then how did Bihar got its name. I replied that maybe it has got its name from the Buddhist monasteries known as ‘Vihara’. He then asked me where did Buddhism started. I said BodhGaya. Next he queried who started it. I said Gautam Buddha. Then he asked me if I knew who was he apart from the person who started Buddhism. I replied that he was a prince. He probed further by asking which state. I said I don’t know. Then he asked me to name a few rivers of Bihar. At that time, I could only recall three names — Ganga, Kosi and Kiul. He then asked which river has been a source of problem in the past. I replied that it’s Kosi. Then, suddenly the second panelist started talking about Brahamputra and how big it is. Then he asked me if i knew where it originates from. I said I don’t know. The first panelist asked me to take a blind guess. I said maybe from Himalayas. Then he asks me where does it go. I said it goes to Bay of Bengal. He asked if I was sure that it goes to Bay of Bengal and not Arabian Sea. In the heat of moment, I nervously replied that I am not sure but I think that it goes to Bay of Bengal.
(#4: Telling ‘maybe’, ‘I am not sure’ was not such a good way to reply back in interview.)
Then, they asked me why is that i did not mention anything in my extra curricular activities. I said that it’s because my hobbies are also of academic nature such as solving logical puzzles and reading novels. Then he asked me what kind of novel I read. I said that generally I read self-motivating novels. Then he asked what was the last novel I read. I said ‘Life of Pi’. Then he asked me a few factual questions based on this novel. I managed to answer all his questions except one factual question that was how did the protagonist got his name ‘Piscine’. He asked me how did this novel inspire me. I said that this novel conveys that we can survive even in the unimaginable situations with very few resources. It tells that the human basic instinct is survival. He then asks me, what other novel have i read. I said ‘Alchemist’. Then, he asked me what did i learn from it. I said that this novel also imparts optimism and teaches us to follow our path overcoming the obstacles in the path. Then he asked me don’t i believe in the theory that once we achieve our goal, rest of life becomes aimless since we don’t have anything to achieve. I said that I don’t believe in it because once we achieve a goal, we always try to attain higher goals and throughout life there is an unending process of goal-setting. As expected, the next question was what was my goal. I said that in the long run, I want to become an entrepreneur. He asked me which field. I said information technology. He probed me again by asking whether in field of hardware or software. I said software. He then asked me if i had any particular idea in mind. I said i would like to invest in the idea of building a web search which given an image as input could give description about this image such as historical/geographical information. He smiled and then said despite of me being unaware about my own surroundings, I want to build something like it. He asked me if I thought it would be successful. I said maybe. He asked me despite the chances of its failure, am I willing to take the risk. I nodded and said yes. Then he said that they were done and I may leave now. I collected back my certificates and left the room and heaved a sigh of relief. And so ended my first experience of a stress interview.
(#5: I forgot to mention that i acted as sun campus ambassador in extra co-curricular. I could also have mentioned that i played cricket at the inter-hostel level.)