Twisted questions to expect in IIM-Ahmedabad interviews: First Hand Account
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Given the reputation of IIMs in India, and how it’s no cake walk to get into one of them, it’s a huge mystery as to what an IIM interview is like. What really goes on between a student and the interview panel within closed doors? How tough are the questions asked by interviewers?
Here are two candidates Deeptam Tudu Saha and Nishant Shah, now proud students of IIM Ahmedabad, narrating their nerve-wracking moments of the interview in pure honesty, and it’s a treat to read their encounters:
First up is Deeptam’s interesting Q/A session:
Panelist: Did you talk to the previous candidate and get any information about how the panelists are?
Me: No sir
(Totally shocked. Didn’t expect such an ice-breaker. I was expecting the traditionally question – Tell me something about yourself?)
Panelist: (Smiles and looks at each other) So, you have work-experience?
Me: I explained to them my work and what I did over there, my responsibilities and all other details.
Panelist: So tell me how would you differentiate between a Stainless steel used in the industry and that of the stainless steel used for utensils?
Me: I explained their chemical composition and tried to impress them through my mechanical fundas.
Panelist: Explain it to me in layman language.
Me: I explained - Pure Stainless steel used in industry has a dull silver look whereas the ones used at homes have a shiny look.
After this, the panelist asked some more questions regarding my work.
Panelist: (Checking my application) Do you always write everything in short form?
(Shows me my application and points out my college and school name which I had written in short form)
Me: Sir, due to lack of space I had to write them in short, but to be frank my frank my friends call me DTS at time (Deeptam Tudu Saha)
Panelist: (smiles and check my application) So, you are interested in robotics.
Me: Explained to them my interests and accomplishments.
Panelist: Can you build a robot that can take an interview instead of you?
Me: (That was way above what I had ever done. Thought for a while and answered) Yes, I can but the interview would not exactly be given by the robot
Me: I will make a robot that will make the movements and attach a wireless communication system to it. The robot will make the gestures, and I would be communicating through the wireless system.
( They are all smiles)
Panelist: So, do you know any important person with title ‘Saha.’
Me: (I tried to remember any important Saha, and none of the names were coming to my mind. Niprendra Nath Saha
Panelist: Who is he? (Looking at each other)
Me: We have a school in his name in our locality.
Me: Since he has a school in his name, he must be famous.
(I totally regretted that what I had said. Both the Panelist laughed and looked at each other)
Me: I am sorry, I could not actually remember a name.
Panelist: Thank you and points towards a bowl of toffees and ask me to take any.
Me: Thank you.
On the Day of the declaration of the result, I checked the site, and yes I had become a WIMWIAN - Well Known Institute of Management in Western India!
It’s interesting that Deeptam later met the professors who took his interview. One of them had taught him and so he asked what they actually look in an interviewee. The professor replied – “We easily understand who is a fit for this place once they open their mouth. We just check how they handle the situation while they answer questions which are impossible, even though we know there is no solution for that question.”
LESSON: Not every question asked would have an absolute answer. It may be to test your psyche, confidence and the maturity to handle a situation.
Next up- Nishant’s story is no less interesting. Read on:
He recalls the date - 31 st January, 2016: I reached the place an hour before the reporting time. Some nervous and random conversations followed and we were all asked to reach a document verification room. Panel 4 - This panel was going to decide my fate. Whether I could walk through those illustrious corridors and sit on those couches where Raghuram Rajan and Harsha Bhogle would have once sat to contemplate their career options (I was thinking). I was second in my panel. I took my rightful place, wondering why the hell the first in the list hadn’t shown up yet.
(A lady comes in and asks those to be screened by Panel 4 to get ready for the Written Test).
The first in the list had to go for the interview straightaway after that. Since the first didn’t show up, I was up next. It took me some time to realize this and when I did, I hurried into get my documents ready. With the lady continuously staring me, I fumbled and couldn’t find my application document for painfully long 20 seconds. And finally when I was ready, that look on her face made my heart cringe. My first impression was clearly pathetic. I just kept calming myself that she wouldn’t be the one taking the interview and I would get away with my carelessness.
My written test began and I was asked : Should Airports in India be named after cities or after the famous personalities - This wasn’t a sort of topic you can’t write a thing about. I had an idea of things that were happening surrounding the issue. Could come up with one example and few logical reasons as to why Airports should be named after cities. However, as I look back, it wasn’t a coherent piece of writing. The conclusion would have seemed abrupt and not a natural extension of all that was written before that. But, I was happy that I could take my stand backed by some arguments.
After this, I stood there outside the room waiting for panelists to come back and call me in for the interview. I could see the professor under whom I did an internship at IIMA standing with one of my panelists. How desperately I wished he replaced that lady who I had given a not-so-pleasant first impression. But, alas, life is not so kind. I saw he went into Panel-2. I had some task at my hand now. To undo that bad first impression was my top priority.
And so the Personal interview began:
Two panelists including the lady had my application form in front of them, which had my Academic history (Xth, XIIth and Undergrad).
Lady: So, Nishant, tell me about yourself. Focus more on what you did in Engineering.
Me: ( I need to somehow include my hobbies here, or I wouldn’t get a chance afterwards) After a rehearsed introduction where I talk about my family background and accomplishments, I talked about the final year project, Technical internships and introduced my hobby of analysing cricket and reading literature.
Lady ( More interested in Technical things): Explain your final year project in detail, Nishant.
Me: Ma’am, it is a system designed to replace the compressor in the refrigeration cycle. We are working on a Jet ejector system which currently has a low COP and we would try to optimise the design parameters so as to increase the COP to an acceptable level.
Lady: You are not coming clear. Use this sheet of paper and explain again.
( This is where I screwed up. I take a pen and the paper and start writing content in bullet points. Lady stops me in between)
Lady: If you plan to explain things by writing only, then better speak them out.
( And I realized. The whole purpose of offering me the paper was to have me draw a diagram or something and make it easier for them to understand the flow of process. By that time, the paper was already out of my reach. I decided to explain things in the simplest way possible. Luckily, it went well)
Lady: You did an internship at ONGC. What all did you learn there?
Me: During the course of those 6 weeks, I got an opportunity to see the various machines like the Lathe, Shaper, Planner, actually being operated on large scale processes. I learned the internal parts of a diesel engine and how things are different theoretically and practically. I had an opportunity to visit an oil rig and ( Explained them what I had seen there and a bit about the exploration process)
Lady: Okay. What is the difference between a diesel engine and a petrol engine?
( Trust me; this is the simplest technical question for any Mechanical Engineer and I Answered more than satisfactorily)
5 minutes over. Now, the male professor decides to get involved. Looks stern. Someone who would catch you if you talk shit
Prof: You talked about analyzing cricket. Analyse Dhoni’s captaincy in India’s 4-1 loss to Australia.
Me: Talked about three things primarily which are 1. Team combination 2. Bowling changes and 3. Field Placements. How the ill combination of all three resulted into India’s drubbing.
( There was some discussion on all three parameters and I guess I could make them believe that I was really passionate about the stated hobby)
Prof: So, Nishant. You have taken part in some Mathematics Olympiad. You must be good with puzzles. Are you?
Me: Sir, I was dealing with traditional mathematics during that Olympiad and I can be reasonably good with that.
Prof: Yes, Traditional Mathematics. Mind if I ask you a question on Geometry?
( Yes, sir. I do mind. But, do I have any option here!)
Me: No, sir. You can ask me things on geometry.
Prof: Alright. Prove that every triangle is an isosceles triangle. ( Offers me the same dreaded sheet of paper)
(I am completely flabbergasted; thinking what in the world is this?)
Me: Tried different combinations on the paper and tried to manufacture a theory on the spot. ( Professor stops me in between)
Prof: I understand this is a difficult thing to prove. Just give some logic.
Me: Of course, there needs to be some fallacy in the proof somewhere. I cannot think of any logical move right now. (Only good thing was I could maintain an honest countenance throughout. Smiled at times on my mistakes)
Prof: Okay, leave that. Prove that Zero = one.
( I had seen the solution before somewhere and luckily I could recollect that. I proved the equation pretty quickly and highlighted the mathematically incorrect step in the process)
Me: Sir, if you can give me a hint, I would like to go back to the previous question and give it another go.
Prof: Al right, I would give you one. ( Introduced some technical terms and told me to find the proof using them)
[I have studied in Gujarati Medium till 12th and couldn’t place the technical terms in my mind. I really thought I would find a logic somewhere if I could get those words translated in Hindi, if not in Gujarati. I Told the professor about my study background and requested him to translate the terms. The funny part is, the professor turned out to be a Gujarati and translated the terms. The horrible part is, I could still not find the proof and was some light-years away from finding a concrete logic)
Lady: It’s alright, Nishant. You can let it go.
(10 minutes over)
Prof: Tell me one thing that is going wrong with the Indian Economy.
( The professor taught Economics, which I later found out.)
Me: Plenty of things…( Interrupted by the professor)
Prof: No, I want to know only one thing.
Me: It has to be the lack of Private investment.
( Raghuram Rajan was asked the same question in an interview a week before and he said loopholes in ‘implementation’. I saw that interview. How could I forget that?)
Me: Talked about the four wheels of any Economy: 1. Domestic Consumption 2. Government spending 3. Private Investment and 4. Exports. Explained how domestic consumption and government spending were going all right and exports were down by the virtue of global Economic slowdown. Though we could do better in terms of exports, the primary concern was lack of private investment. Stated various reasons why that was happening (Stalled projects, Unwillingness of banks to pass on rate cuts, etc.).
( While I was explaining, I still can’t remember when I used the word ‘Self-sufficient’. It proved fatal)
Prof: What is the difference between Self-sufficient and Self- reliable?
Me: Tried giving a crude sense of words, but I don’t think the professor looked convinced.
( Lady and Professor look at each other and mutually decide to relieve me from the agony and let me go)
Lady: Okay, Nishant. We’re done. Have a nice day ahead. Thank you.
Me: ( After a cursory look at the bowl of toffees): Thank you very much Sir, Ma’am. It was pleasure meeting you.
Nishant later found out while in his classroom that the results were out. And well, the lad had of course made it to the institute
LESSON: Everyone makes mistakes. You can feel nervous, you can make blunders. A stammering will not leave you out of the race, but lack of reason, logic and confidence in your answers may get you out of it.