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MBA at IIMs: Skills B-schools Look for | Skills B-schools Impart

Gaurav Macwan

For MBA aspirants who are preparing to join top B-schools in India, it is very important to understand two aspects about management education i.e. the skills they must possess in order to join an MBA programme and what will they learn during an MBA programme. Clarity about these two aspects will help aspirants understand and develop more pragmatic career plan for the future. Prof. Rajeev Kumar, Faculty – Operations Management Group at IIM Calcutta, explains these two aspects in detail.

Extracts from the Interview

Cracking MBA Admission Interviews

Generally, MBA aspirants are often influenced by the feedback that they get from their peers, coaching centres and such other sources about how they need to carry themselves in an interview. However, despite proper preparation, what an Interview panel often finds amiss among the MBA aspirants is authenticity and genuineness. Especially when it comes to describing ones strengths and weaknesses, it is better if candidates try and be genuine in their approach. No one on an interview panel expects a candidate to know or understand everything. Therefore, being candid and honest in an MBA interview can go a long way in helping you impress the panel.

The panel, doesn’t focus much on things like how a candidate is dressed or how they present themselves. Because, it is natural for any candidate to be a little anxious and nervous during an interview, so, generally, a panel would not hold that against a candidate.  

At the same time, Interviewers will want to assess your academic prowess and professional experience as well. On the academic front, the panel will try and probe, how well have you done in studies and if you are capable of handing the pressure of that an MBA students undergoes during a programme.

Similarly, the Interview panel will also pose questions related to your work experience to assess how involved were you in professional life. Candidates are expected to share vivid experiences from their work life such as the challenges you faced and the strategies that you employed to overcome them. In addition, the panel will also try and evaluate how familiar are you with the organization and the industry in which you have worked.

An important part of the definition of being a well-rounded individual is that not only you take care of your career interest or job interest but you also are open to what’s happening around you. If you, do not show that evidence in an interview it tells me that you are little narrow in your approach

Skills B-schools look for in an MBA aspirant

The most important thing that B-schools try to assess in an MBA aspirant is their ability and competence to go through with the rigorous and demanding MBA programme. In this regard, the first thing that they check is the academic prowess of the candidate. Students who have proven academic track record, it tells the B-school selection committee that you, most likely, have the capacity to withstand the pressures and pace of an MBA programme, both, in terms of curricular as well as extracurricular aspects.

Secondly, B-schools also try and look at the other aspects, especially beyond academics, in which you have taken keen interest or earned some form of expertise or achievement. This could be some hobby or very simple General Knowledge and know-how about the things that are happening around you. Having demonstrated interest and some form of expertise in any extracurricular area, shows that you are not only a ‘bookworm’, but are also interested in life around you.

Similarly, if you possess work-experience, the B-school would like to know how much interest you took in your work, the company where you worked and the industry in which you worked. The b-school would also try and assess your awareness about the broader economic or business trends that are related to the domain you have worked in.

Skills students learn during an MBA programme

There are two broader categories of skills that a student acquires during an MBA programme. The first is technical or functional skills. These skills are related to the core business fundamentals like Finance, Accounting, Operations and Marketing. At a B-school, you will come to know an overall or overview of all these business fundamentals and also understand their operational importance in running a business.

Second aspect, and the one that is often ignored by MBA students, is behavioural aspects which are also referred as soft skills in general parlance. Behavioural skills are very important for business managers, as they help enhance your capacity to work with a number of people, who don’t necessarily possess the same thought process as you. Soft skills also help managers to manage conflicts, negotiate well with others, especially when they are in an interdependent situation.

This might interest you: MBA at IIMs: Preparation for Placements

About the Expert

Prof. Rajeev Kumar is part of the Organizational Behaviour Group at IIM Calcutta. He also holds a fellowship from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (equivalent to Ph.D.). As a faculty at IIM Calcutta he teaches various compulsory as well as elective subjects such as Business Research Methods; Human Behaviour at Work; Designing Effective Organizations, Interpersonal Skills & Leadership. Prior to shifting the academia, he worked as an HR consultant for Hewitt Associates. Prior to that, he has also worked for 3+ years with an NGO i.e. Society for the Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD) in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

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