How To Handle IIM GD PI As A Fresher ? - Shiladitya Bhowmik, IIM Calcutta

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    Shiladitya Bhowmik did his MBA from IIM Calcutta. He completed his graduation from Jadavpur Univesity in Computer Science and Engineering and cracked CAT 13 with calls from all IIMs and other major Business schools. He converted IIMA, IIMB, IIMC and NMIMS. Besides academics, he is interested in sports, mainly football and tennis and also like spending time in his garden.

    Well, first of all congratulations on getting the coveted GDPI call. Now it’s time to make the chance count and convert the call into an admission offer. Let me share some of my experiences with you.

    Even though most of the IIMs have stopped conducting GDs these days, there are still quite a few colleges which have this as a part of their selection procedure. So let’s begin with some basics of how to handle a GD.  First of all your body language should be relaxed, don’t sit with legs crossed, sit straight with an air of calmness about you. Use your arms appropriately while speaking to express yourself more vividly but don’t intrude into your neighbor’s space. Use the rough paper to jot down your thoughts and prepare a mental map of proceedings. Another vital aspect of a GD is to maintain eye contact with everyone and avoiding one on one situations with any candidate. If anyone directly challenges your point, gracefully accept it and start discussing with the entire group instead of starting a one on one discussion. And last but not the least is that your moderators should be invisible to you once the discussion starts. Don’t make any eye contact with them under any circumstance.

    Well now that we are done with the basics, let’s discuss the main types of GD topics. There are mainly three types of GD topics that you might encounter. It might be based on a Current topic like the ISIS, Kiss of Love protest etc. or it might be an abstract topic like Red vs Blue or it might be a case based one. For example my IIM Lucknow topic was ‘Mediocrity talks, but it is for a genius to observe’ while that of IIM Kozhikode was ‘Judicial activism is good for India’. In yet another GD we were asked to find out ways to employ the unemployed engineers in India, which is an example of a case based one.

    So now that we have talked about the various types of GDs, how to handle them and generate content. Before I get into specifics, the most important thing to do is to read newspapers on a daily basis and form little notes on ongoing issues of significance. Your GK will be of immense help in GDs based on current affairs. In case of the other two, your knowledge will help you back up your points with relevant examples which will earn you brownie points. In case of abstract GD topics, you will have to be creative and think on your feet. If you can add a different dimension to the discussion then there’s nothing like it. For example in my year a very common topic was Namo vs Raga and everyone automatically started Modi vs Gandhi, but one guy interpreted it as Worship (Namo) vs Music (Raga)!!!

    There are some standard procedures to generate content in a GD. The first one is the Stakeholder’s perspective. Explore the different perspectives and with each one you will find a point or two. The second one is the Key Word Approach. This helps when you have very little idea about the topic. Pick up some of the keywords from the given statement and start discussing. The third and final approach is the ‘SPELT’ approach where you explore the Social, Political, Economic, Legal and Technical aspects of a given topic. Even with all these one might still encounter unfamiliar and strange topics. In that case just be a little patient and listen to what others are saying and gradually you will be able to think and generate content as well. The key is to keep your cool and not give up on the topic. Remember you are never alone in a GD!

    Now let’s discuss a little about the next stage of selection and arguably the most important one, Personal Interview. There are basically three dimensions of questions that you will encounter in an interview. You can be asked personal questions, questions related to general knowledge and current affairs and finally questions related to your academics and/or work experience in case you have it.

    Personal Questions can appear from all quarters. The most clichéd one is Why MBA? It’s better if you can add some personal touch to this answer rather than give them some tailor made response. The question that I feel is of immense importance is Tell me about yourself. This is the best opportunity to direct the interview in the way you want it to go. For example in one of my interviews with an old IIM I stressed upon my interests in football and gardening. After that we talked on these two topics for about half the duration of the interview! You can also take this opportunity to bring up something that you have not mentioned in your application form. Apart from these be prepared with other basics like strength, weakness, failure, success, achievement etc. It’s better to have pertinent examples from your life to back up your claims in every personal answer. Another dimension of this type of questions is those about the place you hail from, the college that you come from. In one of my IIM interviews I was asked to name all the canteens of my college!!

    Moving on to the other type of question, the ones on Current Affairs. Well it’s of paramount importance to have a very clear idea about the important issues that are going on around you, but what is of even more importance is to have your views on those issues. You will most likely be asked what you think about the issue rather than how many people were killed. In one of my interviews I was asked to give my views on air traffic security when we were discussing about MH 370.

    And now coming to the final type of questions, the ones on academics. This is extremely crucial for a fresher. Be thorough with the basics of two to three subjects. Four is the best option. In some of the interviews you might be asked as to which subject you want to discuss. Even if you are not that fortunate, you will still be able to defend yourself if you are thorough with two-three subjects. You will most likely be asked basic questions and if you have brushed up what you read in your college it will be a pleasant experience for you. For example, in one of my interviews I was asked to define Demand Paging and in yet another I was asked to write simple programs using arrays and linked list. Apart from direct questions, you might face some opinion related ones as well. In an interview with one of the old IIMs I was asked to give my views on the direction in which Computer Science research is progressing and another interview asked me whether Computer Science be an engineering discipline or not.

    Well now that we have discussed some of the key points of how to handle an interview, I would like to discuss a few rules of thumb before signing off. Remember that the table belongs to the interviewer so don’t keep your hands on the table. Ask for permission before taking your chair. And above all be very calm and relaxed. Try not to get stressed out and give in to pressure. And never think that the interview is over even if you had a bad start. There’s always time to redeem yourself so keep fighting till the very end!!  :)

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