Rohit Singh, One-year MBA '16

Jan 20 2016

How to Survive Interview Prep Recruitment as an MBA

Rohit Singh, One-year MBA '16

For many of my Johnson One-year MBA classmates, including myself, interview preparation commenced soon after starting in May 2015. Some members of the previous graduating class remained in Ithaca to provide job search advice including, “start now or get left behind.” While it did not come as a surprise, we soon felt the heat. The three-month summer semester proved to be some of the toughest days we faced. Add to that, the pressure of devoting enough time to prepare for the upcoming fall recruitment season, it seemed like too much to handle. Yet, we knew it had to be done. “It’s just not possible, it’s not practical!” Those were a few of our thoughts.

What we then realized was that every class before us faced the same dilemma. They survived the core, the fall semester and the madness recruitment brings with it and its aftermath, the spring semester, and more recruitment. That’s what you need to tell yourself every time you feel like you just can’t give anymore, when you begin questioning your ability to keep going. Realize that this program is possible, conquered by hundreds before you, and shall be accomplished by hundreds after you. Most often in life, it is not about whether you can accomplish a goal. It’s whether you believe that you can and that you possess the conviction, persistence, and perseverance to push yourself. For the first time in my life, I pushed myself to the limit, knew that I could push a little more, and a little more after that. You will be amazed what business school makes you realize about your inner strength.

Recruiting in the US and b-school, at least at Johnson, is quite a different ball game. There is an art to it. Some people are naturally good, but more importantly, there is a lot of science involved. It requires preparation structure, years of understanding and experiencing the process, practicing and more practicing, and tons of informational interviews, networking, crop circles, and corporate briefings. For any mortal, it can be overwhelmingly exhausting and sometimes downright frustrating! As inquisitive and rebellious as we are, many of us question if the structure, methodologies, and all the preparation takes away the fun, spontaneity, and above all, truthfulness from the process. There is no easy answer. It’s complicated, as they say.

I believe that standardization is what we seek. Larger companies (and even smaller ones) have set processes and rulebooks for their recruitment teams – specific profiles and interview questions dictate how the candidate is evaluated. Companies have standardized how they recruit. Gone are the days of unstructured interviews (generally speaking). It is imperative that every candidate endure identical interview experiences and be evaluated by the same set of parameters. It is simpler, makes it fair for candidates, and scalable. Isn’t that the purpose of standardization?

On the other side of fence are business schools. After years of conducting the same cycle, b-schools understand what recruiters are looking for, comprehend their processes and recognize their ways. And, it has all been documented. It only makes sense to use this experience to simulate mock environments for students, illustrating what occurs in a real interview. This eliminates surprises, at least a few, when you participate in a real scenario. I see value in it and benefitted from it. True, it eradicates uncertainty, but with it some of the romance and theatrics involved. Having undergone the process myself, I say it’s a bargain I would happily make again.

I realized somewhere in middle of it all, that it became a game of nerves, of holding your own, being comfortable with who you are and what you have to offer, knowing you are doing what you can to prepare, and that you are being your authentic self. Remember, preparation is not about finding the best answer to a question, but about finding how best you can parlay an experience from your life story that is unique and addresses the point. Prepare because you must, but always be the real you.

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