So, I was invited as a “corporate figure” to help out in the candidate selection process for the MBA course of one of the leading b-schools of Mumbai. 4000 kids were being interviewed over 4 days, 1000 each day. Group Discussion (GD) followed by Personal Interview (PI), followed by a psychometric test (no, not “PT”). It was a highly efficiently orchestrated logistical exercise, resulting in finally 500 students getting admission into the promised land. I shall focus here on the young minds that I met during my half day there, and a bit on the process of selection (my proverbial two bits).
Must say I came back really impressed with most of the young students I met. The Group Discussion topics were not too tough but some of them were not too easy either – “Nuclear energy as a viable option for India”, “Privatisation as a means to reduce corruption”, “Lessons from Global economy crisis for India” were seemingly general topics but could go to good depths if required. And they did. Some girls knew the exact proportion of nuclear energy in India’s power sector, relative cost per unit vis-a-vis conventional source, merits vis-a-vis wind and solar energy and possible fallouts of nuclear wastes not being disposed off well. At 20-21 years of age, I knew very little of this. Ditto for their knowledge of Greece, hard landing of China, combined deficits of India and so on.
Exposure to the Internet has clearly helped raising the awareness level. Lots of information floating around. The onus is on the students to be more serious, get smart info, analyse that and most importantly, form their own views about each.
There were some candidates from smaller towns and some from villages too. Their English was possibly not as fluent as of those from metros. But they had an in-depth knowledge of many of these current affairs issues. I think they had a deeper understanding of governance in India at different levels – union, state and local governments. As well as of issues at “grass-roots” level. I hope that other evaluators were kind enough to look behind the rural accents and focus on the content of these kids. 2 years of being in a good b-school should polish these uncut jewels.
My suggestions (cannot resist) :
• A one-month preparatory course for students from rural areas (and vernac students from cities) before the MBA classes start – focusing on English and possibly, some aspects from a finishing school
• GD evaluation parameters and process to be stream-lined. Currently, personal interview process is the one which is structured, with “questions that could be asked”, “competencies to be checked”. My suggestion on GD would be to rate the kids on communication skills and content everytime they speak – on a rating of 10 and then the score to be averaged at end of the session. Allowing others to speak to be given some bonus marks. Beginning and summarising to be given some marks. I would personally give the non-speakers a chance to speak at the end, to find out what’s in their minds. But the guidelines forbade us to do that – possibly, the school did not want complete introverts.
• Students need to be dressed well (amazing to see a few kids in sneakers). Be serious about the process and give your 100% performance. We won’t know what you don’t tell us. Be focused and crisp. This is just slightly better than an elevator pitch (the GD is actually worse and PI slightly more generous) – hence, you have to communicate all your thoughts quickly and clearly.
• MBA is not a be-all and end-all. Smart graduates, especially BMS, BCom etc can try for lateral entries into sales jobs. Of course, many of us in the corporate world need to separate the degree from the individual and be a bit more inclusive on this point – will take some change on our part.
• With specialised MBA courses, please do your research and find out what you want to do. Join that course, whatever the college be. Do not get into Civil engineering to end up developing software code for a bank. No big harm in that, but you may have not used some years of your life effectively.