What after the CAT?

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What after CAT?

This piece was published in the Education Plus, The Hindu. The author, Rajesh Balasubramanian, is a director at 2IIM.

Post CAT, candidates will go through a second round of testing, the most important component of which is the dreaded personal interview. Now is a good time to revisit some aspects of the interview, with particular stress on the key mistakes.

I don't know what I want to do in life, let me just say I want to be an entrepreneur.
The staple answer to "What is your long-term goal?", the entrepreneurship card seems like a wonderful answer, but could be a risky gambit as well. If you have a clear idea of what you want to do, have done some research about the industry, have a sense of how you can differentiate yourself and have something resembling a business model; then anchor your long-term vision around a new venture. However, an answer along the lines of "I want to start a new business and contribute meaningfully to society by providing employment to the deserving" is pure waffle.

In case you don't know how to read, I can recount everything my CV says here.
Faced with the standard "Tell me about yourself"; too often answers recount all the facts of life, down to the 86.4 per cent scored in Class X. The interviewer has already seen your CV, he is buying some time before coming up with the next question by asking a 'filler' question. He is bored after interviewing all day and wants to hear something interesting. The last thing he wants to listen to is a re-recording of your resume. The personal questions are wonderful opportunities for you to make a case for your selection. Do not waste them by restating facts.

I got this far by being good at multiple choice questions, I can answer all questions with Yes/No.
In a post-match conference, an eager commentator asks the player of the match "They missed the run-out chance in the 37th over. You were playing scratchily till then, but really clicked on after that. Was that the turning point of the match." The cricketer gave a deadpanned reply, "Yeah", and stopped at that. The commentator has not really just asked a question; he is keen to start a conversation. And the 'yeah' killed that. Your interviewer's approach is going to be similar. Bin the 'yes', 'no', 'good' and other monosyllabic answers; and take some of the questions to show hat you have a personality beyond your resume. You should take effort to drop into a 'conversation' mode in the interview, and not fall into the Question-Answer mode where you just rattle off answers.

I am smart and funny, just not so in an interview.
Even the most experienced candidates have interview-anxiety. The better interviewees are the ones who can conquer their anxieties within the first few minutes, have a dialogue with the professors and wear a smile even while exiting.

The interviewer wants to know whether you can articulate, and will test whether you can respond when put under pressure. Practise well for the interview, but do not lose your spontaneity or your wit. An ability to think on your feet and a polite smile can open the doors that hours of studying cannot.

Practise extensively prior to the interviews. Have a series of mock interviews done by experienced people. And bear in mind that, notwithstanding all this preparation something could still go wrong in the interview. Shrug off one or two bad answers and get back on track.

The writer is director at 2IIM, a coaching institute for CAT. He scored 100 percentile in CAT 2011, 2012, and 2014.