Preparing for Life in a B-school and Beyond

Preparing for a life in a B-School

This article is targeted at B-school aspirants, and to some extent, at existing B-school students.

All of you are undoubtedly looking at joining a quality B-school with the ultimate objective of landing a dream job in a dream company.

To enhance your chances of securing admission in your targeted B-school, you would probably be preparing seriously for aptitude tests like CAT, XAT, CMAT etc. You would also be taking coaching at some point of time to hone your personal interview (PI) and group discussion (GD) skills.

However, the key question is, what do B-schools look for in their students, and finally, what do companies look for in their employees?

Ultimately, the selection criteria of B-schools are determined by those of corporate recruiters. B-schools have the same selection criteria for student selection as companies have for their employees. In other words, the selection criteria of B-schools are dovetailed with those of corporate recruiters. This ensures that the students who join a B-school will have a high probability of getting an offer from one of the dream recruiters in that B-school.

So, what are the selection criteria that companies have?

By and large, most companies have similar selection criteria, though the weightage for each criterion, and the standards expected, will vary among companies, based upon the functional area for which they are selecting, the brand equity of the company and the salary that the company is offering.

These criteria are:

  1. Intelligence and analytic ability
  2. Domain/functional knowledge
  3. General awareness and appreciation of current issues
  4. Attitude, fire in the belly, energy level and confidence
  5. Interactive, team and leadership skills
  6. Fluency in spoken and written English
  7. Willingness to be geographically mobile

Given the above, B-schools have identified instruments that they use to check out the candidates’ rating on the above criteria, if not exhaustively, at least partially.

These are:

  1. Academic track record
  2. Aptitude test (CAT/XAT/MAT/CMAT etc.) score
  3. Performance in group discussion and personal interview
  4. Score in written ability test (WAT)/essay
  5. Industry experience, if any.

One can easily map the B-school’s evaluation instruments with the selection criteria of companies. Academic track record and aptitude test score relate to criterion 1. Command of English (criterion 6) is checked out through a mix of the candidate’s score in the verbal ability section of aptitude test, score in WAT, and performance in personal interview and group discussion. General awareness and appreciation of current issues (criterion 3) are checked out through personal interview and group discussion, as well as through the general awareness section of the aptitude test (other than in CAT, which doesn’t have a general awareness section). Criteria 4, 5 and 7, which can broadly be classified as soft skills, are checked out during the personal interview.

Let me also point out that for most jobs and recruiters, the soft skills, general awareness and command of English are considered as more important than the other criteria,

Given these facts, what should a B-school aspirant or a student in a B-school do the prepare himself for admission in a quality B-school, and later, for selection by a dream recruiter?

I am of course assuming that the aspirant/student is already aware of, and is preparing himself for the aptitude test.

I am listing below a few activities that will enable you to prepare yourself for B-school selection and final placement, as well for your corporate career.

  1. Talk in English: As far as possible, talk to your friends, batch mates and faculty in English. If necessary, discard your friends who insist on talking in a vernacular language by those who are comfortable talking in English. This also applies to interacting with your friends in social media groups.
  2. Listen in English:  Watch only English language TV programmes in any genre-films, tele serials, music, news, sportscasts or whatever.  Let me inform you that it has been demonstrated that while listening in any language, you improve your command of that language.
  3. Join and participate in social and cultural cells/clubs in your college: There’s no better way than to join various cells, committees or clubs in your college and actively participating in their activities, to improve your social, team and leadership skills. IF you have a public speaking or debating club in your college, do join it as an active member. There’s nothing better than addressing a large audience to improve your confidence and help you shed your social inhibitions.
  4. Keep abreast of news and current affairs: This, let me tell you, is the Achilles’ heel of most B-school aspirants. Equally, it is important that managers in corporate houses keep abreast of environmental developments so that they can take appropriate decisions based on environmental developments. So, dear B-school aspirant, you’ll have to make that extra effort to improve your knowledge and appreciation of current issues. Having said this, it’s not at all a difficult task. You can follow current developments on TV, on the net, or in newspapers and magazines. You can take your pick. Nowadays all relevant news is available on the net. Al you have to do is to download the apps of a few news agencies and/or newspapers/magazines, like, TOI, HT, The Telegraph, The Hindu, ET, etc. Of course, if you are more comfortable listening to the news on TV, or reading newspapers, please go ahead with your preferred mode. Please note, you will almost certainly get a few questions in your final interview on current affairs, and your GD topic will also likely be on a current issue.
  5. Acquire in-depth knowledge about your area of interest: I have seen countless B-school aspirants, who upon being asked bout their hobby or pastime, have responded that they like to read or see films or listen to music. Upon being further probed, they have stated the names of one or two writers (in respect of reading); one or more actors or directors (in respect of films); and one or more vocalists or music directors (in respect of listening to music). However, upon being further probed, they seem to have a very superficial knowledge of their favourite writer/actor/vocalist.  My advice is, make up your mind about what you’ll answer, should you be asked about your favourite writer, actor or vocalist, and do your research on that individual. Thanks to the internet. It’s not going to be a difficult task. Of course, you’ll have to spend some quality time on your research.

The above, dear B-school aspirant, is my advice as to what you can and should do to improve your selection and employability prospects. Of course, the above does not preclude you joining a CAT coaching institution for formal training on taking aptitude tests, GDs and PIs.

At the end of the day, besides the above, you’ll have to have your own determination and resolve to succeed, which ultimately has to come from within you.

Good luck!

Prof. Gautam Ghosh
Director, Rajalakshmi School of Business