Thursday, March 05, 2009

Selecting MBA Candidates at IMI

Yesterday I sat on the interview board at IMI for selection of students for the 2009-2010 MBA batch. I took part in two panels, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon; in total we spoke to 20 candidates, who had CAT scores above 96 percentile this year. One candidate had 99.7 percentile CAT score. I have been participating in selection process for the last five years, ever since I worked at IMI, but one conclusion I could reach is that CAT scores alone hardly characterise the ability or aptitude of students. This is recognised by most institutions; for example at IMI the CAT percentile is used only as a sreening parameter. This year,I was told there were more than 10000 applications received by IMI, and some 1000 were shortlisted for the final selection process.

The process at IMI consisted of an essay writing on a specific subject by each candidate, followed by a group discussion (GD- also on a contemporary issue) and a personal interview (PI) by a panel of three to five "experts". I got delayed during the morning session yesterday, because of a horrendous traffic jam in front of the two schools in GK II. CBSE exams are on and literally hundreds of cars that had brought students and their anxious parents to the schools had assembled there and parked in an extremely haphazard and unruly manner, blocking roads and intersections. These jams reflect the typical social attitudes of Indians in general - that of trying to get into whatever or wherever first, jumping queue and breaking elementary societal customs or courtesies expected of a good citizenry. This happens everywhere, in the airport, at bus stops, at concert halls or cinema hall line, without the least concern for fellow citizens.

I got diverted into the subject of traffic jams here. When I reached IMI for the morning session, it was nearly 10-30 AM. I was in a panel which had four other members, and they had started the process half an hour earlier, had completed the GD and also interviewed two candidates. There were eleven more candidates in that session, interstingly seven of them were women. The panelists included Professor Singvi, and Professor Khanijo, both faculty members of IMI and one professor from DCE and the other was an economics faculty from a DU college. Anyway, Singvi in his usual style decided to dominate the interview process and scowled, barked and occasionaly polite talked at the candidates. Rest of us asked only one or two questions. I for example decided to be quiet in many cases. Later, Singvi explained that he had already spent five days in Bangalore last week interviewing some 100 canidates, and he opined that the quality of candidates there were definity better than those interviewed this morning. He thought that out of the 13 who appered here only 3 were good enough to be offered a place straigtaway. Others intervened and this number rose to four. We all signed in the presribed outcome form accordingly. In the afternoon I was in a panel where there were two other experts - Arindam Banik the Professor of Economics at IMI, and one lady(Ms Jaya Vaidyanathan?) who had been an Alumnus (1992 batch) of IMI and with American Express as a Marketing professional for twenty years. There were 9 candidates in this session. We thought three should get offer letter straight away. A few more would get into the waiting list.

My impression was that most of the candidates in the two sessions were smart people, though some were a bit introverted - especially the few who I thought were academically quite sound. We came to know that all of them had call letters from other management institutes, such as IMT Gazhiabad (allmost all), MDI, Fore School and even one or two IIMs. How many of the first list candidates will take to IMI is uncertain, but they might attaract many from the waiting list. Though some of the candidates opined that for them the quality of faculty was the main criterion for the choice of the institute (and IMI seem to score very high on this ), it was apparent that placement history could be the most important parameter, and IMI is somewhat less successful in placing successful candidates with highly paid jobs with good companies after two years of study at the institute. It was also very clear that CAT score does not necessarily give any indication about the candidate's preparedness for taking up MBA Course. The overall system therefore needs a serious review to remedy this obvious defect.