On November, 28 2013 I was scheduled for my Skype interview for full-time MBA at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). I was shortlisted for interview in the first round of applications and I had exactly eight days to prepare for what was my first interview for an international MBA. In this post I am going to walk you through what exactly happened during the interview, what questions were I asked and how did I answer those questions.
In the invitation email I was sent by the admission committee confirming my shortlist for the interview, I was informed that the interview would be of 40 minutes and it was scheduled at forenoon Beijing time, so it was morning for me here in India. I made sure I slept well and in the morning before the interview I had my usual routine of workout so that blood was pumping well as it was winters and I didn’t want to be shivering during the course of the interview 🙂 . I was ready, sitting in a chair waiting for CEIBS MBA Admission office to call me, mumbling answers to some obvious questions that may be asked and my Skype call came. I just want to mention that my entire family, especially my dad, was standing right outside the door listening to my responses because they helped me prepare a lot for this.
The call notification started flashing on my screen and I was like, “this is it”. My anxiety levels sky rocketed as I accepted the call and waited for the pixels on my screen to arrange themselves, showing me the faces of my interviewers. When the images started appearing I saw the most inviting smiles I have ever seen in my life. Their smiles removed all my anxiety and I guess this was a critical part of the interview.
Interviewer 1: (With a beaming smile) Good Morning Anshuman Pandey, I am Yvonne Li I am the MBA director of Admission and Career Services.
Me: Good morning Ma’am
Interviewer 2: I am Klaus E Meyer and I am Professor of Strategy and International Business.
Me: Good morning Sir.
YL: Am I pronouncing your name correctly, Anshuman.
Me: Yes Ma’am perfectly.
YL: I must say it is one of the easier Indian names to pronounce.
Me: (Smiling and Nodding) Glad you feel so.
YL: Anshuman this interview will be of 30 minutes after which you will be given an opportunity to ask questions.
Me: All right Ma’am
YL: Very well. So Anshuman please tell a little about your career progression in not more than three minutes.
Me: I wanted to have a certain years of work experience before I pursued my MBA so I upon my graduation I started working for Cognizant Technology Solutions which recruited me from campus. I joined Cognizant as a trainee and was part of the business intelligence team where I worked for a reporting tool migration project for a retail giant. After a year I got an opportunity and went on to become an IT business analyst for healthcare based projects. During my tenure I was able to enhance lot of existing processes by automating them and even though I was the youngest member in the team I am an active participant in client interactions and have established myself as an important team member. Also, my efforts and initiatives have been awarded suitably my higher management.
YL: Thank you for a precise and time bound answer Anshuman. I am not sure if you have heard but a big Pharmaceutical company was involved in corruption in China and the authorities have been penalized heavily by the Government. What do you make of this?
Me: Well, corruption is prevalent in every sector and there are so many cases here in India too, where the government officials themselves have been involved in such cases. Mostly businesses indulge in these practices when they have to get around some rules to expedite some process, and it is good to know that action has been taken against such organizations. But we need to realize on the benefits that pharmaceutical industry provide and the R&D being carried out in such organizations that will help the human race fight major diseases and epidemics. For example, development of personalized medicines, which will be able to cure diseases like cancer without side-effects. So as long as corruption is handled well I guess it is not a very big issue when compared to how useful these companies are.
Klaus E Mayer: Anshuman, I realize that you prepare incentive scheme plans for medical representatives. How would you change the plan to incorporate cases of corruption?
Me: (Stumped a bit)
KEM: I know it is a tough question but that is my task.
Me: (Smiling) It is a good question and I have two possible approach to handle such a case. Firstly, we can increase the weightage of Qualitative assessments of the representatives making the factors like the number of calls made by the representative and the certifications he/she has undertaken and other parameters which are completely in control of the company, more important. Secondly, we can use team based incentives – this will take care of the outliers that are there in a particular team and will make sure that only when a representative’s team performs well and not just him alone can he get any benefit out of it.
This was a swift response from my end I hardly took time to think and I guess this was because I had slept well and was very alert during the interview.
KEM: (Nodding his head in agreement as YL was watching me intently) You have mentioned that you have worked with various clients can you tell me how do their incentives scheme differ?
Me: Actually the parameters used by almost every client that I have worked with is same, they just use different permutations of these parameters and use different methodologies for payment. So for example, when one client ranks the sales done by set of territories and gives compensation based on their ranks, the other client has a goal set for each territory and based on what percent of goal is achieved they are given compensation. There is only so much a representative can do so whatever difference is present lies in the way the client wants to evaluate those things.
(KEM nods and seemed happy with my response)
YL: Anshuman have you travelled out of your country?
Me: No Ma’am, if I get selected, travelling to Shanghai will be my first time out of my country.
(YL and KEM laugh)
KEM: Bit of an adventure isn’t it?
Me: Absolutely, something I can’t wait for to happen.
YL: So Anshuman, in China very few people speak in English, they speak Mandarin, and it can be very hard for a new comer to adjust. I personally find it very difficult to live in a place where people can’t speak English. Have you ever interacted with people of other countries?
Me: Yes Ma’am I did get an opportunity to interact with foreigners during my graduation, my Physics professor was American in fact there were a lot of foreigners around the university campus.
KEM (interrupting): I would like to rephrase here what my friend here said, she meant that if you need to stay in China you need to speak or understand Mandarin but if you just want to take a degree and go off then it is not a necessity.
Me: I do want to stay in China after my MBA, it was one of the main reasons I applied to CEIBS and am sure it is tough to learn Mandarin but it is challenge that I am sure I can take up and learn Mandarin
(Both nodding their head showing positive affect)
Yvonne Li then tells the small story about an Indian student in CEIBS who went to work at real estate and now speaks good Mandarin, emphasizing that it can surely be done and asked me to learn Mandarin. This was one positive indication (I felt).
YL: We are a young institute and we don’t have the history like Harvard or Wharton but we work really hard here and because we are in Shanghai we can help you by conducting sessions with many business leaders so that you get the desired exposure of a top tier B-School
Me: CEIBS is doing very well and that was one of the reasons for me to choose CEIBS for my MBA and I am sure one day CEIBS will have boast of a great history too.
YL: Thank you Anshuman, that’s all from our end. Do you have any questions for us? We’ll be happy to answer.
I asked two questions on the scholarships they provide
Me: That’s all from my end. Thank you very much for giving the opportunity to be interviewed.
YL & KEM: Thank you Anshuman. Bye!
Me: Bye Bye!
As my family was near to the door, they came in as soon as they heard me take a sigh of relief and they looked happy. I discussed with them how the interview went even though they heard almost every answer I gave, it were the questions they couldn’t hear so I spent some time narrating those for them. Almost a month later I was notified that I am selected to be part of MBA class of 2016 at CEIBS. In a few months’ time I fly to Shanghai to start my journey.
If you have any questions regarding the application process and other details I’ll be happy to respond.