Tips for Effective Interview Preparation
Interviews play a very important role in the selection process of IISc/ IITs/ NITs. Most top institutes take into consideration your performance in the written test, interview, and academics before selecting you. In fact, given that the top engineering colleges award a weightage of 30 % - 40% to Interview, your performance could brighten or dim your chance of selection. As the Interview is the last stage in the selection process, you cannot afford to leave anything to chance.
What is an Interview?
An interview reveals, among other things, how you “react” to various situations, and it involves thinking on your feet. An Interview provides an opportunity to the interviewer to peep into your mind and understand your thought process and personality. An Interview at a top College like IISc (MS) primarily tests the knowledge of the student as it is 'application of academics ' that determines the level of success that one can achieve in career & life.
The persons who interview you, collectively, form the Interview panel. Normally, the Interview panel consists of four to five interviewers. However, there could be more than five interviewers.
The duration of an IISc Interview may vary between 40 to 50 minutes. However, the duration of an Interview has no bearing on the final outcome. Simply put, a five minute Interview does not mean that you have not done well. Similarly, a 40 minute Interview does not indicate that you have done well. What matters is the ‘quality of interaction’ that you have had with the panel, irrespective of the duration of the Interview.
Most Interview panels comprise of professors who work full time for that Institute. Sometimes, the panel could also include an Alumni / industry expert.
While some institutes conduct only one Interview, there are others which conduct two interviews. Based on the style of interviewing, interviews at the above mentioned institutes can be classified into two types. The first one can be referred to as 'Non-Stress Interview', and the second one- 'Stress Interview'. A Non-Stress Interview is a free-wheeling discussion with questions asked in a normal business-like manner and the interview is given enough time to answer the questions. However, please do keep in mind to remain focused and professional throughout the interview. It is quite possible to become so relaxed that you feel happy and incidentally blurt out something damaging to your chance. In a Stress Interview, the candidate is deliberately put under a lot of stress by the panel. For example, it could be a series of questions beyond your subject knowledge. The objective is not to demean the candidate, but to see his/her reaction when faced with a challenge.
There are some aspects that you, as an M. Tech. aspirant, need to keep in mind and prepare for, before taking the Interview.
(a) Dress code: As an interview is a formal occasion; you are expected to be dressed for the occasion. Men should wear a freshly-ironed formal full-sleeve shirt and trousers, polished formal shoes (black or brown), belt and a tie (knotted properly). Do not forget to sport a 'clean look' on the day of the Interview. Use a mild deodorant.
Women can wear Trousers and shirt/ saree / skirt and shirt. If you have long hair, neatly plait it or tend to it in a manner that it does not look unkempt. The bit about formal shoes applies to you too. Of course, sandals meant for formal occasions are fine.
(b) Entry into the Interview room: You may be asked by one of the panel members or one of their assistants to enter the room. At the door, ask for permission to enter, "May I come in, Sir / Madam?" Relax! Control your pace. Don't be in a hurry to rush to the table. Greet the panel (using the appropriate salutations) with a smile. On being asked to sit down, thank them.
(c) Sitting posture: Sit comfortably in the chair. You may cross your legs if you wish to. Your arms may rest on the arm-rest of the chair or on your lap. The folder that contains your certificates and other documents should be kept on your lap, and not on the table. Remember, the table belongs to the panel. Avoid postures that reflect a casual attitude. For instance, avoid rocking the chair or placing one leg horizontally over the other leg.
(d) Body language: While a lot has been written and documented on body language, it will suffice and will actually help you if you can be your natural self. While you might feel that you need to 'project' yourself to the panel, the 'real you' will end up showing itself by way of your body language. Members of Interview panels are experts who can easily spot the inconsistency between what you are saying and what your body language conveys. Use gesticulations. Lean a little forward to show the panel that you are interested in what they are saying/ asking. In doing so, do not lean or rest your arms or elbows on the table.
(e) Language to be used: Use formal language and speak in English only. Some of us have the habit of mixing up English with the vernacular. Avoid doing this in the Interview. Do not use slang. Use short sentences that convey the meaning of what you wish to say. Avoid using complicated sentences and long drawn-out explanations.
(f) Conduct inside the Interview room: Listen carefully and attentively to the questions asked. If you are unable to comprehend the meaning / hear the question, request the panel member to clarify / repeat the question. Always speak in a slow, measured tone in a manner that everyone in the panel is clearly able to hear and understand what you are trying to say. There is no need to 'spit out the answer' for the question(s) asked. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts and then answer. Maintain eye contact with the panel at all times and convey a pleasant disposition to the interviewers, irrespective of the mental state you are in. Remember, there will be a certain amount of nervousness when you go for an Interview. But, you have to take care that such nervousness does not get the better of you.
WHAT INTERVIEWERS AT IISc/IITs/NITs LOOK FOR
Interviewers chiefly look for students who are fit to pursue an M. Tech. course at their institute and whether they have the potential to become effective Industry/ Academic veterans. They look for candidates who have clear ideas, a logical approach towards undefined problems, breadth and depth of knowledge, and the ability to look at things in a balanced manner. They also look at the moral and ethical value system of the individual concerned, and how the candidate will be able to contribute to the industry, the academics,and the society at large.
Some of the key qualities that you, as an M. Tech. aspirant, are expected to possess are:
- Good level of Subject knowledge
- Clear understanding of core concepts of various subjects
- Clarity of thought
- Communication skills
- Personality, attitude, and the way you react to situations, rational approach towards solutions
- Thought process in terms of career planning
TYPES OF QUESTIONS ASKED IN AN INTERVIEW
Before getting into the types of questions that you could possibly be asked in an Interview you need to understand that the job of an Interview panel is to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for that particular Institute. In this regard, they may put 'any question under the sun' to you and you are expected to answer such a question. On being asked personal questions, you are expected to answer in a mature manner, and not take the "this is a personal matter and since I do not know you personally, I cannot answer this question"
Neither are you expected to give flippant answers to seemingly innocuous questions. While you may not know it, every interviewer asks questions with a sense of purpose. Make sure that you answer every question with sincerity. Not doing so could jeopardise your selection prospects.
IMPORTANT TYPES OF QUESTIONS
- Tell us why you want to pursue M. Tech.?
- Why do you want to purse this specialization?
- Questions related to specific subjects/ academics?
- Questions related to one's personality/ Attitude/ Orientation towards academics
- Questions on career planning – Industry – Academics – Research
- Questions on Current Research areas / Final year project?
- Questions on Internship experience / Work experience?
- Questions on job profile (for those with work experience)- Application of core subjects in
- Questions on Engineering Mathematics ( Probability etc )
- Abstract Questions
Two important questions that are asked in most Interviews at top Institutes are:
(a) Why do you want to pursue M. Tech.?
(b) Why have you applied for this specialization?
Since such questions are more-or- less a certainty, you should prepare for them well in advance. Having a readymade answer for these kinds of questions will not help you as you could easily falter in the Interview. What you would be better off doing is to have broad reasons which could form the basis for your answers in the Interview. This would make your answer look more natural than 'a mugged-up / by-rote' answer.
Most of the top Institutes ask a large number of questions on the subjects you have studied during your +two and your graduation. Most questions are essentially conceptual in nature. However, it is seen at several Interviews that students are unable to answer these questions successfully. By answering these questions correctly, you are sending out a message to the Interview panel that you have taken the right amount of care to prepare thoroughly for the Interview. Be prepared to solve problems by using pen & paper. Do not be surprised if you are asked to solve problems on Black Board.
You could be asked questions on career planning. You could also be asked questions on current affairs / general knowledge, and the hobbies that you pursue. Answers to questions from these categories would be a reflection of what you do in your leisure, and how deeply involved you are in what you do. You may get questions on current research concepts / Areas.
Applicants with work experience are likely to face a large number of questions on their job profile, key learnings, the industry they work in, the organisation they work for, and the competition. Questions will be asked on the application of subject knowledge in work. In a nutshell, Interviews are as important as any other component in the selection process, and possibly the most decisive. Be thoroughly prepared, for on this depends your future.