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Working the entrepreneurship angle in IIM interviews

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Every MBA interview has a different angle: freshers, college PORs, work experience, but what if rather than working for someone else, you started your own business? Or dream of doing so?

Entrepreneurship is a niche area and very little material is available on what one can expect in an IIM interview around this end goal.

Having already gone down this entrepreneurial road himself, Jayant tells us how to be prepared to face the panelists and effectively communicate this point of massive differentiation!

Jayant Singhal is a DU graduate but has dabbled in many roles since his undergrad years. Be it a freelancing editor, content blogger, digital marketing, corporate job & obviously even entrepreneurship, he has done it all! He is now off to IIM Lucknow (2020-22) to pursue his MBA.

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It gives me immense pleasure to share my perspective on how to present one's knack, intention, and passion for entrepreneurship at an MBA Interview.

Being involved in the functioning of HouseItt (our very own venture) and then presenting my experience in all the IIM interviews, I was actively quizzed about it in some of my interviews. I feel blessed that only because of the entrepreneurial experiences which HouseItt offered me, I was able to successfully pull off my interview for IIM Lucknow (my abode for the upcoming two years).

Before I start off, I would like to put a few words of caution here. Presenting yourself as an aspiring entrepreneur in an interview can simply either make or break your day. So, don't do so just for the sake of it. It is advisable not to bluff about anything, being honest with whatever you have to say makes all the difference.

So, for me dreaming of going to a B-school wasn’t always the case. In fact, this journey started when I got an opportunity to explore the entrepreneurship stream.

Working in a team to ideate, brainstorm, sow the seed to build a startup blueprint from scratch and eventually, turning some novel ideas into reality, I learned a lot. I witnessed firsthand how I could utilise all my academic knowledge coupled with my extracurricular experiences (leading college societies) in solving business problems.

But, the idea of getting into a business school struck me when I realised that there were some elements that I lacked that only a B-school could help me attain. I was missing conceptual clarity, a strong network but most importantly, A BRAND NAME! I decided to start my MBA preparation, right after college.

After acing CAT, it all boiled down to the calls I got. I was extremely passionate as well as clear about my story & my goals.

How to prepare for Interviews while approaching Entrepreneurship:

1) How to convince your panel of “why MBA” if you want to branch off already?

For this, you need to be very clear about your goals and have a vision to achieve them. You have to show the interviewers how your past experiences aligned your current interest. Be meticulous with whatever you bring to the table, let them know how an MBA bridges the gap between your present situation and your future objectives. In my case, I was extremely clear about the gaps which an MBA would precisely fill, just like what I’ve mentioned above.

2) What kind of questions to expect in the interview?

Basically, there will be two questions categories for which you need to be prepared, in addition to all your regular questions around HR, Acads, Current Affairs, etc. - you get the drift!

a. Your Own Business Model:

Anything and everything under the Sun needs to be prepared. Sky’s the limit.

Some example questions:

➔ What is the business idea exactly?

➔ When did you think of pursuing the idea?

➔ What were the steps you took after the idea was in place?

➔ Tell us more about your team. How did you find them? Who all are a part of the idea?

➔ How is your idea unique? How are you planning to face the competitive market?

➔ What skills do you bring to the table?

➔ What is required for Entrepreneurship? What makes a good entrepreneur?

➔ What are your future plans?

Also, you should know everything about the product/service you are providing and just soak in all the information related to your industry. Questions on startup planning, incorporation stages, funding etc are also quite important.

b. General Entrepreneurship:

➔ Theory Questions related to entrepreneurship:

For this, you can refer to any textbook on Entrepreneurship (I referred BCom (H) textbooks). It helps to get acquainted with all the technicalities and terminology available. Read about the general process and how it is carried out. Also, do make notes for your business idea at each stage co-relating it with theory, it will help you get more clarity.

➔ Business Awareness:

Again, the possibilities are endless here. Interviewers may like to quiz you on the type of startups you follow. Just be thorough about the current news related to startups, all advancements, unicorns in light, famous entrepreneurs, their personalities, and how you relate it to yourself.

Listing down the questions asked to me during my IIM Indore interview for this section:

  1. In your introduction, you mentioned that you have had an opportunity of working with a startup from scratch. Tell me what is bootstrap funding?

  2. What is a unicorn? Give some names for Indian unicorns

  3. Who was Victor Lustig?

  4. Anyways, who is Elon Musk?

  5. Explain a bit about Tesla cars.

  6. Asked about a few US start-ups.

3) What kind of mindset is really needed for Entrepreneurial interviews?

You need to believe in yourself and in your entrepreneurial experiences. Express the kind of impact you are making in terms of welfare. Be confident and humble in your tone, while speaking about your dreams.

You can take proofs, prototypes, website links etc. to support your statements and to show the interviewers what you have actually achieved. I still remember, during my IIM Lucknow Interview, I met a candidate from IIT Bombay, who was an entrepreneur working on an application for phones. The interviewers were so impressed by his idea and passion that he convinced them to download his app on their phones then & there, which they did!

So, in a nutshell, it's all about your clarity of thoughts regarding doing an MBA, passion for business, problem-solving, and the firm yet humble mindset you carry and display in those crucial 15-20 mins.

I hope this piece helps its readers.

Prepare your elevator pitch well.

All the best!


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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!

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