Here is Series 8: How to Get into Your Dream B School
What are your strengths?
- You need to think about at least 3-4 strengths of yours. You don’t have to make this up. All of us have strengths (and weaknesses too). All you need to do to identify them is to think profoundly and sincerely about past incidents where you were challenged and when you came out on top. You must have applied some trait of yours for doing so and those, are your strengths.
- Your strengths could also stem from those areas you are good at. If you are really good in solving puzzles, your strength can be analytical and logical thinking. Introspect to identify your strengths. This is one question you cannot afford to get wrong. Please don’t get influenced by others’ strengths too. The interviewers will know if you are lying or if you are mentioning the most commonly used strengths.
- If you were the interviewer and I mentioned that one of my strengths is being an excellent team player, what might your next question be? In all probabilities, you will ask me to cite 2-3 instances where I have displayed this strength of mine. If I stay mum or start mumbling, or start thinking like crazy, then you know that I lied since I don’t have any data to back my claim.
Therefore, the need is to prepare a list of 3-4 strengths of yours and about 2-3 examples of you displaying each of your strengths in different situations.
However, don’t start mentioning the instances unless asked for.
- While preparing a list of instances where you have displayed your strengths, don’t list all the instances from a specific domain. You may be a college level group dancer, but don’t display all your strengths in dancing. Cite examples from the other activities that you do.
This will give you an opportunity to mention those small achievements which aren’t significant enough to be put on the resume, but are also not trivial enough to be ignored and overlooked. Also, these little things are what make you. You might have been the anchor of some event in your college fest. This can serve as an example for your strength of being a confident speaker in front of large audiences. This also serves better than the example of dancing on stage being your example of being confident on stage since you being able to speak confidently on stage will be more significant and relevant for an MBA course than you being able to dance fearlessly.
- This reminds me of a very important consideration to be kept in mind while citing your strengths. Try to cite those strengths of yours that are requisites or important for an MBA. If you are a great painter and can paint for hours, cite your strength as being able to concentrate for long durations together and having the eye for finer details rather than mentioning your strength as being able to paint well. Taking the dancing on stage example, you can mention that you are very perseverant and determined since, once you decide on doing a particular dance step, you don’t relax unless you have mastered it. Mull over your strengths and think hard to be able to mold them to a form which is relevant for an MBA.
- Now that you have mentioned and defended your strengths with great enthusiasm, the next logical question will be:
What are your weaknesses/areas of improvement?
- This question tests you on three aspects: how comfortable are you while speaking about things you aren’t good at, what are you doing about your weaknesses (i.e. are you working on them since you have already identified them) and whether you have any weaknesses which will impede your becoming a successful Business Leader.
- You need to score well on all the three aspects in order to go in the interviewers’ good books.
- The third aspect is the easiest. I assume you would know what all not to say as your weaknesses in an interview for seeking admission into an MBA college. Not a team player, cannot take excessive pressure, cannot work under strict deadlines, not self motivated, not a leader and the likes are a strict no-no. A mention of any of these as your weakness and then only God can help you; in fact even He might not be able to.
- The first two aspects are related. There are no perfect answers and you need to think long and hard to figure out your weaknesses. If you cannot readily identify your weaknesses, ask your family members and friends to help you out. They will be able to tell you more weaknesses of yours than you would have thought of. Then you can select the ones which you wish to and not keep any hard feelings towards those who helped you out by pointing out your weaknesses.
- Similar to strengths, you should be able to cite instances where you have displayed the weaknesses of yours.
- The importance of having shown an improvement or having made concerted efforts towards striving for improvement cannot be over emphasized. It is not enough to have identified your weaknesses. You must have an answer for: what are you doing to overcome your weaknesses? There might be some weaknesses which are impossible to overcome. In case you have one of those, you need to mention that you don’t think it is possible to overcome it and you know you will have to live with it. In fact, you shouldn’t wait for the interviewer to ask you ‘what are you going to do to overcome your weaknesses’. On the contrary, the answer to ‘what are your weaknesses’ should flow into your weaknesses and steps that have been/are being taken to mend them.
- You should prepare a list of at least 4 weaknesses of yours along with instances and what is being done to overcome each of the weaknesses, but share only two when initially asked. If you are prodded to reveal more, then talk about the remaining two, one by one.