An Interview With Indian Business School’s Senior Director of Placement

V.K. Menon is the senior director of placements for the Indian School of Business. In this interview, he explains what ISB looks for in an applicant, how it treats re-applicants to the school, and how ISB had doubled scholarship aid for its students.

When do you think is a good time to do an MBA?

If you can get into a good, recognized or known business school, I don’t think you need to think at all. Let’s look at the MBA and what it gives you – one is the knowledge, another is the placements. Even if you look at a very bad year, students might face problems at the time of graduation but 3 or 5 years down the lane; they will find their path and beat many others because recession taught them a lot of things. Ultimately what matters is the kind of education you have and the kind of business school you come from.

How do you help those who plan to realize their entrepreneurial dream right after the graduation?

In the past few years, we have had about 160 industries that have sprung out of ISB. We have a full fledged structure called Wadhwani Centre for Entreprenaurial Development. From developing the business idea to gratifying it, sending the people to case competitions and getting them to hand shake with venture capitalists and if required funding them for two years – all these are done by ISB’s WCED. Of course the payment for those two years will not be extravagant. They will meet your education loan EMIs, living cost and some pocket money. At ISB if one has a business idea and he/she wants to go ahead with it, we extend all kinds of help including incubation.

What are you exactly looking in an applicant?

First of all we are looking at an experienced candidate – minimum two years of work experience is required, the average is five years and the range is 2 years to 20 years. We primarily look at overall categorizations. First is the analytics and academics i.e. the 10th, 12th and under graduation score and the GMAT score. Second assessment parameter is potential for leadership. We assess potential for leadership through performance at work, the recommendations and three essays that one has to submit which gives us an idea of how you think. Along with it any other extracurricular activities that you have carried out or social work etc. This is the leadership bucket. If you get through these, you are short listed. Then you have to come for a personal interview where we look at the personal characteristics of the individual. An interview is not a go or a no-go, it is just the part of a process. We collate all the factors and arrive at a final decision.

What can students look forward to during interviews?

Our interview is basically to access the strength of an individual and not to look at the weakness. It means we are not going to put a pressure interview or dig out on things. ISB interview will roughly have someone from admissions team, alumni, or a student. We pick up characteristics which comprises the strengths of an individual. We call these competencies. We try to go deep into those competencies, and that is not easy. When you are writing certain things on your essays you have to back them completely. But, at the same time it is not at all a stress interview and we try to make it as comfortable as possible. You need to however, back-up whatever you have written. The key is to stay absolutely natural and real.

How does ISB look at re-applicants who failed to gain acceptance the first time?

We are re-applicant friendly and believe that if a person is re-applying he or she is genuinely interested in ISB. But we encourage re-applicants to get in touch with us, understand why he/she didn’t make it in the first round and do something about it. So, there is no point in just re-applying, one must understand and mitigate any inefficiency cited by admissions team. The re-applicant conversion rates are higher than the natural applicants.

What is the school’s overall conversion rate?

It is roughly 8:4:1 i.e. for every eight candidates, four are shortlisted for interviews and out of those four one finally makes it to ISB.

ISB is known to have the most diverse pool of students in India. How do you insure that?

That is tough because at the end of the day the student has to cross the benchmark. We don’t lower the benchmark for diversity. It is only if you have got into the ISB then diversity comes into play.

For instance, if we need more women students, we need more women to apply. So, we have to correct the whole applicant pool, we cannot have diversity based on any admission jugglery. It has to come from the input pool.

How many women students are there in the current batch and would you like to increase the number in future classes? 

It’s about 29 per cent and we would like to have 50 per cent of women students in ISB.

I understand that ISB has almost doubled its scholarships. How come?

Scholarships come out of various areas; one is the scholarships that ISB gives. As the batch size increases the scholarships have to increase. Also, the school decided to help and encourage students and so the amount went up. So, ISB does two things – one is we try to increase scholarships for the students who join ISB. This time one in every seven students will receive INR Rs 5, 00,000 to INR Rs 10, 00,000 scholarships. Second, any students taking education loan to come to ISB, for them, we have tie-ups and we provide them collateral free loans with a guarantor.