Interview Advice For Indian Applicants: How To Get Into Top MBA Programs

Rajesh was thrilled when he received an interview invitation from Wharton, his dream MBA program. He had worked hard on his application, scoring a 760 on the GMAT, writing compelling essays, and getting glowing recommendations. He was confident that he had what it took to get into the top business school.

However, he made a fatal mistake: he underestimated the importance of the MBA interview. He did not prepare well for the interview, thinking that his credentials and achievements would speak for themselves.

He did not research the program or the interviewer, he did not practice answering common or situational questions, and he did not pay attention to his body language or tone. He also did not consider how his cultural background and communication style might affect his interview performance. As a result, he bombed his MBA interview. He came across as arrogant, unprepared, and unfit for the program. He failed to impress the interviewer and lost his chance of getting into Booth.


Don’t let this happen to you. If you are an Indian applicant who has received an interview invitation from a top MBA program, congratulations! You have cleared the first hurdle in the admission process and are one step closer to your dream business school. However, you also face a tough competition and high expectations from the interviewers, who will evaluate your fit, potential, and motivation for the program.

As a seasoned admissions consultant, I’ve worked with numerous Indian candidates like Rajesh, helping them unlock their full potential and secure their place at prestigious MBA programs. Through my years of experience, I’ve developed a treasure trove of unconventional interview advice that specifically caters to the nuances of Indian applicants. To be honest, a lot of this advice may also be applicant to other (non-Indian) applicants, but most of it is targeted towards recurring themes I’ve seen in Indian applicants.

In this article, we’ll unveil these hidden gems, empowering you with the insights you need to transform your interview experience and rise above the competition.


India’s rich and diverse culture offers a unique opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from other candidates during the MBA interview. Emphasizing the distinctiveness of your cultural experiences will enable you to showcase your valuable insights and perspectives that can contribute to the global MBA community.

For instance, consider the case of Anjali, who grew up in a multicultural environment in India, speaking multiple languages and celebrating various traditions. She emphasized how this exposure allowed her to develop exceptional communication skills and adaptability, enabling her to connect with people from different backgrounds easily. By sharing her experience of organizing a community event that brought together people from diverse ethnicities, Anjali demonstrated her ability to foster inclusion and bridge cultural gaps.

Another applicant, Arvind, grew up in a rural part of India where access to quality education was limited. He channeled his passion for education into launching a non-profit organization that provided tutoring and mentorship to underprivileged students in his village. Arvind’s story showcased his resilience, resourcefulness, and dedication to making a difference in his community, qualities that would add value to any MBA program.

In each of these examples, the candidates embraced their unique cultural experiences, showcasing how they have shaped their personal and professional growth. By doing so, they not only presented a fresh perspective but also highlighted the value they could bring to the diverse MBA community. Remember, the key is to avoid cultural clichés and focus on the authentic aspects of your background that have influenced your strengths, values, and aspirations.


Effective communication is crucial during MBA interviews, and Indian applicants may face unique challenges due to certain linguistic nuances. Mastering clear and concise communication skills while addressing common Indian speech patterns and expressions can significantly improve your interview performance and make your ideas more accessible to a global audience.

A common challenge faced by Indian applicants is the use of idiomatic expressions or phrases that may not be familiar to interviewers from different cultural backgrounds. For example, using phrases like “putting all your eggs in one basket” or “biting off more than you can chew” may not be universally appreciated and may make you sound mechanical and rehearsed rather than spontaneous and authentic. Instead, opt for clearer language that conveys the intended meaning without relying on culturally specific idioms. In such cases, you could say, “focusing all your resources on a single opportunity” or “taking on more tasks than you can handle,” respectively.

Another aspect to consider is the tendency to use filler words or phrases that are prevalent in Indian English, such as “kindly,” “only,” or “as such.” These expressions may not be easily understood by non-Indian interviewers and could create confusion. By eliminating these filler words and adopting more universally recognized language, you can ensure that your message is clear and concise.

For instance, an applicant discussing their accomplishments might say, “I kindly request you to consider my achievements in the field of marketing, which include increasing sales by 50% only and managing a team of 15 people as such.” A clearer and more concise version of this statement would be, “Please consider my achievements in marketing, where I increased sales by 50% and managed a team of 15 people.”

It’s essential to strike the right balance between formality and conversational tone. Practice active listening, maintain a professional demeanor, and use appropriate body language to create a more engaging and comfortable interview experience.

By addressing these communication barriers, you can demonstrate your ability to connect with diverse audiences and showcase your adaptability and awareness of cultural differences, essential skills for success in a global MBA program.


Indian MBA applicants often face the challenge of standing out in a highly competitive pool of candidates with similar backgrounds. To differentiate yourself, it is essential to tackle stereotypes and demonstrate your unique strengths and achievements.

For example, many Indian applicants come from engineering or IT backgrounds, leading to the perception that they possess strong technical skills but may lack soft skills or creativity. To challenge this stereotype, showcase instances where you have excelled in areas such as leadership, teamwork, or problem-solving. Highlight projects where you took charge of a team or collaborated with cross-functional groups to achieve a common goal. Discuss instances where you demonstrated creativity or innovative thinking to solve complex business problems.

Another stereotype Indian applicants may face is the assumption that they have limited international exposure. If you have worked or studied abroad, participated in global projects, or interacted with diverse teams, make sure to emphasize these experiences during the interview. Explain how these opportunities have shaped your worldview, enhanced your cross-cultural communication skills, and prepared you for success in a global business environment.

One applicant, for instance, led a remote team of developers from three different countries while working on a software project. By sharing his experience coordinating with team members across time zones and adapting to different work cultures, he demonstrated his ability to work effectively in a global context.
In each case, the key is to identify and challenge any assumptions or stereotypes that may be associated with your background. By highlighting your unique strengths, achievements, and experiences, you can present a compelling narrative that sets you apart from other candidates and showcases your potential to contribute to the diverse MBA community.


In the fast-paced world of business, adaptability and a growth mindset are crucial traits that MBA programs look for in their applicants. As an Indian candidate, it is essential to demonstrate your ability to adapt to different environments and showcase your commitment to continuous learning and growth.
You can also show your adaptability and growth mindset by sharing examples of how you dealt with changes or challenges in your industry or function. For example, if you worked in a sector that was undergoing digital transformation, such as finance, you can talk about how you learned new technologies, adjusted to the online environment, and solved problems creatively. This would show your ability to cope with change and innovate.

An example of this is an applicant who switched from a traditional marketing role to a digital marketing role in a competitive e-commerce company. She shared how she mastered new digital marketing tools, adapted to the fast-paced online market, and executed successful marketing campaigns. This example showed her adaptability and willingness to learn new skills in a dynamic industry.

Another way to show your adaptability and growth mindset is to share examples of how you pursued personal and professional development. This can include examples of taking on challenging projects, seeking feedback and mentorship, pursuing additional courses or certifications, or engaging in activities that expand your horizons.

An example of this is an applicant who wanted to improve his leadership skills and joined a local Toastmasters club to enhance his public speaking and team management skills. He shared how this experience helped him grow as a leader and advance his career. This example showed his dedication to personal growth and development.

These examples illustrate how the candidates showed their adaptability and growth mindset, which are key qualities for success in an MBA program and the business world. By highlighting your ability to embrace change and commit to continuous learning, you can differentiate yourself from other applicants and prove your potential to excel in a global MBA community.


MBA programs look for candidates who have not only achieved professional success but also made a positive impact on their communities. As an Indian applicant, you can stand out from other candidates by highlighting your community involvement and commitment to social responsibility. This is relevant for candidates who have experience in this domain. Please remember that social volunteering or leadership can help, but it is not a must to apply to business school.

For example, you may have been involved in or led corporate social responsibility initiatives at your workplace, such as raising funds, volunteering for causes, or mentoring disadvantaged youth. By talking about these experiences and the impact they had on the community, you show your passion for making a difference in the lives of others.

An applicant, for example, volunteered at a local NGO that worked on improving education access for children in low-income communities. Through her work, she helped create and run an after-school program that offered tutoring and mentorship to hundreds of students. By sharing her experience and the quantifiable impact of her efforts, she showed her commitment to social responsibility and her ability to lead positive change.

Or, you may have undertaken personal projects or initiatives that address pressing social issues, such as environmental conservation, healthcare access, or women’s empowerment. Talking about these initiatives and their outcomes can show your proactive approach to making a difference and your ability to spot and solve critical societal challenges.

By showcasing your community involvement and commitment to social responsibility, you can further set yourself apart from other applicants and show your potential to contribute to the MBA program’s wider community and beyond.


Articulating a clear and compelling vision for your post-MBA goals is essential for Indian applicants looking to stand out during the interview process. By demonstrating your understanding of how an MBA will propel your career forward and contribute to your personal and professional growth, you can effectively showcase your passion and drive for success.

For example, you may have a specific industry or functional area in mind that you want to explore or transition into post-MBA, such as entrepreneurship, consulting, or social impact. Discuss the research you have conducted on these fields, the skills and experiences you aim to gain from the MBA program, and how these align with your long- term career aspirations.

One applicant, for example, aspired to launch a healthcare startup focused on delivering affordable, high-quality medical services to underserved communities in India. During the interview, he discussed the inspiration behind his goal, the market gap he aimed to fill, and the essential skills and resources he hoped to acquire through the MBA program to bring his vision to life.

Another important aspect is to demonstrate your commitment to leveraging your MBA education to make a meaningful impact on society or the business landscape. You may want to discuss how you plan to use your skills, knowledge, and network to drive positive change in your home country or contribute to the global business community.

For instance, a candidate with a background in renewable energy wanted to use his MBA to accelerate the adoption of clean energy solutions in India. He outlined his plans to work with public and private stakeholders, develop innovative financing models, and promote policy initiatives that would foster a greener and more sustainable energy future.


Establishing a strong personal brand and showcasing your authenticity is essential for Indian applicants looking to differentiate themselves during the MBA interview process. By presenting a genuine and cohesive narrative that highlights your unique strengths, passions, and experiences, you can effectively convey your potential to contribute to the MBA program and beyond.

For example, you may have pursued personal projects or hobbies that reflect your values, interests, or skills. Discussing these activities can provide a more holistic view of who you are as a candidate and reveal qualities that may not be apparent from your professional background alone.

One applicant, for instance, was passionate about photography and had built a successful side business capturing candid moments at weddings and events. By discussing his creative pursuits, he showcased his entrepreneurial spirit, artistic sensibilities, and ability to balance multiple commitments, setting him apart from other applicants.

Another aspect to consider is demonstrating your emotional intelligence and self- awareness. Reflect on your personal journey, the challenges you have faced, and the lessons you have learned along the way. By sharing your experiences with vulnerability and honesty, you can connect with your interviewer on a deeper level and create a lasting impression.

For example, a candidate who had overcome significant adversity to achieve her career goals shared her story of resilience and determination. By discussing the personal and professional challenges she faced and how they shaped her character and outlook, she demonstrated her emotional intelligence and ability to persevere in the face of adversity.

In each of these examples, the candidates showcased their personal brand and authenticity by presenting a genuine and compelling narrative that highlighted their unique strengths and experiences. It’s when you do so that you can set yourself apart from other applicants and demonstrate your potential to contribute to the diverse MBA community and excel in your post-MBA goals.


The MBA admissions journey for Indian applicants is a unique and challenging one, with its own set of cultural nuances and expectations. By embracing unconventional advice and focusing on showcasing your individual strengths, personal brand, and authenticity, you can stand out in a highly competitive applicant pool.

Remember that your journey is as unique as your story, and it’s essential to let your passion, drive, and commitment to personal and professional growth shine through during the interview process. By doing so, you will not only secure your spot in a top MBA program but also pave the way for a successful career in the global business landscape.

So, buckle up, embrace your uniqueness, and get ready to leave a lasting impression on your MBA interviewer!

Swati Gupta is co-founder and managing partner at GyanOne, one of India’s leading admissions consultancies. Names have been changed to protect identities pertaining to specific situations mentioned in this essay.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.