How To Prepare For The ISB Admission Interview

1 Feb
2010

Came back from ISB this weekend, after interviewing Round 2 candidates for the batch of 2011. Its funny (or is tragic the word) that inspite of the sheer amount of open source information available out there…courtesy Pagalguy (and the likes), more than 50% students dont come prepared, in the real sense!

One of my favorite ways to start an interview is with the following question – “How have you prepared for this interview?”. More often than not, the response will be pagalaguy, alum interaction, current batch friends etc etc.

The next question then is “Identify 5 questions that you have prepared for best, through all your sources”…and the great part is that most come up with the same 5 odd sections. But thats where it ends.

When told to come up with their responses to those 5 questions, the lack of preparation shows. Its not really lack of preparation because they say all the right things…walk the safe path. Its essentially lack of clarity.

At the very basic level, ISB is looking at 2 things

1. Why MBA?

2. What after MBA?

— Why MBA —

THIS is the most important section. It is NOT funny how many people want to do an MBA just because they are bored of what they are doing, feel they have to finish their education as early as possible or think of it as a magic wand that will allow you to shift from IT to Investment Banking!

DO NOT state rehearsed answers – “I want to acquire business skills” “I need an MBA to prepare a business plan” “An MBA will teach me leadership and management skills”!

Understand that an MBA will not do any of these. Thinking that an MBA makes you a leader is equivalent of thinking that a bat makes you tendulkar! An MBA is a tool…which will allow you to apply yourself and become what you have to.

There are no right answers to this, because everyone has their own right answer. So dont give answers that are socially desirable. Because we are not recruiting you to make please the world…we are recruiting you for you!

Also be practical. Consider one example – ISB is not a cheap school and if you take a full loan, the EMI comes to 35K or so! So when I hear a budding entrepreneur state that ISB will help him flesh out his business plan and then he will start right after, my first reaction is “and what if you plug this 20 lacs into your business”…”what’s plan B”…and thats where the discussion stops!

— What after MBA —

Oh cmon…how can you NOT know the answer to this! Worse still, how can you not know everything about what you wish to do. 300 students want to enter McKinsey, but do you know what it takes to get in! Get a reality check.

When we see an IT guy with 10 years of experience who wants to join marketing, or a sales guy with 4 years of experience who wants to enter corporate finance, the obvious question is…what will this 1 year offer you that you think this change is possible! And they have no clue! They just think that an MBA will do that automatically for them!

This question…the most fundamental one that everyone expects…is easily the worst answered in my experience. People havent thought through it…they are clueless…which would have been fine had you done your homework and figured out where people similar to your background eventually go and what they do! But not knowing it and sitting at an ISB interview is totally unacceptable.

Equally important is to have a Plan B. If you will not get the industry shift, then what? If your business will not materialize, then what? If you do not get a 12 lac job, then what?

How can students not have a Plan B. Ok…I exclude the tiny section that tends to balance itself on overconfidence, but for the remaining, the question is more of a “oh shit…i didnt think of it” reaction! CMON!

This year, I most likely will see 13 students join the next batch, interviewed by me! I make it a point to note their contacts and look them up the next year. And I wish the ones that we have rejected had a chance to sit through the interviews of these 13 individuals and realize what a big difference clarity in thought brings!

The punchline – Be extremely sure of what an ISB MBA will do for you…and why you need it in the first place!

All other questions can be omitted…they are simply fillers!

PS: I love helping out students who are preparing for ISB (selectively though), because for me the school’s future is decided by who goes in! If anyone out there feels I could be of help, please feel free to contact! I would be more than happy!

48 Responses to How To Prepare For The ISB Admission Interview

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Bharani

February 1st, 2010 at 10:03 pm

If it is still followed, I remember we shortlist candidates after going through their essays which at a fundamental level captures these questions “Why MBA?”,”What after MBA?” and ofcourse “Why ISB?”. If there are sheer number of candidates who couldn’t answer these questions at interview level, then we know where to fix the inefficiency…the earlier stages..

Good post…should be a awakening call for most of the applicants…”Get your reasons for doing your MBA right”

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ankur

February 2nd, 2010 at 11:19 am

Unfortunately…there is a deluge of these professional service companies that help students write the “right” essays. So their essays are perfect, but when the same is asked in person, you realize that they havent even bothered to go back to the essay and truly feel each word of it.
Its scary, because the gap between the real self and the self we imagined from the paper application is only increasing and the importance of the paper application is jeopardized by such elements!

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Bharani

February 2nd, 2010 at 11:54 am

Makes sense…very sad though. Then we definitely need more people like you to take interviews…:)

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Saurabh

February 2nd, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I wonder how pre-ISB Warikoo would have answered some of these questions, especially the one on “What after MBA?”. You came from a pure science background with little work experience at that time, did you really know what you wanted after you finished your MBA? I am intrigued :)

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Saurabh

February 2nd, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I forgot to mention this…I did enjoy the post.

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Ankur

February 2nd, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Oh I did…very clear on consulting, from my experience at NIS. It was another case that I had no clue that it would be so competitive!! Am glad I managed!

But to truly answer your question, ISB was a different thing those days. Young and eager to get in anyone who was remotely good. I am convinced I wouldnt get through, if I were to apply this year with the same credentials.

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Vijay

February 6th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Ankur
Good one, as usual. The filters have larger pores. Not only the finest sand, but lot more goes through.

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Ankur

February 7th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Thanks Vijay. Echo your sentiments completely!

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Ram

September 26th, 2010 at 11:49 am

So Ankur, I have a question for you, couple actually
1. Has ISB transformed you into a stellar consultant, confident of making partner in one of those succubus like companies (In case you have been living under a rock, ,most of the top 100 companies consider consultants as vampires)

2. I have personally met ISB grads in my role as a consultant to the airplane manufacturer in USA and I have to say I am unimpressed by their business skills and I’m very easy to please. Why do I need to spend 20+ lakhs on an education which is more fluff than stuff and where I can get a better pedigree from the IIMs?

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Ankur

September 26th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

@Ram: I think you missed the point completely. If you go back to the post, it doesnt read “Why Should You Do an ISB MBA and not an IIM MBA”. So honestly, I think your questions are not just misplaced, I dont appreciate the tone of them as well.

If I were to really answer your question – the first response is No. Its not ISB that made me a good or bad consultant. It just lay infront of me the ingredients. After that if I were to become one, its totally on me!

And if you have meet unimpressive ISBians, so have I. But I met far more unimpressive IIM grads. That doesnt make either of the schools bad and it wasnt my intention to compare. I respect the IIMs on several counts and disagree with their views on a few. And the same goes for ISB as well. You dont want to spend 20 lakhs on an ISB MBA..dont! Last I heard, there was no such govt rule that mandated applying to ISB!

The post was meant to simply help applicants identify what the ISB Interview panel looks for! Nothing more

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Vikram Bhushan

October 27th, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Hi Ankur,
I want to get in touch with you for help with my ISB interview which is on 31 Oct 10. Pl acknowledge.
Regards,
Vikram

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Viraj

October 28th, 2010 at 1:26 am

Hi Ankur!

Appreciate the fact that you want to help people for the interview despite the hectic schedule in job.

Mine is on 31st Oct. Would love to have your guidance for the same. Pls reply.

Thanks.

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ISB R1 Interviews For Batch of 2012 | ankur Warikoo

November 3rd, 2010 at 1:44 pm

[…] important, because they define what you intend to do post-ISB and whether thats realistic (Read: How to Prepare for the ISB Admissions Interview). But long-term are not testing the candidate on […]

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Vinay

November 11th, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi Ankur,

Interesting read. Went for R1 myself and had a stress free interview. Surprised to hear that there are stress interviews too.

Must say, I like the critical-and-passionate-love approach you seem to take to ISB. Makes the institute all the more interesting to me :).

Also, was nice to come across you and Accentium. Looking forward to following your exploits given I’ve got similar interests :).

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Ankur Warikoo

November 12th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

@Vinay: Thanks for dropping by! All the best

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Yogesh

December 2nd, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Hi Ankur,

As you mentioned that answers to the questions submitted are really tailor-made and its hard to reject those apps, but when you really interview those people you observe that there is a huge gap in thoughts of the person mentioned in the app and the one he presents. Doesn’t this mean that this is discouraging the applicant to write the application all by himself without assistance?

PS: I have seen a lot of SOP’s of my MS friends presenting a holistic view.

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ankur

December 2nd, 2010 at 10:28 pm

@Yogesh: I would assume it should be the other way round. Its easy for an essay to be written by someone else, but you cant prep the candidate to say the right things! So the process actually encourages candidates to be themselves!

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Mansi

January 10th, 2011 at 12:00 am

Hey Ankur,

Interesting thoughts! I agree that when you sit on the other side interviewing a candidate, the standard answers do start sounding hallow and the gaping holes seem obvious!

I have an interview at ISB next Monday 17th January and would appreciate a critical sound board such as yourself for my answers. :) Do let me know if it will be possible to chat with you.

Also, I was interested in attending classes and generally interacting with the current students on a week day. Does ISB allow this? I was planning to come on Friday the 14th.

Thanks

Mansi

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Chaitanya

January 10th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Ankur,
I am waiting for my ISB interview call in 2012 round 2. Are you interviewing in this round.
Can you share your experiences of interviewing 2012 round1.
Thanks & regards,
Chaitanya

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Vatsala

January 18th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Hi Ankur,
Fantastic blogs! .. If ISB personified, is you, i’m just doubly sure on my choice.
I’M a R2 applicant and have received an interview call for 23rd jan (going to hyd!!) i wrote honest but rather controversial essays. so was hoping if i could chat with you before that (i know its already late ;( ) for a few pointers and thought clarity
Looking forward to your early reply.
P.S: mailed you too!

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Gmat 2011 - isb 2012-2013 - Page 109 - PaGaLGuY.com - The Everything of MBA in India and Abroad, CAT 2011, GMAT, XAT, MAT

July 6th, 2011 at 4:44 am

[…] 04:43 AM Hi all, this is a little pre-mature, but it is an extremely good source of info How To Prepare For The ISB Admission Interview | ankur Warikoo Ankur is an ISB alum and has also been part of interview-panel. Hope this is of help Prashant […]

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Ansuman

July 7th, 2011 at 6:01 am

Hi Ankur,
I am applying for ISB 2013. Work for Microsoft – 2 years GMAT 730 with 6.0 on AWA , 9.3 CGPA in my btech at a NIT
I have sent an email on your gmail id. Can you help me with some insight on my profile and interview ?
my gmail id – 777.ansuman@gmail.com

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..ISBConnect.. - Page 29 - PaGaLGuY.com - The Everything of MBA in India and Abroad, CAT 2011, GMAT, XAT, MAT

August 3rd, 2011 at 6:03 pm

[…] for clarity of thoughts and a realistic judgement of your post-MBA goals. A good read would be How To Prepare For The ISB Admission Interview | ankur Warikoo. Ankur is an alumni and has served on the interview panel at many occasions. 4) same as 1) it […]

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Rahul

September 4th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Ankur,

Your blog is very informative and helped me to do the basic groundwork. Thanks a ton.

How about entering the ISB with a, research bent of mind? I am looking at building Op. mgmt applications based on Art. Intell models. But for that I need a lot of basics on Operations management. Does the ISB consider such applications at all?

Regards
Rahul

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ashish

October 11th, 2011 at 12:12 am

Hi Ankur

Read your posts and really liked it.
I have an interview this saturday, will definitely remember a lot of points you have mentioned.
Thanks for sharing such good info.

Cheers
Ashish

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Sayan

October 16th, 2011 at 7:31 pm

What i gather from these discussions is that it would help if one is honest about his or her intentions and speak what they really believe in, in terms of career goal and future.

It is true that our present system gives a lot of value to a so called MBA degree but I would like to think that MBA is not to earn money or land a great job but to learn how to apply yourself through tools that a college like isb has to offer. Money and career will then become natural results.

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Rajiv Kumar Srivastava

December 12th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Thanks for sharing the experience Ankur! Your article not only enlightens for the kind of questionls in interview but also what to expect from ISB.

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Abhishant Pandey

December 28th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hi Ankur,

Nice article.I have few queries regarding admission and selection process.Please share your mail id.

Regards
Abhishant

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Viraaj Badhwar

January 5th, 2012 at 12:13 am

So to start with, very helpful post. I was just doing some last minute browsing to see if there were any extra tips i could get and happened to find this page. My interview’s tomorrow and though i think i’m prepared it’d be good to get some feedback. Any chance i can get in touch with you in the first half of tomorrow (tomorrow being the 5th).

Cheers

Viraaj

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Ronak

January 5th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Stumbled upon your blog while researching ISB and interview process.
You made two very valid points but you tone is very conceding and seems like you are one of those people who “know it all”…. just because you sit on interview board that gives you no reason to ridicule those candidates…
I strongly believe ISB should not allow interview board members to write blogs on their personal opinions about how the interviews went; it is private and confidential information.
You interview students and you are helping them personally, to this seems like conflict of interest.
You are so full of it, I am sure you know of what.

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Abhinav

January 9th, 2012 at 12:50 am

Hi Ankur

I had my interview a couple of days back. It was grilled a lot during the interview :( and there was a lot of cross questioning. Which would have been fine had they given me an opportunity to finish my answers.

I am from a consulting background so naturally I would like to go back to consulting. Some of the questions are weird. It was as if they wanted to check whether I have done what I had written in my essays. I was like ‘read my recommendations’! it is all acknowledged there! it is not like I am lying. but they stress tested every part of my application. It was not cool. and they asked me some frivolous questions as well. Thankfully I didn’t fumble or lose my composure. But it was nothing like what I expected an ISB interview to be.

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Ravikanth

January 16th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

given the dismal placements this year (40 out of 500 so far) and 30 companies going away without a single offer, is the 20L worth at all.

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Ankur

January 16th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

@Ravikanth: Considering that the placements havent even started – I would suggest you check the source of this information.

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Mohit

January 19th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

HI ankur,

i am a pre-final year engineering student here at Manipal university.i came to know about YLP through a friend few days back . now as my current grades are not good so i m not sure whether to apply for it or not as they might be going for students with excellent academic background.. plz guide me…ISB is my DREAM !!

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anirudh

January 25th, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hi ankur,

First of all thanks for your initiative in providing your inputs from your experiences with candidates facing the interviews. Most valuable information i have found so far!!!!!

I am from an engineering background and am interested in pursuing an MBA and also had the opportunity to be interviewed by IIM C interview panel.

The point is since i am from an engineering background and realize now that i want to pursue an MBA due to my interest in finance industry, one thing kept bugging me at the time of my IIMC interview. Wouldn’t my engineering background and a sudden changeover to management interests mark a negative impression on my profile, implying to them that i cant be sure of what i want to do in life…….First engineering and then a totally different stream…MBA….

What could be possible answers to such questions. Talking about facts, i choose engineering because at that time due to various sources of information (Did not have a good knowledge of the MBA streams) and options, it was the flawless route to a secure future(given that i got admission into a good NIT) compared to other courses in management at that time.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

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Muki

February 2nd, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hi Ankur,

I am glad I came across your blog before my interview on 5th Feb’12. I have 9.5 Years IT experience, working as Project Manager for past 3 years, and have Insurance as my domain. Post MBA, I want to join the Insurance Industry, and make the best use of my IT, Insurance and MBA skills. I am a reapplicant this year. Last year, I was not selected after my not-so-good interview.

If possible, can I meet you on 3rd/4th Feb before my interview, to get some more insights about the interview.

Thanks,
Muki

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Shikha

March 11th, 2012 at 12:26 am

Hi Ankur,

I am not sure if this the right place to post my question to you.
I have an admit for ISB Mohali for this year, but due to I some financial problems which I cannot join this year.

If I decline the offer, would ISB take this against me or will it in anyway affect my chances of getting an offer next year from ISB ?
Any suggestions/ thoughts on the above would helpful

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Kaustubh

February 23rd, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Hi Ankur ,

I come from a business background family . After an Engineering Degree and 2+ years of work-x I have come to a point where I feel I don’t want to pursue a technical career path . This is primarily because of the reason that in my job role I don’t get the thrill of watching my efforts getting converted to revenue . Is that a good enough reason to go for an MBA or is it just a phase every professional goes through ?

PS : I liked your post cos it provokes introspection and I commend your effort that u have replied to all the posts.

Regards
Kaustubh Rastogi

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Ankit

October 20th, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Hi Ankur,

I’d like to know how ISB ensures a fair evaluation process for candidates who are interviewed when some of them are asked lollipop regulation questions while others are put through brutal stress sessions. My interview had none of the two questions you mention in this post. On top of that, I was being constantly interrupted and challenged every few seconds and the discussion was being steered away from the topic at hand, only to come back abruptly with an attempt to put words in my mouth. It felt like being on an Arnab Goswami or Karan Thapar talk show.

It was an experience that really pissed me off. Both panel members were from Ad-Com or Faculty, didn’t even offer to shake hands when I entered. All I got was a perfunctory “Hi” from the lady on the panel. Didn’t even respond to my “Good Morning”. All of this when I was the first guy to be interviewed in Delhi this year so can’t be a case of fatigue or boredom. The fake politeness ( I thought so) on display by the guy on the panel made it worse.

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Pallu

November 16th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Hi Ankur,
As you said that the main reason students get rejected after interview is that there is a big gap between what is written and what is visible.

I have applied to ISB for 2012 and this Year 2013, both with good prep and in Round 1 itself. Both years I got interview calls. Last year the interview was ok but I felt this year the interview was good. All the essays are purely written by me. Still I have been rejected twice back to back. I am not sure, what they were expecting from me and how it was not met. I have also never been asked those two questions. I am not sure if applying again makes any sense.

Since you have experience in ISB interviews I would like to discuss my profile with you. I would be very grateful if you could point out some discrepancies in my profile :P .

– Regards
– Rejected ISB Applicant :|

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Pallu

February 4th, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Hi Ankur, thank you very much for your help. I still haven’t got any official reply from ISB , but you took time out of your busy schedule ,analysed my isb application and gave me important & helpful insights. Thank you for the same :)

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Pratyush

February 4th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Hi Ankur,

I wanted your advice on few specific things regarding my ISB application. My interview is on 7th Feb. I know I am contacting you bit late. But, if possible please let me know your availability.

Thanks,
Pratyush

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Bhumika

December 28th, 2015 at 1:06 am

Hi Ankur,

Would really appreciate your help for the ISB Admission process. Please let me know how can I connect with you.

Thanks

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Bhumika

December 28th, 2015 at 1:07 am

Hi Ankur,

Would really appreciate your help for the ISB Admission process.

Thanks

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Akankshya

March 25th, 2016 at 10:28 am

Hi Ankur,

I read your post and you specifically mentioned wanting to help students. But the kind of answers you expect isn’t exactly of a person who wants to help people get into ISB. Sitting on he other side of the table and firing questions, the same question to every single person, is naturally repetitive. So why are you skeptical about accepting same answers? If people were so clear that a college would not be much help in honing their skills then what is the point of investing 20 lakhs in a college that will not get you ready to face the world out there. I am not talking about spoon feeding but people are never very sure as to what they want for themselves and pursuing an mba or any such degree is a way of finding your call. Did you know what you wanted to be until you joined the college? Did you know you wanted to help out your college until you were half way through the course? Being an mba grad you should be realistic in your approach and keep your managerial skills to your workplace. Its not meant for those people who come in to learn those skills. I reckon you don’t take criticism well, but being an IIM grad myself, I felt compelled to give you a piece of my mind.

Appreciate your enthusiasm to help talented and deserving people get through.

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RW

February 1st, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Hi Ankur,

Thanks for the advice. Your post was illuminating and extremely heartening. As a prospective candidate who attends a lot of mba info sessions and interacts with other prospective candidates, its quite upsetting to see the manic obsession people have with placement packages to the point that the discussion at these sessions never goes beyond placements. Its good to know that bschools are looking for focused candidates who have plans beyond earning XYZ salary after graduation, as I consider myself among that group of focused candidates.

Ive applied to ISB in R2 and was hoping to connect with you regarding how I can prepare for the interview process, given the specifics of my current profile and future career plans. I realize this is quite out of the blue but I appreciate your enthusiasm to give back to your alma mater and help deserving candidates and hope to hear from you regarding how I can get in touch with you. Thanks in advance!

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RW

March 5th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Received an offer from ISB today :) Thank you so much for all your help Ankur. It was really awesome of you to take time out of your hectic schedule and walk me through the whole process.
If ISB has students like you, I can hardly wait to join and get started :)

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Isb Mantra

May 2nd, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Thanks for posting such an informative blog on how to prepare for ISB interview for getting admission in a reputed business college like ISB. Read more for knowing all important ISB interview Dates of the current year. https://www.isbmantra.com/resources/isb-key-dates/isb-application-deadlines-pgp

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