This post was written as a response to a Quora question.

What are some reasons candidates get rejected after IIM interview, assuming that they have a good CAT score?


Interview is a subjective process. Hence, there is always a possibility of Type 1 and Type 2 errors:

A type I error (or error of the first kind) is the incorrect rejection of a true null hypothesis. Example: A blood test that shows a patient to have a disease when in fact the patient does not have the disease.

A type II error (or error of the second kind) is the failure to reject a false null hypothesis. Example: A blood test failing to detect the disease it was designed to detect, in a patient who really has the disease

So, B-schools will reject some of the good candidates and will accept some of the not-so-good candidates. This is about b-schools making errors while selecting. But, even if a candidate is good overall, or has a good CAT score, there is always a possibility of the candidate not doing well in the interview room. I can think of following reasons why people don’t get through.

1. Zero or irrelevant preparation

Sometimes, candidates think that as they have conquered the first step of the selection process, things will fall in place without significant effort on their part. This results in complete lack of respect for the process and preparation or preparing in a haphazard manner. Irrelevant preparation also doesn’t help as one ends up focusing on things that don’t matter.

2. Bluffing, faking, arguing, being arrogant, attitude problems

When asked questions, sometimes, people tend to get defensive. Also, some candidates find it difficult to accept the fact that they don’t know something in the interview room. Due to this, they start bluffing. Even the achievements are sometimes exaggerated or sound too good to be true. Some candidates exhibit arrogance though it may not be their natural behavior because they have been told the biggest crap of all time: sell yourself

3. Not being dynamic enough

Sometimes, the preparation is so rigid that candidates fail to tackle questions outside their comfort zone. Even the effort to make an educated guess is not exhibited which shows lack of dynamism which is one of the most important qualities of a manager.

4. Unnecessary pressure

Candidates sometimes end up taking unnecessary pressure. They tend to overthink every small thing and that significantly hampers the interview. This behavioral aspect can take forms such as fidgeting, sweating, and stuttering. The panel, in such cases, assumes that the candidate lacks confidence or grit.

5. Turning the interview into a boring ordeal

The panel members, in a season, interview so many candidates that they start looking for interesting things. The moment interview becomes an interrogation where questions are thrown at the candidate and the candidate is simply responding, one should assume that the interview is not going to end well. Quick tip: Treat an interview as if it is an interaction where both parties have something to offer and something to gain.

6. Why MBA

Most of the candidates are not sure why they want to do an MBA. If one is not clear behind the motivation, panel is able to catch that. The panel wants a nice story (because we all like stories) and if they don’t get what they want to hear, and if other responses are equally shaky, things go south.

7. Culture fit

Institutes look for people who will add value to the batch and to the institute. And that’s why candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences have an advantage. If as a panel member, I interview 10 people with similar backgrounds and work experiences, I am in a rejection mode than a selection mode. And that’s precisely what happens. As the panel knows the culture or the DNA of the institute, anyone who doesn’t fit the requirement doesn’t get through.

8. Institute research

Sometimes, the candidate doesn’t know anything about the institute. Right from when was the institute established to the latest course initiated by the institute should go through one’s reading if one wants to convert the call. When I interview candidates, I am surprised when the following dialogue takes place:

Why do you want to join this institute?
There is strong alumni network, ….. <insert any prepared answer>

Can you name any one alumnus/alumna?
Sorry. I don’t know

9. Competencies

A candidate needs to exhibit some of the competencies that the b-school wants to see: Top of the list include: Communication skills, strategic thinking, leadership skills, ability to take initiatives, problem solving skills, being a team player, etc

If there is no verbal communication of evidences of these competencies (though one may have done a lot of things, but not mentioning them in the interview room is as good as not doing them), the interview panel fails to extract required competencies.

10. Not the right time

The last reason why I think people don’t get through is because the timing isn’t right. The candidate is overall under prepared and needs to see a lot, experience a lot, prepare a lot and come back stronger next year. This happens especially in the first attempt and it needs to happen for one to get better.

P.S. Want to crack your interview this season? Go through our free GD PI preparation resources and our GD PI online course.

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