April 22, 2007

Tough consulting interviews? I bring you '300'!

Some interviews can be tough - my first big job interview with a German company had the following stages

a) Initial selection, based on our CV, from a certain region of India (comprising multiple states), and only certain set of schools (IITs/NITs)
b) A test with quantitiative/aptitude sections and electronics/computer engineering questions
c) A group discussion with other groups
d) First interview with a panel of thirteen people (and I was just a kid out of engineering school)
e) Second interview with 10 of the above 13 + General manager of the facility
f) Third interview with the department head + 4 of his team
g) Final interview with HR

Seriously -- what were they thinking? Finally they selected 2 and I was one of them. Really painful experience. My second job interview, with a US electronics giant, was much better, but very competitive again. Looks like I'm headed towards more soon...

After reading some general posts and also those by domodomo - great INSEAD blogger, I already see dings in my McKinsey interviews..and therefore, without much further ado, ladies and gentlement, I bring you....

From the pages of Necromonger's epic retelling of the "battle for the MC job",

(chap:5, "the gates of hell", para:3 - 2008 A.D. the season of the moon)

"And there they were, the barbarian hoardes with their awful CV's. The brave recruiters, for they had the hearts of wolves, look'd on as low GMAT after GMAT was thrust upon them. "Where be the salvation"? said he, of the mane of the lion, for each arrow of case study he shoot upon the barbarian hoardes, they fell by the hundreds. In the end, 300 fell. The hall littered with ding letters, words sharp as the eidolon's sword, and the lonely bard sang by the corner where retreating armies had put rejection letters to fire..."

(you may buy hard copies of the first print, to be out in June 2008)



Dunder Mifflin

April 21, 2007

Getting a US job after INSEAD/Oh the pain!

One of the more common questions asked about INSEAD is "how easy is it to get jobs in US after INSEAD" I'm not in INSEAD (yet), and here is my own perception. Getting a job in the US is certainly harder than if you tried from a US school. For a couple of reasons

a) Location - a lot of companies simply prefer local recruitment. That eliminates large number of US companies. It is also a lot harder for international students to go to US for interviews - the logistics itself eliminates many possibilities.

b) Awareness - INSEAD is not as well known in the US as the US biggies. But my own take is this is really not so much of an issue because it's not important whether your neighbor's hair dresser knows about INSEAD but whether those that matter in MBA recruiting know. In that list, a lot of people will know about top schools. It's more about networking there than flashing a school name badge which only gets you so far.

But in my mind, the biggest problem really is US immigration laws. As things stand, it's simply a major pain in the rear end to visit the US for a job search or to get US work permits. This keeps companies away from selecting students, it also dissuades many deserving students from even attempting.

Here are some reasons,

1. The H1-B sillyness makes it both unpredictable and ridiculously difficult to take up a job in US. This year's visas are being allotted in lottery which means almost 1 in every 2 applicants won't get the visa and those who were offered jobs can no longer really take them. And then the spouse cannot work.

2. The permanent residency laws that force employees to be chained to an employer for even up to 6-7 years. It's sort of strange that the law expects people, many who may have houses, children, and have worked for years, paid taxes, to leave the country in 15 (or 10 or whatever it is) days if they lose a job. The law treats employees like the 'daily wage' replacement workers instead of a global work force.

3. Policy that sort of clubs Ph.D's, master degree holders, engineers, doctors, and those who jump across the border all in the same lump. .

I've been to the US 8 times, and have been here for last 3 years. I love the country and the scale of opportunities but never really bothered to apply for a green card etc. because I like my freedom.

It surprises me that for a country which has benefited as much from immigrants is so unwelcoming of them - no matter how qualified. In contrast, UK's HSMP is progressive - if you're from one of the top 50 MBA schools as identified by UK treasury, you automatically get the chance to work in the UK. That simple. And now London is beginning to rival New York as the financial capital of the world.

So, in my case, I am looking at some possible companies where I am interested in applying to. But I'm not too optimistic - not because I think I'm too dumb to get in, but because my non citizen/resident status will disqualify me out right. So - bottom line - getting a job in US after INSEAD -

easy? No.
Hard? Yes.
Impossible? No.

Let's see.

April 14, 2007

Pragmatism, School Research and My choices

The topic is 'pragmatism when applying to schools' or my take on 'should I apply to school X?'

This post is a result of my many responses on the web, questions sent by applicants to me by e-mail, questions I've answered on phone and my own journey from preparation to my admit to INSEAD. The usual disclaimers apply.

Applying to business schools is an expensive process. You want to spend that money and time meaningfully so that it yields a satisfactory result. The approach to applications must be pragmatic - not oblivious to reality.

One of my pet peeves is 'false encouragement' without giving a reality check. This is a business school application process where your destiny is mostly out of your control (except GMAT score) because it depends on what you did in the past and how you fare against thousands of other applicants. When you are ready to apply, or are planning to apply, see if you have asked yourselves the right questions.

When you tabulate your answers, a picture emerges if it makes sense to apply or not. In some cases, the school might not be the right fit for you, and in some cases, it will be extremely unlikely you will make the cut. A focused, realistic approach to applications will be both more productive and also reduce your misery. In evaluating chances, I have three lines

  1. Competitive - You actually stand a good chance of getting in
  2. Ambitious - Give it a shot, there might be a chance, 'reach' schools
  3. Stupid - Waste of time, waste of money. Wasting time here might affect the effort you can put into better quality applications for a school you actually stand a chance.

When I say 'stupid' I don't mean you are stupid - I mean it's stupid to apply.

Unfortunately, many people fall into the stupid category for certain schools and few tell them that. Those who say it like it is get flamed by others for being rude and obnoxious - but like Jim Cramer says "I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to make you money!" or rather "I'm not your mother, I'm here to tell you what I really think!"

I fell below the 'stupid line' for Stanford. Why? my composite when compared to what the school looks for, has such a large gap that it's nothing but a waste of their and my time to apply. Same would apply to Harvard. I thought I had a chance in Wharton ('ambitious') but Wharton failed the test of my 'is the school right for me'? It wasn't - because of cost and my family conditions.

Ultimately, INSEAD was the perfect fit for my experience, cost needs and I put a lot of effort into creating the right application instead of worrying about filling 15 random applications and spending thousands of dollars.

How do you know if you fall beyond the stupid line? Evaluate the school 'admission chances' questions and how you fare against the general trend. If the school GMAT average is 710, has stellar applicants and high rejection rate, small class and values diversity - and if you have a GMAT of 640, nothing distinguishable in your application (e.g. I wrote code for 6 years and I have no hobbies), you are a Chinese or Indian IT from a no-name school and you have a bad GPA - you really fall below the stupid line. Really. No number of cheerleaders or 'Paula school of feedback' (see American idol?) is going to get you in. Might as well spend that time and money where you can make it through.

If one aspect of your candidature is weak compared to the school composite, you are doing OK - but if you're below in almost all, better look elsewhere.

I know I'm going to draw flak for this about this post. That's Ok, all of us have opinions. When it comes to identifying schools for applications - do due diligence, be ambitious but don't waste time and money.

For those curious on how I evaluated my chances -

a) Stanford and Harvard - stupid to apply. No chance.
b) Wharton, Columbia and Chicago GSB - fancied my chances, ambitious, but financial and personal situation (family, 2 years, and not US resident, visa hassles..) kept me out from applying to US 2 year programs.
c) INSEAD and IMD - great fit, in my mind Columbia, Chicago, INSEAD were roughly similar so that left me with INSEAD. I preferred INSEAD over IMD and I got into INSEAD earlier so I never applied to IMD.
d) Oxford - next. Thought I had a good chance but dropped it for later after INSEAD results
e) ISB - initially in the race. I dropped it after evaluating if the school was a good fit for me.

I'm no rankings hater. I pay attention to rankings and that did influence my application decisions.

Good luck - prepare well, prepare with focus, create high quality applications instead of 15 boiler plate bore-them-to-death submissions.

April 12, 2007

Vote for me or else!!!

I got nominated in the best of blogging awards from Clearadmit. Thank you Clearadmit!


Or wait a minute...



So, this is your chance to get super rich. VOTE FOR ME FOR BEST BLOGGER! ZE BESTE BLOGGER!

April 03, 2007

Interesting...INSEAD in Second Life

INSEAD plans to have a virtual campus within second life. The whole concept is pretty interesting.
Of course, as with any virtual world, a certain level of sustaining participation is necessary. If the school uses the virtual campus for real courses, and even perhaps create real-time exchanges between Singapore and Fontainebleu (and perhaps Wharton too), it could become a very interesting model. The concept then can aid alumni and students in job searches, discussions, and even enterpreneurship.
Nice to see such an initiative, it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

so..is it time to create a resume?

I'm sort of interested in coming back to the US to work. Not entirely sure, but there is a certain interest.

Maybe I should start preparing a stand-out resume.. heard you barely get time during the insanely hectic INSEAD classes....

On the other hand, does it make sense to work on a resume so soon? does it make sense to apply to a couple of places now to see how the reception to the resume is? Just thinking aloud...

(PS - looks like some fell for my Stanford admit post..it was an April fool's.... ;) )

April 01, 2007

Admitted to Stanford! Woohooo!

Some surprises are best kept secret. After a long and arduous journey, I finally received my letter from Stanford GSB.

It was not something I wanted to talk about before, simply because a lot of them would consider me "out of place" at GSB - what with me being over the hill (30+), Indian, IT (cursed). But this is an example that if you keep your eye on the ball, and focus on what you want (assuming a realistic chance of course), you might get what you seek. Don't get me wrong, INSEAD is amazing, but Stanford...well, it's in the heart of Tech industry, has an amazing world wide reputation, and is an exclusive program.

After 2 interviews, hours on essays, a unique presentation I made to adcom, I finally received a call (which I could not take as I was in a meeting) and a mail. Here is the text, It is an incredible feeling.

"Dear [xxxx],

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to the prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 2009. You are among the few who make it every year. The competition is intense and we pride in getting the best of the best.

You may be an old coot, a relic of the distant past. Never mind you are one more of the gazillion Indians running amok with a 700+ GMAT and asking everyone if '740 will get you into Harvard'. Never mind all the other traits we really need. Even your essays made no sense with all that technical mumbo-jumbo (take it to Sergey Brin). But we figured, "hey, if we let one of this type into GSB, we will have 100,000 new applications next year. We can build a new campus with the money" and therefore, we took this intelligent decision of letting you in. You, Crackhead Bob and Negative Nancy are three entrants to enhance our diversity this year.

Welcome to Stanford GSB.
Sincerely Yours,