Sunday, January 11, 2009

A nonsensical question in a B-school interview

I was shocked to see a news clipping on CNN-IBN a few minutes earlier. The show was about how to fight the current tough times and how the average citizens are coping with the strenous times.

One of the people interviewed on the show was a 21-year old boy from Delhi - a Muslim from India, aspiring for his MBA in a top business school in India. His dreams are to head the operations of a top multi-national in their Indian operations. So nice & I genuinely wished him luck, because I know the difficulties in getting into a top business school and then scaling the corporate ladder, so to speak. But, there was a problem in his MBA dreams recently.

Apparently, the business school interview panel asked him this question, "What do you feel about all terrorists being Muslims?". The candidate was dumbfounded, stuttered his answer and was really not prepared for that missile. Cannot blame him; nobody in his right senses and in a well-meaning way with dreams of a fine corporate career would expect this sort of a ridiculous question thrown at him, at the point where it all starts - business school admissions interview. It appears, from that news report, that this 21-year old was angry with that, but has slowly learnt to handle this and had the heart to say, "It was Sikhs in the '80s, Soviets before that, who were associated with terror, now its Muslims, so, this will go on". Fantastic maturity for a 21-year old.

I guess this candidate naturally was tested on this question for his temperament, ability to handle a pressure-cooker situation. But this sort of a test, is the MOST ridiculous way to assess a candidate's ability to handle pressure. What did that panelist think he was doing by asking such a racist question? If he was trying to prove a point, I am afraid, he has sent out racist connotations about his business school to the public at large.

I also hope that this candidate does not enrol into such a racist business school, as he deserves better. Nobody has any business to be asking a Muslim candidate or any body from any religion, who has passed the same exam as other candidates, questions about his religion and connection with terrorism. A business school is supposed to be a temple of learning where values, ethics, constructive thoughts of development are built in the formative years. It is certainly not a place to sow seeds of religious factionalism and ridiculous divides like this interview panelist has done to this candidate.

I just hope business school interviews are slightly more mature in their questions; these panelists would do well to remember the struggles they went through before they got to the chair that they hold. They have no business to question candidates in this light. Such panelists might as well be summarily be banned, as one never knows what sort of inputs they will pass on to candidates, once these dreamy-eyed hopefuls enrol into such business schools.

51 comments:

RS said...

Disagree!

A point-of-view that I subscribe to on this issue is around level-headedness. I agree that the question was 'extreme' to say the least, but if the motive of the interviewer was to test the equanimity of the candidate, there is indeed some justification. There are real-world 'jokers' who will question (potentially, in the future) the Muslim candidate around such religious and racial irrationalities. As a level-headed (future) leader in a firm, preparedness to deal with such situations is highly desirable in a society that unfortunately has gone irrational. From that POV, I don't think the interviewer has breached the ethical 'code of conduct', UNLESS the motive was different - which neither you, nor I, nor anyone will ever know!

On a separate note, I do enjoy reading your blogs :-) Keep it going!

RS said...

Also, you could perhaps argue that (if the interviewer had the right motives), to expect the level of maturity from the 21-year old was wrong. But then, the hard reality is if the 21-year-old chose to go to a top b-school, then he better be mature. Indeed, the answer that he gave was super-mature (magnify my maturity at age 21 by multiplying 1 Million and add another million!). And, if the motive was correct, I'd (as the interviewer) laud this man and take him in, no questions asked.

The POV of the candidate on the issue... another topic for discussion!

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