Faizul’s Ph.D. Admission Interview Experience at IIM K and L | Operations Management Area | 2020

In conversation with Faizul Haque

Faizul completed his school education from DAV Public School (CBSE) Hazaribagh and scored 95% in both 10th & 12th standards. After that, he did B.Tech. in Manufacturing Engineering from National Institute of Foundry & Forge Technology (NIFFT) in 2018. He got the Campus Placement offer for Uni-Pol India and worked there for 14 months handling mostly the Process control & Process improvement domain. He was also responsible for shop-floor trials & RFQ preparation of the new products introduced.

He left my job to prepare for himself for higher studies and Common Admission Test. He has been selected in the Ph.D. program at IIM K and IIM L in the Operations Management Area.

Interview questions-

1. Congratulations on converting both IIM L and IIM K!  How do you feel?

Many thanks for your wishes. I feel elated to get offers from the two top-notch management institutes of the country and I will now have the opportunity to work in this field of research with a pool of world-class faculties & researchers.

2. Apart from IIM L and IIM K, did you apply to any other IIMs?

Yes, I did apply to the other IIMs. I applied to 14 IIMs & got interview call from 12 of them. I appeared in 8 interviews which included IIM Calcutta, Udaipur, Trichy, Raipur & others.

3. A lot of FPM/ Ph.D. aspirants are waiting to learn from you through your interview process. We request you to kindly recall your interviews and help us understand the points: Interview duration, questions on educational background, work experience, area of specialization, subject related i.e. technical proficiencies or general questions, SOP, achievements, etc.

(Share about IIM L and K separately)

Yeah sure, I would be happy to share my interview experience.


Panelists- 3, Duration- 18 min.

Started questions directly with Research Proposal, Detailed discussion on Research Proposal with some counter questions, Use of Statistical tools for this research, Questions from Statistics (Normal Distribution, Variance, Range), Questions on Inventory Management, asked to name some journals of Operations management & discuss any article from one of them, Questions related to my reading habits (reading hours, the content of reading), and what am I doing currently after quitting my job.

So, overall I was not asked any questions from previous education or work-ex. The questions were mostly from the Research Proposal & area of specialization only.

IIM Lucknow:

4. What is the selection procedure at IIM L and IIM K, how candidate evaluation is done? Which one did you find more difficult or requires more preparation?

Honestly speaking, the evaluation criteria for FPM is not revealed by the IIMs. It is somewhat opaque. The selection procedure comprises initial shortlisting and then the area interviews are done. For initial shortlisting, they give weightage to the candidates’ profile, SOP, Recommendations & qualifying examination scores. And for final selection, some institutes consider interviews only while some consider the scores of initial shortlisting plus the interview scores.

I believe that the interview evaluation is done mostly on the motivation, research orientation, subject knowledge & research alignment with the area faculties.

Every interview was difficult in its own sense as it was very unpredictable & random. We have to be very thorough with our preparation as questions can be asked from anything to everything and we need to be ready for that.

5. You decided to finally join IIM L. If possible, please share the reasons.

As both the institutes have no major differences in terms of their FPM program, it was very tricky to choose one. I went with IIM L due to its program structure, alignment with the faculty research interests, and location preference.

6. Share some preparation tips with potential FPM/ PhD students, how should one prepare to get into top IIMs? Like both physically (books to read, how many hours of preparation required) and also mentally how should one prepare?

Already said about the unpredictable nature of the selection process, the number of seats in FPM is also not fixed. So, one has to prepare very well right from the beginning starting with the Qualifying exam. As there are no well-defined criteria, one should try to score as much as possible, then for preparing SOP one has to be very clear about his/her own research interests and should try to align it with the research areas of the faculties of the respective institutes. For interviews, one should be able to justify each & every word of their SOP, should have clear concepts of the related subjects already studied in bachelor’s/masters and current researches being done in those fields. Also, one should be able to explain their work-ex clearly and relate it with the area applied for. Business statistics & std. 12th mathematics should also be brushed up before the interviews. Also, one should try to interact with the current scholars so as to get more idea about the work being taking place in their area.

As reading is an essential aspect during PhD, one can be asked questions related to this also. So, one has to develop prior reading habits (Novels, Newspapers, Research articles related to the research interests). It will help not only in the interviews to frame answers but will also aid as a habit during PhD. Coming to the preparation hours, strategic preparation is very essential. It will vary for different individuals and preparation for the qualifying examination & then the interviews will require the candidates’ calibre. Also, to be in good mental shape, one should involve in regular exercises, yoga, sports activities so as to be stress-free and to improve focus.

7. As per your experience, what qualities, an interviewer looks or wants from the potential FPM/PhD student?

Mostly the interviewers focus on the student’s motivation & determination to pursue this course. Also, they would like to check for students’ prior interests in the research area, subject knowledge, application of theories to the industries, awareness of the course structure & faculties research interests. For PhD selection, more than the profile or qualifying score, the thing that matters the most is having the right attitude, passion for research, and ability to project the same to the panel members.

8. They say: ‘Research is a lonesome journey’. How are you preparing yourself to begin this journey?

Indeed, research is a lonesome journey but it can prove to be a life-changing journey for me. So, I am preparing myself both physically & mentally by involving myself in reading books, research articles, taking some online courses, and also some recreational activities. Also, I am connecting with my peers with whom I will be sharing this journey.

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