"Can you cook?"
"Can you dance or sing?"
These, reports TOI, are some of the 'unrelated' questions asked in recent admission interviews to institutes like NID, CEPT and Nirma - in order to test the candidate's character and personality.
"The questions are not meant to throw students off guard but guage their understanding, common sense and aptitude. With coaching classes available now, it is difficult to know calibre and true worth of students," says Akhil Succena, NID activity chairman for education.
I would tend to agree. The perfectly programmed and pantomimed answers to all the 'usual questions' often leave little scope to differentiate one student from the next.
IIM interviews have always been a little more edgy and asked these 'unrelated' questions. I remember at the IIM Calcutta interview, which was held in the commanding Hindustan Lever boardroom, I was asked things like:
* Can you recall a few lines from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
* Who painted the mural next to the library in TIFR
* What was the O Henry short story 'The Last Leaf' about?
Of course, these questions were not entirely unrelated. Gettysburg came out of my passing class 12 from an American high school, the mural from the fact that my dad works at TIFR and the O Henry question from stating 'reading' as a hobby.
All this info was listed on my form, which lay before them. Luckily I could answer everything - although I messed up some of the routine questions (guess coaching wasn't as sophisticated back then).
But I must have done alright coz they sent me an admit letter, though I chose to join IIM A.
As far as 'unrelated' goes, asking a physics graduate the principle behind the working of the ceiling fan may sound irrelevant to his or her aptitude for management. But what the panel is really checking for is how well you know your basics. Are you a thinker, or a mugger?
Believe it or not, many people cannot answer such simple questions because they have passed exams with flying colours through ratta. And they cannot 'think through' or connect the theory with the practical. Which definitely does not bode well for a future career in management! Or any other field, for that matter.
The other quality which gets tested in the process is integrity. If you say "I speak 5 languages" but are unable to actually do so, you will probably be dead meat. The only thing worse than not being able to answer is faking it. How can they tell?
Well, years of experience give these panels the intuition that Malcolm Gladwell described so wonderfully in 'Blink'.
Still, you might argue the 'cooking' is going a bit too far. I'm sure that's just one of the many they ask - and you won't be automatically flunked for saying you have never touched a stirring spoon.
It happens to be highlighted simply because it makes a good headline. But NID has give the following - valid - explanation: "Considering that students are overprotected by their parents, we want to see if they can do things independently."
Bottomline: Sadly, only a few institutes of great repute can undertake such subjective interviews. Because in the general scheme of things it would most likely be 'hijacked' ie used to give backdoor entry to the-less-deserving-but-willing-to-pay ...