Wharton Interview Team-Based Discussions – What To Expect And How To Prepare

November 09, 2016 | by Matt Symonds

Wharton recently announced their round 1 interview decisions, and as former Director of MBA Admissions at Wharton, I can share my understanding of what the school is looking for in the team-based discussions (Wharton’s interview style) which will begin soon.

The team-based discussion is a format that the school introduced in 2012, with the goal of allowing candidates to demonstrate how they approach challenges and work cohesively towards a solution. All candidates at the interview stage are invited to one of these sessions (if you can’t make it to campus, you can attend a session in a hub city) as well as a brief face-to-face interview.

Here’s the process: once invited for an interview, you’ll receive the outlines of the question for your team-based discussion and how you’re expected to present your idea. Usually you’re allowed one minute to introduce yourself, then the discussion lasts approximately 40-45 minutes where the team of candidates comes up with a topic and presentation model that is ultimately shared with the adcom observer. The time progresses very fast; afterwards the participants have a one-on-one (10 minute) interview with the adcom.

Wharton really uses the team-based discussions (TBD) as part interview and part marketing, supporting their grounds of “team based education.” Therefore, the group interview is less about your own particular answer and presentation (although of course you should thoughtfully prepare this in advance) and more about how well you work together and engage with other candidates in your TBD session. This is your chance to provide a direct example of what you would bring to your future study group at Wharton.

Wharton’s admissions committee is looking for you to clearly exhibit your own ideas with detail and great passion, but also very importantly, they will be observing how well you listen to others and facilitate the group’s dialogue. As you prepare for the Wharton TBD, and work through your own “pitch”, think about the following questions:

  • After everyone in your group has introduced themselves and presented their one minute pitch, are you able to help facilitate the discussion to arrive at a consensus?
  • Do you demonstrate leadership behaviors that draw out your other team members? How are you able to support the dialogue by encouraging others to express their opinions?
  • Are you able to reflect on the discussion that has occurred and help to further move the outcomes to support the group’s final presentation to the adcom in the room?
  • Are you solely promoting your own ideas, or are you able to collaborate and support your teammates even if you have to abandon your own?

In the end, it’s not whose idea is chosen for the final presentation that matters most in the adcom’s assessment, but rather your ability to showcase collaborative leadership – reflecting the school’s focus on teamwork. Make sure you show that you’re quick to adapt to others’ ideas if necessary, willing to set aside your own ideas to support others, and work towards a group process and outcome that is indicative of how you would function within the framework of the Wharton experience. Check this video for further tips.

Judith Silverman Hodara is Co-Founder and Director of Fortuna Admissions and former head of MBA Admissions at Wharton.

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