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Top Wharton School MBA Team-Based Interview Tips from Actual Interviewees

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As LiveWire lights up with interview invitations from the Wharton Admissions Committee, we wanted to help the latest crop of candidates by sharing tips and tidbits from those who have experienced the Wharton Team-Based Discussion (TBD) and personal interviews firsthand. Wharton introduced the TBD a few years ago and considers it to “model the highly collaborative nature of the Wharton MBA environment.”

Five to six candidates are grouped together and asked to develop a presentation around a specific prompt, which invited applicants are sent in advance of the interview. Afterward the group exercise, candidates have about 10 minutes one on one with an interviewer—usually a trained second-year student but sometimes a member of the adcom.

Many candidates report that the TBD gives them insight into Wharton’s atmosphere but can feel difficult to prepare for. In the Clear Admit Interview Guide for Wharton, several interviewees elaborated on their personal experiences.

We’ve also scoured the Clear Admit Interview Archive and pulled out some of the best insights from last year’s Wharton candidates.

Show That You Are a Team Player

Several candidates recommended arriving with enough time before the TBD to get to know the other members of your group and settle in a little:

“Since no one knows what to expect in the team-based discussion (TBD), it is a good idea to arrive early in order to know the people in your group.”

“I highly recommend arriving 15-20 minutes before your interview, as the time spent in the waiting room chatting and getting to know the other applicants in the same TBD group was useful, so you can get a handle of the various personalities early on.”

Others had logistical advice:

“My recommendations are keep a close eye on the time and use the whiteboard. It will make the presentation go much more smoothly if you have everyone looking at the same notes.”

“Some things that worked for us that I would suggest:

  • Putting a hard stop at 7-8 min left to plan out who will present what in the last 5 minutes
  • Using the whiteboard
  • Taking notes
  • Calling people by their names
  • Focus not just on the specific idea in your pitch, but also on broader themes and things that could be applicable across a variety of ideas.
  • Disagreeing is not bad if you do it constructively; you don’t all need to think everything everyone else says is the best idea ever conceived.”

Making your voice heard in a competitive group can be tricky, but this interviewee offered some encouragement:

“My advice is to really focus on interjecting when you have something very meaningful to say and to avoid rambling on. It is definitely tough to approach telling team members they are wrong or you don’t like the direction someone suggests in this setting as everyone is trying to stay positive and supportive.”

While a couple of candidates captured the nature of the exercise…

“The biggest thing about the TBD is that you can present on a pre-determined topic, but you can’t plan for the team experience you’ll have, which means you can’t truly prepare for it. There’s no memorization in the world that can help you when 4 out of the 5 other members have A type personalities and are fighting to speak.”

“The TBD takes a totally different type of preparation than does a normal interview. I think you really have to spend less time on the pitch and more time thinking about how you will interact with people (and how you usually interact with people) in a group setting.”

…others offered up some key points to a successful approach:

“A few specific points of advice based on my experience:

  • Make sure you keep your opening pitch to 1 minute. It’s obvious when you go too long and doesn’t exactly endear you to the rest of your team or the second-years watching you.
  • Don’t feel like your idea needs to be picked in order for you to make a good impression. It’s obvious, but it’s more important that you’re helping the group grow the plan, adding new ideas, and helping to bring in people who may not be saying as much.
  • The end presentation part is incredibly awkward, since you’re basically going from talking about who will say what with two observers… to then repeating what you just said, but directed to those observers. This tripped me up a bit and I think our group would have been better served by just having one person ‘present’ and wrap everything in rather than a disjointed combination of 4 out of the 6 of us.”

“My tips would be to just be friendly, listen to other people, only speak if you have a point to make, and be succinct when you do speak.”

Following Up, One on One

After the TBD, candidates are pulled aside and often asked the common questions of “Why an MBA?” “Why now?” and “Why Wharton?” A successful candidate had some words of reassurance if you’re not posed the typical questions:

“After the TBD, we were all brought in individually to speak to a second-year student. My experience was different than most. I wasn’t asked any why MBA, why Wharton questions…

This freaked me out, but ultimately, I got accepted so don’t doubt yourself until the ding is official.”

And, of course, there are always important details to remember:

“Don’t forget to bring a copy of your résumé! The second-year students use these as their sole introduction to you and may ask you a few questions off of it.”

General Takeaways

Finally, a few candidates had some overarching observations:

“Everything is a surprise, because of the spontaneity-filled format of the TBD, which in the end commands the interaction both during the TBD and during the one-on-one portions of the interview.”

“In retrospect, given the TBD format, I would have been much better served getting it out of the way earlier in the day [instead of visiting a class beforehand]. My visit didn’t impact my interview at all, and it was unfortunate to have it hanging over my head as I kept talking with other interviewees who had already finished theirs. Keep this in mind, especially if you’ve already had the chance to visit Wharton before and feel well equipped for why Wharton fits in with your career plans.”

Are you preparing for your Wharton interview? Don’t forget to check out our Interview Guides for a deeper dive into each school’s process! Also, share your interview experience in our Interview Archive to help your fellow peers.

Clear Admit Resources
As you prepare for your Wharton MBA interview, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s offerings:

And if you’re also practicing for other schools’ interviews, don’t miss our latest tips from candidates for MIT / Sloan, Yale School of Management, and Harvard Business School. As always, best of luck from all of us here at Clear Admit.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.