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Top Wharton 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 from those who have experienced the Wharton Team-Based Discussion (TBD) and personal interviews first-hand. 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. After 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. The Clear Admit Interview Guide for Wharton feature more personal experiences of several interviewees. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best insights from recent Wharton candidates as reported in the Clear Admit Interview Archive.

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.”

Another candidate remarked that it’s not always easy to determine your team members, but it still makes sense to arrive early:

“Everyone says to get there early so you can create a rapport with your potential group members, but on my day there were so many people there that how would you even know who could possibly be in your group? I still recommend getting there early so you’re not stressing out about being late and I always think it’s good to meet your potential classmates.”

This was reinforced by another candidate:

“For me, it was impossible to know who my TBD teammates were. I guess if you are interviewing at a hub cit,y the situation might be a bit different. I also don’t think it matters too much as people were all very nice to each other.”

Watch the Clock

Other candidates offered advice regarding time management:

“It can definitely be easy to run out of time – time management is super important here. You have 35 minutes total, 1 minute per person to pitch, and 5 minutes at the end to present. This leaves you 24 minutes to discuss. However, people will go over their minute presentation and your team will need at least a minute or two to get its ducks in- order, etc.”

Another noted:

“My recommendations are to 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.”

The following candidate outlined some practical steps for time management:

“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.”

And another accounted for how (poor) time management of prep time can impact the presentation:

“During your one-minute pitch at the beginning it was noticeable who had spent time preparing to give their pitch and who did not stay within the one minute recommendation.”

Speaking Up

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.”

More overall advice from another candidate:

“My recommendation for the TBD is that, since each person really only gets ~5 mins of air time, prepare ahead of time on how you want to utilize that time to demonstrate your value-add to a team. In addition, practice your short overview of your idea to get comfortable with what a 30-second to 1-minute pitch is like.”

What if My Idea is Chosen?

This student’s idea was selected, but had some interesting advice for the ongoing interactions:

“Mine was selected and I tried to mesh it with other students’ ideas. I didn’t talk much in the beginning and tried to contribute selectively. Maybe I should’ve been more strong-handed in speaking out since my idea was selected. Some students said wacky things and it was tough to formulate a response, so sometimes silence ensues. I would practice responses to ideas that you disagree with and transition phrases.”

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.”

You may also be asked what you thought of the TBD:

“He asked how I thought the discussion went as we walked back to the interview room and the rest of our conversation focused on “why Wharton” and questions I had.”

And make sure you have some of your own questions prepared:

“Because I finished with about 6 minutes left, I had to make up a bunch of questions on the spot. While I was able to wing it and maintain a natural conversation, I would HIGHLY recommend having 5 questions prepared if your Why MBA/Wharton is less than 5 minutes.”

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.”

“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.”

Be conscious of the different roles you may need to take:

“The discussion was fairly friendly; however, we struggled to stay on track and I had to bring the group back a few times. This is also a good role to take on. We had someone white board, someone keep time and someone take detailed notes.”

Closing Advice

Here’s some very general advice:

“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.”

“The big thing: do not be a jerk. Don’t interrupt people, don’t talk over people, don’t insult anyone else’s ideas.”

“There was a person in my group who was extremely pushy and people viewed him negatively – I would recommend trying to not do that.”

“One student in particular was overbearing and seemed out of touch with reality.”

And be prepared for the unexpected:

“We were also asked to give our intended major in our intro, which threw some of us off, but I don’t think that ended up mattering.”

This candidate touched on each element of the TBD:

“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.”

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.

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.