Since so much of b-school life and learning includes team discussions, the adcom needed a tool for assessing how applicants will fit into the team-based discussion culture of their programs. Thus, the Team-Based Discussion (TBD) was born.
What’s the difference between individual interviews and team-based interviews?
I like to compare individual interviews to blind dating. With individual interviews and blind dating, both parties are trying to figure out if they want to spend more time together. Personality, passion, and concise, yet interesting, stories will pique the interest of the admissions committee. Group interviews and activities reflect the skills you will learn in an MBA class where learning teams or cohorts are the foundation of the class and group projects are the norm. You will be asked to work with your teammates towards the group’s success.
In team-based interviews, applicants need to use a different set of skills than they use during traditional, individual interviews. Personal interviews require one-on-one presentation, interpersonal skills, and self-awareness, while team interviews require critical thinking, listening, persuasion, teamwork, and leadership.
TBD tips for success
Here are 9 things you can do to help you win an Academy Award for your performance in a team-based interview:
- Review school material
This includes the specific materials that the school provides prior to the interview, as well as all other material about the program. As with an individual interview, you need to know the school well – its mission, curriculum, teaching style, etc. Review the school’s website and social media and speak with current students and recent grads so you get a clear picture of what it’s like to be a student at B-School X.
- Read Case in Point
This is an excellent book by Marc Consentino that will teach you how to state your position during team-based interviews, and then clearly and succinctly support your position.
Use family, friends, colleagues, and Accepted’s mock team-based discussions to role-play team-based interviews. The more in-the-know your mock interviewer and peers are, the better idea you’ll get of how the interview will run on the big day.
- Dress the part
The idea of a discussion is meant to induce a feeling of casual conversation, but not too casual! Your board shorts and Hawaiian shirt? Save that for your next luau. Instead, stick with business attire.
- Take pre-interview notes
You are allowed to bring notes to the interview, and while you don’t want to read off a piece of paper or even refer to it frequently, it may help you feel more confident knowing that some of your key points are written down in case you need them. You never know how performance anxiety may set in, and if your brain freezes and you completely forget your plan, you’ll be glad you jotted some ideas down beforehand. But make sure you don’t bring a 400-page stack of papers! You don’t want to spend the whole time shuffling through your notes, making noise and ignoring your co-interviewees while they speak. Paperless notes on a tablet may reduce the shuffle, but they won’t reduce the distraction – keep paperless notes to a minimum as well.
- Keep note-taking to a minimum during the interview
Just as a treatise of pre-interview notes will distract you from the interview action (as we mentioned in our previous point), so will scribbling notes furiously during the interview. You definitely want to have a pen and clipboard or a tablet available if you need to quickly jot something down, but remember – this is a group discussion. You want to keep the conversation flowing naturally. Taking notes and then reading your monologue will certainly disrupt that flow.
- Don’t be confrontational
This is not a debate in which you’re trying to score points. It’s not a verbal battle. It’s a simulation of what you may encounter in a business school classroom or group project, and so it’s that vibe and model that you’ll want to emulate. Interviewees should build on one another’s points, contributing to the conversation; they shouldn’t cut each other down with rude or judgmental remarks. Of course, you’re allowed to disagree, and you should be persuasive and enthusiastic about your positions, but do so with respect and grace. Politeness matters!
- Talk quality, not quantity
Participants are judged on the quality – and not the quantity – of their comments. You should add to the conversation, but certainly not dominate it. Refrain from speaking for the sake of being heard. Thoughtful and succinct comments are appreciated; chatter is not. But don’t let this tip backfire on you! Qualitative comments are a must, so don’t hold back from speaking because you’re worried that your contributions won’t hit the mark. You need to find a balance – don’t blab on incessantly, but don’t be too shy to open your mouth, either. You’re there to contribute; make sure you do! Take the middle ground here and participate as though you would in a regular polite conversation.
- Keep it real
While many of the topics or prompts given may lead you to a world of theoretical thought, you need to work to push through the theory to arrive at concrete points that are supported with evidence from your own firsthand experiences. Business schools are interested in students who are able to draw deep understanding and practical conclusions from their life experiences.
Don’t enter the TBD arena unprepared!
Team-based interviews are totally different from your typical interview experience, which means you need to prepare for them in a completely different way.
You’re so close to that Wharton acceptance (or to any other school that’s invited you to participate in its team-based discussion/interview) – don’t blow your chances of acceptance by blowing your interview! The best way to prep for your team exercise is with a dress rehearsal. Participate in a Mock TBD and receive feedback on your effectiveness before the real interview day. Correct mistakes before they can hurt and identify steps you should repeat during your actual TBD. Check out Accepted’s Mock TBD Interview Services to learn how we can help you prep for your group interview .
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