This post is part of a series exploring the different forms MBA interviews take and how you can ace them all!
Wharton and Ross have initiated and adopted the team-based discussion (TBD) MBA interview format. This type of interview brings a group of applicants together in person to work through a problem together as an organizational team does. This team activity is followed by a short one-to-one talk with an adcom representative (either a second-year student or an adcom member). It is Wharton’s regular mode for interviews. At Ross, it’s optional, and they use traditional methods for their evaluative interviews.
Why adcoms use this method:
• Some adcoms have found traditional interview modes increasingly ineffective as they feel that candidates over-prepare and over-strategize for interviews, thus undercutting authenticity.
• The adcoms want to see the candidates in team action, since students’ success in the program (and in their future career) will rest in part on their teamwork and interpersonal skills.
• This approach gives the adcom insight into the applicants that no other application component provides – how they actually respond to people and situations in real time.
• The post-activity discussion shows your ability to self-reflect and analyze your own role and performance – qualities the adcom values.
Wharton – When you receive an invitation to interview, you’ll receive instructions also for your approximately 35-minute TBD with 4-5 fellow applicants. At the interview, your team will be given a prompt, and you’ll work together to develop an outcome. After the TBD, you will meet with an adcom member individually.
Ross – Ross offers you the option to participate in a team-building activity (in addition to an interview) on campus and at a few other locations when you come to interview. Participation is “highly recommended” and is offered to everyone invited to interview.
Benefits and pitfalls for applicants:
• Benefit: You can showcase your interpersonal, team, and leadership skills more vividly than any essay or individual interview could portray.
• Benefit: You can get a real flavor of the program’s teamwork dynamic.
• Benefit: You can enjoy meeting peers and potential classmates.
• Drawback: You have less control, as you assess and respond to the group dynamics instantly; there is no margin for error.
• Drawback: Unlike most real-life team interactions, you may be focusing on both your observed performance AND the actual project simultaneously.
• Drawback: While the adcoms think it gives them a lens on you as a team player, in “real life” you usually have some time to adapt to a new team, and your true teamwork abilities will emerge over time as a project progresses. Whereas here there’s no time to grow and adapt with the team, so it’s a somewhat artificial setup.
How to make this type of interview work for you (this is in addition to all the common sense advice for good MBA interviews):
• Review Accepted.com’s tips for this interview format.
• Think about your inclinations, behaviors, feelings, and approaches when working in a team or group setting, and also ask a colleague or two for some objective feedback. You shouldn’t change your natural approach, but you can certainly play to your strengths and minimize negative tendencies.
• Read online about other applicants’ experiences with the group interview.
• Make your goal the team’s success and ability to complete the assigned task, not its adoption of your idea.
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