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November 10, 2010

Wharton MBA Admissions Interview Strategy


The post below simply collected information as it became released. Given Wharton's horrible implementation of new behavioral interviews last year, it was updated as information became available.   Hopefully this better they will be more transparent by providing all candidates with the same level of information.

Wharton Admissions:


We offer interviews by invitation, based upon a full review of your application.

As someone selected to interview from a tremendously accomplished group of individuals around the world, you should feel excited to communicate your background, your interests, your plans, and your decision to pursue an MBA at Wharton. Likewise, the admissions staff will be interested in meeting you and learning more about you. Don’t worry too much about specific preparations for the interview. Simply being the author of your application and feeling comfortable with it are excellent preparations in themselves.

Interview questions will focus on the reasons behind your career trajectory, and the personal qualities that comprise your emotional intelligence. We will use the interview, which will be a 30-minute conversation, to assess your communication skills. Be prepared to talk about yourself, and pace your answers. Don’t spend 20 minutes answering the first question.

Wharton offers interviews on campus and at locations around the world. Bring your energy and passion to the interview, and engage the interviewer in a healthy discussion. The interviewer will play off your enthusiasm, so the more you can bring to the discussion, the more productive your 30 minutes will be.

Lauder applicants
If you are invited to interview, you will complete two interviews, one with the Lauder program and one with the MBA program. The Lauder interview will focus on your international interests and experience, personal qualities, general fit for Lauder, and ability to start and manage the two programs beginning in late April.

Healthcare Management applicants
If you are invited to interview, you will complete two interviews, one with the Health Care Management (HCM) program and one with the MBA program. The HCM interview will focus on your interest in, and experience with, health care, as well as your personal qualities and general fit for HCM.

This is totally modified from last year's post. My analysis of Wharton's MBA application essays for 2011 admission can be found here

UPDATE: WHARTON INTERVIEWS ARE NOW 100% BEHAVIORAL! See here. I have made further updates to the post below including strikethroughs. For my opinion on how this change was implemented, see here. There is a report of more standard interview on GMAT CLUB, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

The first report on Clear Admit for 1st round of 2010 consisted of the following questions:
"Tell me when you have ensured that a task has been completed, when others seemed less focused than you on completing it.

Describe a time when you worked towards an important goal and had to address conflict between two or more team members.

Explain a time when you persuaded others to your way of thinking, when at first they didn’t agree with your idea."

These questions are completely consistent with all other 1st round reports.  All reported interviews have lasted for 30 minutes.

In this post, I have decided to simply comment on the  helpful  (NOT WHEN THEY DON'T TELL APPLICANTS THAT THE INTERVIEWS NOW FOCUS COMPLETELY ON BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS!) advice that Wharton provides in Tips on the Wharton MBA Admissions Interview, which has been recently modified.  In addition to my own knowledge of Wharton MBA interviews, I am drawing on the reports found at accepted.com and clearadmit.com. Also see http://poetsandquants.com/2010/11/21/leak-of-whartons-interview-questions-raises-ethical-issues.

Key update: See below regarding the role of behavioral questions.

I have quoted that entire Wharton Tips text and inserted comments. Wharton's original text is in bold.

Tips on the Wharton MBA Admissions Interview
Invited to an interview? Here are some tips directly from the Admissions Committee to to help prepare you…
Interviews provide additional information about your candidacy that is included in the final reviews of your application. As such interviews, are not the decisive factor in your admissions decision. In most cases, interviews are fairly consistent with the application.

ADAM: At Wharton, interviews are just one factor that goes into the determination to admit, waitlist, or reject. That said, don't take this interview lightly because I think is fair to say that those who don't do a superior interview are unlikely to be admitted or at least waitlisted.

Interviews are blind, which reduces bias as your interviewer will have no preconceived ideas of your ability or personality based on your written application.
ADAM:  Even interviews with admissions are blind!  One minor issue to keep in mind: While it is true that all interviews are blind in the sense that interviewers will not have read your application, if you interview with an admissions officer or alumni you have had previous contact with, the interviewer may very well have preconceived ideas of your ability based on that contact.

Interviews may include behavioral questions. Questions may center on specific examples or detailed descriptions of events, projects or experience that demonstrate how situations you’ve faced in the past have been handled and what you learned from them. Behavioral interviewing assumes that past performance predicts future behavior.
ADAM: Based on early reports I received for interviews for  2011 admission, Wharton is now 100% focusing even more on behavioral.  While they have always asked such questions, it appears that interviews are now JUST focusing on them.  Just as essay questions and admissions staff have changed, it now appears that the structure of interviews is changing.  When I have more specific information, I will further update this post. One possible indicator of this change is that Wharton's interview tips document no longer has a section on  "Interviews are dialogues or exchange between two people" (See old 2009 version here), which is consistent with a change to behavioral interviews because that style of interviewing is much less focused on a conversation and more focused on the interviewee providing a fully described story based on the question asked, with the interviewer then perhaps asking some follow-up questions.  A review of past Wharton' interview reports indicates that the behavioral interview method is generally not used at all or used extensively. However, this appears to be changing. For a complete discussion of behavioral interviews, see my post on MIT interviews.


My colleague, Steve Green, has compiled a list of the commonly asked  Wharton questions based on interviews conducted prior to 2011 admission:

  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about what you do.
  • Please tell me about you career progression to date.
  • Why did you join Company X, etc.?
  • Explain more about the sector you work in.
  • Why current firm?
  • What are your main responsibilities?
  • Why did you leave your first job?
  • Why are you pursuing an MBA?
  • Why an MBA?
  • Why Wharton?
  • Imagine I am an admissions officer, and you need to sell me your candidacy. Take a minute to think about it, and 3-5 minutes to tell me why Wharton should accept you
  • Why now?
  • What are your plans post-MBA?
  • What are you short-term goals?
  • Long-term goals?
  • Based on the long-term goals you mentioned, what would you do if you were given $5 billion dollars?
  • If you were the CEO of your company what would you do differently?
  • What are you interested in being involved with here at Wharton?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What are some things you like to do outside of work?
  • Tell me about a time when you lead a team.
  • Describe your leadership style
  • Please give me an example in which you exemplified leadership?
  • Give me some examples of leadership.
  • Give me some examples of mentorship.
  • What are the attributes of a good leader?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult teammate.
  • Please describe a team situation that did not work?
  • If you were working in Wharton learning team, what characteristics would you look for in your teammates?
  • How do you manage a global team?
  • How do you motivate your team members?
  • How do you deal with challenges in your team?

  • What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
  • What is your biggest personal or professional regret?
  • Tell me some of your weaknesses
  • What are two weaknesses you would like to resolve/correct over time?
  • Tell me about a time you were involved in a confrontation, either at work or in your personal life.
  • Tell me what your approach is for dealing with conflicts.
  • How would your colleagues describe you if you were not in the room?
  • Is there anything you would like to talk about that you have not had the chance?
  • Is there anything else we have not discussed that you would like to share with the Committee?
  • Any questions for me?
  • Is there anything you’d like to share with me?
  • Is there anything else you haven’t had the chance to say?
  • Anything you want to add to say or add to your application?

A review of past Wharton' interview reports indicates that the questions, even the behavioral ones are almost always straightforward. You should certainly prepare for this interview by becoming comfortable answering the full range of such general MBA questions as well as being able to discuss everything on your resume. See here for more information about how to prepare for such questions. It is particularly important that you be able to express why Wharton is your first choice.

All interviews carry equal weight. There is no advantage to interviewing on-campus or with an admissions staff member. Arrange the type of interview that is most convenient for you.
ADAM: Based on my experience with clients, I can say that I have not ever noticed any real distinction in terms of outcome (admit, ding, waitlist) that was traceable to who the interviewer was. If you do an alumni interview, you will might have a choice of alumni to select from. The one advantage of this is that you can find out about the alumni ahead of time. If you have an off-campus option of meeting with an admissions officer, you may be able to learn about him or her as well. Campus interviews are with students or admissions officers, but you will probably not have any information about your interviewer ahead of time. Each option has its inherent advantages and disadvantages. Alumni and admissions officers are likely to be more experienced at interviewing, whereas students are more likely to be your peers. My suggestion is to select whoever you will feel the most comfortable with.

The exact length of the interview does not indicate how well the interview went. While we schedule 30 minute interviews, they may vary a bit. Deviations from the schedule are random and unrelated to the candidate.

ADAM: Reported length is typically 30-45 minutes.

Do not expect the interviewer to give you feedback – literally or figuratively. Be careful to avoid any interpretation of verbal or non-verbal communication, as both may mislead you.

ADAM: I think asking for feedback is a particularly odd thing to do because it puts the interviewer in a difficult position. The advice to avoid interpretation of verbal or non-verbal communication is nonsensical and/or simply badly stated. As a human being we cannot avoid such interpretations. What they probably meant to say was that one should not necessarily assume the absence or presence of positive verbal and/or non-verbal feedback from the interviewer indicates how well your interview is going. This might be true or it might not. It is certainly is the case that whatever way your interviewer acts, you need to stay positive and focused and not over-analyze the interviewer's reactions.

Interviews are not a popularity contest. The interviewer is assessing your fit for the Wharton MBA program, not whether or not the two of you would make good or best friends.The key is to relax, be genuine, and enjoy the opportunity for us to get to know one another.

ADAM: While these interviews may not be popularity contests, your objective is make sure that the interviewer understands why you should be a part of the Wharton community. As these interviewers are gatekeepers, convincing them that you belong at Wharton requires that you be well prepared as well as relaxed and genuine. Being both well prepared and genuine requires real practice, so don't focus on one at the cost of the other.

-Adam Markus
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If you are interested in my interview preparation or other graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."

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