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November 02, 2018

Preparing for Wharton Interviews for the Class of 2021

In this post, I discuss how to prepare for Wharton Interviews for fall 2019 entry.

There are two parts to the Wharton interview, the team-based interview and one-to-one interview.  Each part can be prepared for. I am assuming anyone who is reading this post has actually been invited for a Wharton interview and has reviewed the official information regarding it.

I will not disclose the contents of the specific team-based question that Wharton has asked  interviewees to prepare. I do know the question and it changes every year, but the question itself  is not really that different: Different topic, but requiring the group to reach consensus on a proposed topic related to Wharton curriculum.   I do provide analysis of the TBD discussion question to my own clients, but will not do that here.  

Here are some basic group interview strategies to keep in mind:
1. Be someone who makes clear and effective points in the conversation, but does not dominate the conversation.
2. Don’t be rude to others. Rude jerks are the easiest people to get rid of when evaluating participants in a team based discussion. I had such clients and they were dinged. I warned  them.  Stanford Professor Bob Sutton’s No Asshole Rule surely applies here:  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT IF YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE. If you are, take corrective action.  Of course, most assholes wouldn’t check this out.
3. Listen closely enough to others in order to say something that builds on or reacts against what other people are saying. Refer to what others are saying in order to build consensus. Those that actively listen seemed to have a better outcome in previous years of the TBD.
4. Try to provide constructive communication that moves the discussion forward to a positive conclusion. Make an effort to include others in the conversation.
5. Don’t be afraid to make a less than perfect point. If  you were about being perfect, you will never get enough speaking time and perceived as shy and ineffective in team situations. That will get you dinged.
6. Synthesize and summarize the team’s conversation in order to move the conversation forward.
7.  Use hedging language and other forms of consensus building language. Try to avoid being dismissive of the views of others.
8. If you are having difficulty understanding someone because of their accent or because of your poor English listening skills, still engage in non-verbal demonstrations that you understand what they are saying.  Non-verbal communication will surely be observed, so if you look confused or frustrated that could be used against you.
9. Smile and show eye contact with other people.
10.  Make sure that you don’t slouch in your seat, but are sitting tall and look like a positive and engaged person.
11. Be willing to serve as the group in a functional role: timekeeper, notetaker, or facilitator.  Making a contribution is of bottom line importance.
12.  If possible make every effort to bond with or at least meet your fellow participants prior to the actual interview.  On campus, this can be done by arriving early and doing the tour/info session or just coming early to the actual TBD.  At Hubs, this can be done by doing preps with others in  your country (works well in South Korea and Japan), attending any social events organized for those being interviewed, or just arriving early to the TBD.

How I prepare my clients for the team discussion: The main thing I can do is go over the question and make sure my clients are prepared for the topic.  The nice part of the Wharton team discussion is that you do have the question ahead of time.  I assess their content on the following basis:

1. Does the suggested answer address the topic directly?
2. Is the suggested answer one that other group members and the interviewer can easily understand?
3.  Can the answer be communicated very briefly? Given time limits you will need to communicate it very briefly.
4.  Is the answer interesting/original/creative?
5. Are there any negative aspects to the proposed answer?
6. Are they providing an effective 1-minute opening statement?
I can't effectively prepare someone for the actual dynamics of a group conversation on a one-to-one basis, but by at least making sure my client's opening is solid, I know they will at least be well positioned to start strong.

Based on what my clients reported to me and the public reports on Clear Admit, the 10 minute one-to-one interview is likely to consist of 4-6 questions, which I have divided  into the following two categories.

It appears that all applicants were asked both of the questions below.  Be prepared to provide your feedback on the team-based interview.  Assume that this is a test of your self-awareness of group dynamics, an opportunity to explain the role you took in the group, and a chance, hopefully to correct any misperceptions of yourself on the part of the interviewer.
1) How do you think the team-based interview went?
2) Was your behavior typical of how you work in a team? / Was your behavior in the Team-Based Discussion representative of the way you typically act in group settings?
How I prepare my clients for this part of the interview: I can’t really do that because it is based on what actually happened in the interview.  The only thing I can do is make sure that my client realizes that they will be asked such questions and that they should be mindful of the role that they performed in the group. For example,  if the interviewer perceives you, as say, overly reserved or overly aggressive, you need to be ready to discuss that issue.

TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS (Assume 2-4 such questions)
This is the standard part of the interview. If you are doing more standard interviews, it will be easy to prepare for this part.  For advice on more standard interviews, please see my MBA Application Interview Strategy. I highly recommend reviewing your resume and Wharton essays as part of your preparation.  You should surely be able to explain why Wharton in particular is the ideal place for you to study.  You  should have 1-2 questions available. If you are interviewing off-campus, you should have questions ready for an admissions officer. If you are interviewing on-campus, you had better be prepared to have questions ready for both an admissions officer and a 2nd year student.
Do you want to highlight anything in your application?
Introduce yourself
Discuss your career progress
Tell me about a time when you worked in a group in which everyone did not agree and how did your team resolve the situation?
What is your post-MBA goal?
Why MBA?
Why Wharton?
Do you have any questions for me?
Anything you want to add?

How I prepare my clients for the individual interview: I would typically ask my clients these questions in a mock interview.  It would not be completely realistic because I would go over all the above questions just to make sure that my client was covered for all the above topics. If we were preparing for more standard interviews (Booth, Columbia, Kellogg, Haas, etc.), it might not really be necessary to go over this part of the interview for Wharton. For more about my interview services, please see http://www.adammarkus.com/services/.
Best of luck with your Wharton interview. I hope that you get admitted to the Class of 2021!

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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