The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

An invitation to Wharton’s Team Based Discussion can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. But with preparation and the proper mind-set, it can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and respond under pressure. To ace the interview, consider the following tips:

1. Prepare thoroughly. After you receive the scenario, create a proposal and know it inside and out. Practice your presentation, out loud. Present in front of a mirror, or a live-audience of friends. Be sure that you feel confident about your ability to present your idea in a relaxed way, showcasing how you thought through the exercise. While, you don’t want to memorize your presentation word-for-word or sound overly rehearsed, you do want to be able to describe your idea in an articulate and conversational way. Your interview day may include other activities, such as attending a lecture and/or interacting with current and prospective students. You will want to be confident prior to arriving on campus with no need for last minute prepping.

2. Be prepared to explain and answer questions on your proposed idea. You can do this by considering what questions may arise from your proposal and writing out your responses to them. The more people you can share your idea with and collect questions from, the better. After working with an idea for a long period, it becomes harder and harder to poke holes in it. Let your friends, co-workers, or parents help you with this process.

  • To help you start, make sure that you are comfortable responding to the following.
  1. What are the beneficial outcomes of your proposal for students? For Wharton?
  2. What are the risks of your proposal?
  3. What assumptions are you making?
  4. What are the drawbacks or limitations of your idea? Why are these acceptable?
  • Be able to articulate the “why?” behind all the components of your proposal, as well as the “why not?” for other potential possibilities. This is important because (most likely) your proposal will not be selected. However, if you can find other students who have a similar “why?” as the foundation of their ideas, it will help you to collaborate with them and contribute to the discussion.

3. Prepare yourself to provide meaningful input to the discussion by continuing to be well informed of international business news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. While there is no expectation that you will be an expert on everything, you should be conversant in current events and be able to make high-level social, political and economic observations about others’ proposals.

4. Be a team player. This cannot be stressed enough. While there is an aspect of competition to the interview, the team-based discussion is an opportunity to show your collaborative nature. Don’t try to “win” by pressuring the group to select your proposal. Instead, demonstrate how you will fit into the MBA community by being inclusive and showing leadership, humility, and adaptability. Articulate your thought process clearly, be positive about others’ ideas, continue to move the group forward by summarizing ideas, and question respectfully. Remember that the point of the exercise is to drive towards a strong team outcome; the better the team interacts together, the better all of you look individually.

5. Day-of tips:

  • Wear a business suit.
  • Feel free to bring notes, but do not read them directly or rely on them for more than a memory trigger.
  • Introduce yourself to other prospective students and work to build a friendly rapport prior to the interview.
  • Prepare three to five questions for the evaluators during the wrap-up portion of the interview.
  • As much as possible, relax and try to enjoy the experience. This could be representative of the dynamic you’ll live in for the next two years. Ensure it feels right to you.

The Multiple Mini Interview: Preparation and Day-of Tips for Success

Each year, an increasing number of U.S. medical schools are using the Multiple Mini Interview, an interview type focused on obtaining a deeper understanding of how a student processes information under pressure and uses critical thinking skills to derive an answer. The unique format allows prospective students multiple opportunities to make a “first impression” and reduces interviewer bias because of the recurrence of opportunities for a student to think through and address various types of questions.   

Multiple Mini Interviews typically consist of between four and ten interview stations, some with rest stations included in between. At the stations, interviewees are provided with a question prompt and a couple of minutes to think through the situation, then they’re asked to respond within a five to eight-minute period. The requested response could take various forms including collaborating with other prospective students, acting out a scenario, responding to an ethical or policy scenario, writing an essay, or providing a behavioral interview response. Whatever the format, applicants’ responses must showcase critical thinking skills, strong sense of ethics, and ability to see multiple viewpoints.

Preparation for the MMI should be focused on increasing your comfort level in reading a prompt and analyzing the question quickly so that you can articulate a thorough and comprehensive response. The MMI does not aim to assess your knowledge of specific topic areas, but rather is a format designed to extract a more genuine version of you.

We recommend you consider the following as you prepare for the interview:

  • Don’t forget the goal. As you practice your MMI responses, be sure that you’re integrating qualities into your answers that demonstrate intellectual curiosity, empathy, humility, professionalism, commitment to medicine and research, and tenacity. MMI questions are designed to reveal an authentic version of you, so as you prepare, make sure that you’re highlighting those qualities that will make you an excellent medical student and doctor.
  • Get current. Familiarize yourself with policy and ethical issues in healthcare by reading about current events. Write down key topic areas you encounter frequently and take informed positions. Practice describing your position, out loud, with an eight-minute time limit.
  • Practice your pace. If possible, participate in mock MMI interviews to get a more realistic interview experience and gather candid feedback. If you do not have someone to provide a mock interview, review sample MMI questions and record and time your responses. Critique your responses, focusing on how well you verbalized your thought process and supported your viewpoint, as well as, how adequately you made use of the time available. While this exercise may feel uncomfortable at first, it will be helpful to get used to working within the time constraints of the interview.  And viewing a recording will help you to hear/see what improvements you need to make.

On the day of the interview:

  • Read each prompt carefully and think through all aspects of the response. If the question allows you to make a counter-argument, do so, and share why you opted for the conclusion you did. If it is an ethical or values-based question, be sure to point out areas of nuance.
  • Make eye contact, look friendly, speak clearly and use every station as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism. If you start to stumble or get frustrated, take a deep breath or sip of water and compose yourself before continuing.
  • Use your time carefully; during the two minutes of preparatory time, outline your response and the general timing you’d like to abide by to make each of your key points.
  • Start fresh at each station; regardless of how well or poorly you did in the last mini interview, leave it behind and focus entirely on the prompt at hand.
  • For introverts, the MMI can be particularly challenging. Be sure to give yourself some quiet time prior to the MMI to gather your energy.

Medical School Interviews 101

The medical school interview is a critical and exciting opportunity, as the outcome will be the most influential factor in your admission success.  It is your chance to showcase your personality, drive, and commitment to a medical career as well as those characteristics that will benefit your medical school class and future patients.

Scheduling the Interview

Most medical schools have rolling admissions, so we recommend scheduling your interview as early as possible in the interview season, which runs from the fall to the spring.  Before solidifying your travel plans, you should contact nearby schools where you have applied to let them know you have an interview in the area and when your interview is scheduled.  This serves the dual purpose of letting the other school know that you are ‘in demand’ while also showcasing a strong interest in their program.

What the Interviewers are Looking for

Most medical schools will offer prospective students one or two 30-minute interviews with faculty members or students.  The interviewers are looking to assess your interpersonal traits, your commitment to and aptitude for medicine, your potential contributions to the school and your class, discuss and resolve any red flags and finally ensure that your interview is consistent with your application.

med school traits.jpg

Interview Types

The Multiple Mini Interview: While this type of interview has been used mainly in Canada, it is growing in popularity within the United States. This interview format consists of multiple “stations” through which each applicant rotates.  At each station, you are given a scenario, asked to role-play, or asked to do a team exercise.  You are provided a couple of minutes to read each exercise and prepare, then you must have a discussion with the interviewers in the room or perform the team task. 

The scenarios are designed to evaluate your values by presenting a dilemma to which you must respond.  Be sure to carefully consider the various sides of the dilemma and to address them all. Role playing exercises test your communication skills and team tasks test your communication skills and ability to work others.  Some stations may be clinically based while others are not. 

The Traditional One-on-One Interview: This interview is the most common.  Each interviewer has his/her own style of interviewing to which you should respond appropriately.  Most commonly, in an “Open File” interview, the interviewer will have access to your submission materials. However, it is important not to assume that your interviewer knows anything about you as he/she may not have had time to review your file. In a “Closed File” interview, the interviewer will have limited access to your application.  These interviews, therefore, offer a greater opportunity to drive the discussion content. 

The Group Interview: This situation involves several interviewers and interviewees.  The objective is to see how you interact with and respond to others. Be sure to listen attentively to everyone’s answers and showcase your ability to be a team player. 

The Panel Interview: Typically, the panel includes multiple interviewers with just one interviewee.

Apply Point’s Tips for Success

  • Take responsibility for the interview content, by creating and driving your own agenda. 
    • Outline the key points and experiences you would like to discuss within the interview.  Take responsibility for bringing up these points, even if they are present in your application.  To do this, review all your application materials, and highlight your most relevant stories and experiences.
    • Speak about any recent accomplishments or events not included in your application.  Continue to improve your candidacy even after you’ve submitted your application.
    • Be proactive about bringing up red flags or weaknesses in your application.  Address these head-on during the interview because they will inevitably come up within the admission committee discussions.  Rather than make excuses, talk about what you’ve learned and/or how you will combat weaknesses going forward.
  • Think about and practice telling your story aloud.  This will help you feel more comfortable connecting the dots between various aspects of your life when asked to elaborate. 
    • Give complete answers and use segues to transition to other related topics you want to discuss.  For example, if you are asked why you selected a particular internship, explain not only the why, but also include the when and the what.
    • Keep the conversation moving; don’t talk any longer than three to five minutes on a given topic.
  • Research the school where you are interviewing as well as the interviewers.
    • Provide specific reasons why the program appeals to you and practice speaking to why you would be a great fit.
    • Be conversational and demonstrate intellectual curiosity with good questions, but don’t interview the interviewer. Be sure that your questions at the interview’s conclusion showcase your interest in the school.
  • Voice your appreciation for the interview’s time and the opportunity to interview.
    • At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer, reiterate why you have a superior fit with this medical school and let him/her know that you would be honored to matriculate.
    • Send hand-written thank you notes.  The note should be short, but should include interview highlights, repeat your interest in the school, and thank the interviewer for his/her time. 

Top Ten Things To Consider When Applying To An EMBA Program Part II: The Interview, Work Experience, and Essays

Executive MBA programs have never been looking for just good students.  They are trying to find leaders who will continue their positive trajectory of success after the program is complete. They are striving to build a class comprised of students with a diverse variety of talents, qualities, attitudes and backgrounds. 

So, what does this mean for your application?  Let’s examine each piece of the puzzle.


 The interview is arguably one of the most important parts of the business school application.  Not only must you look an admissions officer in the eye to discuss the contents of the paper application you’ve been refining for months, but you must also convince them of your strong communication abilities and the value you will bring into the classroom. 


·      Go through commonly asked interview questions and practice your responses.  Taking it a step further by setting up mock interviews with admissions consultants or colleagues is also helpful.  A mock interview can stimulate the real thing because you will be forced to think on your feet and respond under pressure.

·      Most likely, one of the first questions is going to be open-ended.  Develop a three-minute elevator pitch that describes your background, strengths and professional story that doesn’t ‘read’ your resume.  

--Handle Weaknesses and Failures Effectively:

·      When discussing weaknesses, be honest and focus on skills instead of personality traits.  This is crucial as personality traits are usually considered permanent, while skills can be refined and improved.  

·      Questions regarding failure can be unpleasant, but they are inevitable.  The key is to emphasize what you learned from the failure and how you have become a more insightful leader because of these lessons.

--Be Precise:

·      Be specific about why business school is the perfect intersection of where you have been and where you want to go.  It is absolutely vital to be precise, not only when responding to questions regarding your short and long-term career goals, but also when responding to questions regarding the specific program to which you are applying.  Do extensive research by talking to students and members of the faculty.  Visit the school, sit-in on classes and, on interview day, come with questions that show your high level of interest in the program.

·      When asked questions about specific instances when you made an impact, it is important to give context by explaining the situation.  Then, you will be able to discuss the actions you took, which led to the end result.  Think of these responses as a three-step process – Situation, Action, Result.  

Work Experience and Scope of Professional Responsibilities

The quality and quantity of an applicant’s work experience is key when determining top management potential, so a polished resume is an absolute must.  Incoming EMBA students have an average of 13 years of post-baccalaureate work experience, with an average of 8 in a management role.

--Construct a powerful, yet precise resume:

·      Provide hard numbers that exhibit the results you’ve achieved and the impact you’ve made.  Don’t rely on a job description to communicate the value you’ve created, especially in the areas of leadership, innovation and teamwork.

·      Show your progression in responsibility and ensure your career goals are achievable in light of your background.  Emphasize the experiences that are in-line with your career goals and de-emphasize those that are not.

·      Business schools want diversity in work experience.  Don’t get discouraged if you are in the non-profit or creative sectors.  Just be sure to exhibit, from past experiences, your leadership skills and business potential.


Another application staple, the essays, are often cited by admissions directors to be the most important part of the application.  They play a critical role in painting a picture of your potential by telling your personal and professional story and setting the stage for the other application components.  A well-written essay examines the value you can bring in terms of leadership, innovation and teamwork, your fit with a particular program, and how you stand out overall.

--Show, don’t tell:

One of the most important things to remember, when composing your essays, is the importance of specifics when painting a compelling picture for the reader.  Show the reader your leadership and innovation potential by describing, in depth, a situation, where they can see for themselves.  Your description should be thorough enough that you won’t have to state the obvious.  

--Don’t be afraid to discuss failure: 

Failure and weaknesses make for compelling applicants because it communicates sincerity and shows the admissions committee how you learn from your mistakes.  It is also a good idea to connect your development opportunities with the schools strengths.  How can the program you are applying to help you refine these particular areas of weakness?             

The application process may seem daunting, but the rigorous admissions standards applied will lead to an unparalleled EMBA experience, a classroom where each seat is taken by a talented leader who is more than merely a test score and a transcript.

…And One More Thing, Don’t Forget to Schedule your Interview in the Morning

The behavioral interview is not without its faults.  In a brief span of approximately 45 minutes, interviewers form stereotypes concerning the characteristics required for success in the academic program or job, they tend to give negative information more weight and they make key decisions within the first few minutes, using the remainder of the interview to validate their original decision.

Despite the faults of this popular evaluative tool, most graduate business programs and medical schools require interviews for anyone they admit.  And they are becoming increasingly important.  Admissions directors agree that while an applicant can look perfect on paper, if they can’t perform well in an interview, chances are they will have a hard time securing a job post MBA or connecting with patients and attending physicians in residency.  They may also have a hard time fitting in as a student in a particular program.  Once an applicant secures an interview, many admissions directors agree, it is the most important piece of the puzzle. 

When preparing clients for their interviews, there are long lists of tips we discuss.  I advise them to create their own agenda, as there will certainly be differentiating points the interviewer won’t ask about; I encourage them to ask strong questions at the end of the interview, which not only show an in-depth knowledge of the program, but also a genuine curiosity; and I review with them specific past examples they could use to demonstrate their leadership potential or demonstrated commitment to a career in medicine.  As a former admissions director, conducting interviews was one of my favorite parts of the job.  And until recently, I haven’t given much thought to my own biases that existed or how they could have negatively affected applicants.  I like to think that I gave everyone a fair shot, but some recent research inspired me to apply a bit more scrutiny to the whole process of interviewing and the applicant evaluations that result.   

In “Daily Horizons: Evidence of Narrow Bracketing in Judgment From 10 Years of MBA Admissions Interviews,” recently published in Psychological Science, Wharton Management professor Uri Simonsohn and Harvard professor Francesca Gino used MBA admissions data (not from Wharton or Harvard) to study how applicant scores were affected if they interviewed at the end of the day, after a series of strong or weak candidates.  They found that a similarly qualified applicant who interviewed after a string of strong candidates got lower scores than what they would have received otherwise.  And, those who interviewed after a group of weaker candidates got better evaluations. 

“An interviewer who expects to evaluate positively about 50 percent of the applicants on any given day may be reluctant to evaluate positively many more or fewer than 50 percent of applicants on any given day.  An applicant who happens to interview on a day when several others have already received a positive evaluation would, therefore, be at a disadvantage,” Simonsohn and Gino wrote.

While Universities may be able to control this effect by having interviewers enter each applicant’s score into a spreadsheet that would help them monitor the results of interviews over time and keep focus on today’s crop of candidates, it is important for applicants to understand that their competition is likely to come from two pools: everyone and the other applicants who are interviewed that day.

I often wonder if I was guilty of this narrow bracketing phenomenon in my previous role.  Today, as a consultant, all I can do is arm my clients with the sound advice I know is tried and true.  From now on, I just might add one more tidbit: Schedule your interview in the morning.

Innovation is Key. Is Graduate Business Admissions the Exception? Part III: Getting to Know the Applicant

It was decided long ago, in graduate business school admissions, that pure intellectual prowess does not, alone, predict future success.  Factors, unrelated to intellect, like motivation and social skills were also considered crucial. Today, not much has changed.   The admissions process is nearly identical to the one used by the first students at Chicago’s EMBA.  This is because MBA programs have never been looking for just good students.  They are looking for leaders who will continue their positive trajectory of success after the program is complete.  Like the officials of the Ivy League, the MBA admissions process is not simply a matter of academic brilliance.  Admissions committees want a student body with a diverse variety of talents, qualities, attitudes and backgrounds. 

The question, then, is not whether the goals of the admissions process are out of line.  The question is whether or not the admissions tactics employed by MBA programs are effective in evaluating top management potential.  Let’s examine each piece of the puzzle.     

Getting to Know You: The Interview and Essays

Another application staple, the essays, are often cited by admissions directors to be the most important part of the application.  They play a critical role in painting a picture of your potential by telling your personal and professional story and setting the stage for the other application components.  A well-written essay examines the value you can bring in terms of leadership, innovation and teamwork, your fit with a particular program and how you stand out overall.    

The interview, too, is arguably one of the most important parts of the business school application.  Not only must you look an admissions officer in the eye to discuss the contents of the paper application you’ve been refining for months, but you must also convince them of your strong communication abilities and the value you will bring into the classroom.

Behavioral interviews are the most widely used in graduate business programs, but could there be a better way?  For applicants, the behavioral interview is usually preferred because it is easier, but in the long run, a case format could prove to be a better evaluative tool.  Ultimately, being surrounded by top talent will make your experience as a student more enriching. 

Case interviews are typically the work of consulting companies and prominent financial firms, largely because they force an applicant to think on their feet, respond under pressure and analyze a complex situation in a finite amount of time.  Then, why wouldn’t case interviews be an important evaluative tool for MBA programs?

“The biggest concern, says Bouffides, are efficiency issues.  With so many applicants in full-time MBA admissions, it would pose a resource challenge to ask admissions officers to conduct a case interview for each and every student they are considering.  EMBA admissions are different, he says, so case interviews may provide a great tool for differentiation. The EMBA applicant pool is self-selecting and, therefore, much smaller.”

Rather than doing different, when we innovate, we do the same better.  The ultimate goals of MBA admissions committees will remain the same, but as future students and alumni of MBA programs, if we can encourage constant innovation in the selection processes of our classmates, our academic experiences will be richer and the programs, from which we graduate, stronger.