I applied to Wharton knowing the application process. Still, when I received that coveted email inviting me to the team-based discussion (TBD), I had a flash of panic. I remember looking at flights, weighing my options, and making excuses to my husband, “If the team-based discussion signifies anything about the school, maybe I don’t want to go. It sounds awful, and I can save myself a flight.” To be fair, I was an overseas volunteer on a limited budget–but this was a big opportunity for my future! Of course, I went. As it turns out, the TBD was the most fun I’ve had in an interview!
I’m leaving a few words of wisdom for you, so you can feel ready to go (and maybe a little more excited!) when your TBD invite pops up in your inbox.
Rehearse your one-minute solution out loud and time yourself to ensure you stick to the time frame. I’m serious: Talk to your dog, a friend, or even Vin Diesel on pause. This is your chance to give a first impression, and it shows you can succinctly convey an idea. The observer will not cut you off if you exceed one minute, but will likely make note of it. The interview goes quickly and everyone needs to be heard. If your solution shares themes with another candidate, simply recognize it, acknowledge the other candidate’s ideas, and discuss the unique points of your idea during your pitch.
2. Think ahead.
Prepare a few follow-up points for discussion in the event that your idea is selected. Additionally, consider your natural strengths and which roles might fit during the TBD (e.g. facilitator, note-taker, encourager, specialist who chimes in less frequently but makes high-impact points, etc.). Think about successful meetings you have taken part in, and what made them efficient. All roles can be impactful, including the timekeeper, so there’s no losing role; select a role that fits you. It is best to work within the range of your natural disposition.
3. Meet people.
Consider arriving for the interview 30 minutes early. When you arrive, introduce yourself to a number of other applicants—it is nice to have allies in the discussion room. If you are on campus, there may be a large group of people milling about, but everyone will eventually be split into groups of (typically) six prospective students. If you are interviewing in a hub city, this group may be only 6 or 12 people. Either way, by using this approach, you will likely have already met someone on your team. This simple gesture goes a long way in building trust with strangers, especially when you have limited time to select and develop one winning solution.
4. Be flexible.
Keep in mind that the group interview is less about a right answer and more about how you work with others. While a team crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope, blindfolded, carrying a stack of Adam Grant’s Give and Take books may be your shining Leadership Venture idea, try not to get frustrated with your teammates if things are not going the way you prefer. Showing grace, leadership, level-headedness, executive presence, and strategic thought leadership can be more important than using what you think is the best idea, or illustrating that you are smart or well-qualified. Demonstrate you are a team player and try not to be too controlling.
5. Support and contribute.
A little GMAT math, and you’ll see: Odds are, your idea will not be selected. That is fine, but stay engaged by showing support for others helping to develop the overarching solution. In 35 minutes, you will not get a perfect idea or group, but you can ensure other people are heard, concepts are blended, and ideas are reasonable. If you tend not to speak up, practice providing valuable input before the session. If you don’t speak at all, it will be hard for observers to evaluate you.
6. Listen and observe.
Silently consider how the team’s interactions may be helpful in the one-on-one interview. Consider the group dynamic and try to step outside the situation. You may be asked to give feedback about the session during your one-on-one, so practice giving both positive and constructive thoughts, applied to both the team and yourself.
All that being said, nothing compares to experience. By participating in a mock TBD, you can calm your nerves, better understand what to expect, and have fun with the interview. Stratus offers interview prep specific to the Wharton Team-based Discussion (TBD) including a group Skype with other candidates who are preparing for the interview.
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