While the Wharton Team Based Discussion (TBD) follows a unique format compared to other business schools’ interviews, many Stratus clients have reported that it’s also the interview experience they enjoyed the most. As with any interview, preparation is important—so let’s talk about how you might prep differently for the TBD than a typical interview!
1. Develop your pitch.
Develop a one-minute solution that fully addresses the prompt, and then have a more detailed version ready to discuss. Although a minute is not a long time to present your solution, do the best to summarize your plan. Prepare a few follow-up points in case your solution is chosen for further discussion. Research Wharton resources related to the prompt. This gives you an opportunity to showcase your ability to learn and prepare for classroom discussions. In a recent TBD regarding alumni interaction, a client researched other Penn alumni programs and was able to suggest an idea from the law school during the discussion.
2. Practice your pitch.
Rehearse your one-minute solution out loud, and time yourself to ensure you stick to the time frame. Ask a trusted friend or advisor to give you feedback on your pitch, and then practice out loud again and again. You can build muscle memory by articulating something rather than only practicing in your head.
Your pitch is your first official impression to the group and observers. Observers will not stop you if you exceed a minute, but they will likely take note. Show your attentiveness and collaborative spirit if someone else presents an idea that is similar to yours. Acknowledge the similarities and highlight the unique points to your solution.
3. Plan your contribution.
Consider which roles might be most natural for you to take on during the TBD (e.g., facilitator, note taker, time keeper, encourager). Choose a back-up role in case your ideal role is taken by someone else. Think about successful meetings you have participated in and consider what made them effective. The key here is to be flexible yet work within your strengths.
4. Arrive early and interact.
Join the virtual forum at least 15 minutes early. When you arrive, introduce yourself to the other interviewees, and take the opportunity to get to know the backgrounds of others in your group. Remember, everyone is nervous, and these conversations are a nice way to break the ice before the actual session. A recent client who was assigned to an “encourager” role found it helpful to know the background of others when encouraging them to contribute throughout the actual discussion.
5. Be flexible and solution oriented.
Keep in mind that the group interview is less about a right answer and more about how you work with others. Think about if you were put on a new team at work—how would you help the team achieve its goal? Don’t get too caught up in your own idea or get frustrated with your teammates if things aren’t going the way you prefer. If you see someone controlling in your group, take actions to help ensure that all voices are heard. Showing grace, leadership, levelheadedness, executive presence, and strategic thought leadership will demonstrate your contributions more effectively than controlling the discussion. A recent client equated the process to a “sniff test” of social skills you’ve developed in your life. How well can you be solution oriented on a new team?
6. Support, contribute, and encourage.
I’ve seen teams that focus on one of the presented solutions and others that develop a new solution encompassing pieces of many of the pitches. Either way, stay engaged and show your ability to help the group work to a solution. In 35 minutes, you will not get a perfect idea, but you can ensure other people are heard, concepts are blended, and ideas are reasonable. If you tend not to speak up at work meetings, practice at work providing valuable input before the session. If you don’t speak at all, it will be hard for observers to evaluate you.
7. Listen, observe, and assess.
Throughout the discussion, make note of what has gone well and what could have gone better. Consider taking some brief notes to help you be succinct in your one-on-one interview. You may be asked to give feedback about the session during your one-on-one, so practice sharing both positive and constructive thoughts applied to both the team and yourself.
There is no better practice than a mock TBD with other Wharton hopefuls. In our current Zoom world, mock TBDs can prepare you to better understand what to expect, help you practice interacting, and enable you to have more fun with the interview. Stratus offers a mock TBD via Zoom with other candidates who are preparing for the interview. Our clients have reported that the real-life experience of our mock TBD made the actual TBD less stressful and—dare we say it—fun!