A Wharton MBA is one of the most sought-after qualifications for ambitious professionals. It allows you to network and learn from more than 100,000 alumni and peers, and gain the skills to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.
If you’ve recently been selected for the Wharton MBA interview, you deserve a pat on the back. Not only can applying for any MBA be tough, but Wharton interviews about 40% of applicants and admits just 1 in 3 into its prestigious program.
Unlike most other business schools, Wharton prefers to interview applicants using a Team-Based Discussion (TBD) format that reflects the “highly collaborative nature of the Wharton MBA environment”.
All TBDs are followed by a short one-on-one personal interview with one of the Wharton MBA second-years. For most aspiring MBA candidates, this interview format can be a bit confusing because interviewers don’t ask the typical strengths, competencies, and motivations questions characteristic of other MBA interviews.
But don’t worry, in this article we’ve put together everything you need to know to answer the top Wharton MBA interview questions.
Will I have to complete an interview as a part of my Wharton MBA admissions process?
Every applicant who passes the first round of admissions has to participate in the TBD.
Admissions officers use it to assess the leadership skills, decision-making abilities, and communication styles that Wharton believes are essential to the success of a Wharton student.
During the TBD, you’ll work together with 4-5 other applicants on a business case that will be shared with you before the interview. The moderators will ask your team to produce a tangible outcome to the problem through team-based discussions and analytical problem-solving.
What to expect during your interview
The TBD is designed to be a 45-minute group interview where you work with your team members instead of against them.
Your performance is determined by how well you’re able to collaborate with others on developing new ideas.
At the beginning of the TBD, you’ll be given time to introduce yourself and meet the other interviewees. Then you will be asked to get together as a group and come up with solutions for the business case. After that, your group will present your ideas to the moderators. When the TBD is finished, a second-year MBA student will sit down with you for a short personal interview.
The TBD typically has two moderators, who are usually second-year MBA candidates. They will observe your analytical thinking skills as well as your ability to contribute to the team discussion. The moderators are looking for candidates who can listen thoughtfully to others, ask smart questions, and respect differences in opinion.
Types of interview questions
The Wharton MBA interview uses a business problem and a series of prompts to evaluate your teamwork and critical thinking skills. You can expect to see problems that require you to practice situational awareness as well as the ability to adapt to group dynamics.
The prompts aren’t designed to take you by surprise; rather, they’re intended to test how well you’re able to use your personal and professional experiences in business decision-making.
The questions that come with the case study prompts are usually analytical questions related to business goal-setting, project management, and competitive advantage creation. Wharton places a huge emphasis on actionable knowledge and rigorous analysis, which they consider to be the key qualities every innovative business leader should have.
When will my interview take place?
Wharton provides 3 rounds of interviews to accommodate applicants with different work commitments.
Applicants who submit their applications in early September can expect to receive their interview invitations in late October. Those who submit their applications in early January should hear back by mid-February, and those who submit in late March will be invited for an interview in mid-April.
Wharton advises international students, especially those from India, to apply by the September or January deadlines to leave ample time for visa applications and other immigration processes.
Students who make it to the interview stage will be notified via email, which will include a link to schedule an interview and helpful resources for interview preparation.
Top Wharton MBA interview questions and how to answer them
When answering Wharton MBA interview questions, you should try your best to display empathy and creative thinking.
Most questions are open-ended and have no clear right or wrong answer. Your goal is to come up with the best possible idea, share it with your team, and help them develop a solution that satisfies the business problem.
Business Case Example: Student entrepreneurship opportunities and innovation activities at Tangen Hall, The Wharton School
Wharton’s TBD focuses on just one business case for the entire 45-minute session.
In the 2019-2020 admissions season, it used its newly-opened student entrepreneurship campus space, Tangen Hall, as the TBD topic.
The admissions team shares the business case before the interview to give you ample time to conduct research and prepare your ideas. You should read up on the business case as much as you can to gain an understanding of the case’s background and purpose. For example, with the Tangen Hall case, successful interviewees explored the purpose of the project, its primary stakeholders, and its current priorities.
Example Prompt Question 1: As a team, determine and define your target audience and invitation count.
Before your TBD session starts, the moderators will share the prompt questions that you and your teammates will have to work together to answer.
For the Tangen Hall case, the moderators chose to ask interviewees about how they would determine their target audience and invitation count if they were on the project’s planning committee.
A question like this requires you to conduct a stakeholder analysis of the project’s potential audience and identify groups or communities that would benefit from the project and engage with it.
The moderators expect this type of prompt to divide the opinions of the 5-6 team members so prepare yourself for differences in opinion and even heated debates. Each team member may have a different analytical process, and therefore a different answer.
You should give careful thought to how you’ll help facilitate a constructive, big-picture-oriented discussion with your fellow interviewees.
Example Prompt Question 2: Identify and select a keynote speaker and programming for the day, including one interactive workshop and metrics for success.
Another prompt included in the Tangen Hall business case instructed interviewees to develop a plan for the opening day.
While the prompt seems easy to answer on the surface, it actually tests interviewees’ knowledge of Wharton’s student demographics and the multinational nature of today’s global marketplace.
In a situational analysis question like this one, you should work together with your teammates to determine what success means to the organizers and the attendees. It could be a good idea for you to break up into pairs or groups of threes to work on different parts of the problem.
Interviewers want to see you grapple with the complexities of achieving customer satisfaction. Your solution should meet the needs of your business case’s target audience, which in this example, might be international MBA candidates, who make up 40% of Wharton’s student body.
Example Prompt Question 3: Provide unique experiential opportunities that highlight the depth and breadth of resources within Tangen Hall.
Wharton likes to select applicants who can develop innovative approaches to business problems.
For prompts like this one, interviewers are looking for candidates who can create simple yet effective solutions that make an existing product or service better.
The challenge, however, with answering a prompt like this one is that it can lead you or some members of your team to over-analyze the requirements. Previous Wharton candidates have shared stories of interviewees becoming extremely pushy and self-absorbed with their ideas because they wanted to be seen as the most innovative of the group.
You should avoid being abrasive and out of touch with reality. What benefits you and your other teammates most is often the ability to reach a consensus and create an end presentation that sums up what you want to say as a group.
Wharton, after all, seeks applicants who can thrive in real-world business settings where consensus is key to business success.
Other Prompts: Possible changes to the school curriculum
Other MBA cohorts were given prompts that required them to find solutions for Wharton’s school curriculum, create a Global Modular Course (GMC), and build connections with Wharton’s young alumni base.
Despite the differences in topic and context, almost all of Wharton’s TBD business cases are rooted in finding tangible outcomes.
Wharton wants to know if you are a persuasive leader who can influence others through cooperation and empathy. You want to show your moderators that you can draw out the best thinking in others and empower them to share their ideas.
1-on-1: Why do you want to do an MBA?
After the TBD, you will be taken to a separate room (or a separate video call if you’re interviewing remotely) by your interviewer for a short 10-minute personal interview.
Your interviewer will most likely ask you the classic “Why do you want to do an MBA?” question to better understand how the MBA fits in with your future ambitions.
You’ll want to elaborate on the leadership skills and rigorous analytical thinking processes you seek to learn from the program, and then explain how you’ll apply those skills to a project or job you want to do after graduation.
Try your best to show that you’ve reflected on the importance of an MBA. You want to show that you’re ready to put in the hard work to become a better business leader.
Why do you want to do an MBA now?
Your interviewer may ask you this question to get a sense of your previous work and community engagement experience.
Keep in mind that most personal interviewers are second-year students who will only have a copy of your résumé during the interview for reference, so you’ll want to explain why you’ve decided to go back to school at this point in your career.
If you’ve decided to pursue an MBA because you want to transition into a leadership position with more responsibility, this is the time to share it. Wharton takes pride in giving its MBA candidates the right communication skills and networking opportunities to advance their careers in a global economy.
Why have you chosen Wharton?
Wharton is among the top and most selective business schools in the world, so your interviewer may want to know how you expect the Wharton MBA to help you transform your post-business school career.
The best way for you to answer this question is to show that you’ve done your research about Wharton’s classes, societies, and extracurricular opportunities. Explain how you plan on taking advantage of these for your future and also how you’ll contribute to them.
You want to help your interviewer understand that your unique personal, professional, and academic background will be supercharged by the Wharton MBA experience.
Need a hand with your Wharton MBA interview prep?
Preparing for your Wharton MBA interview can feel like a daunting task. But there’s no need to do it alone–I’m here to help.
I’m an MBA admissions consultant who’s helped several Indian professionals get admitted into their dream business schools.
My strategy is simple: I help you view the interview process as an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better. I’ll work with you to craft the best ideas and teamwork strategies for the Wharton TBD, and I’ll teach you how to get your story across so the interviewers will want to accept you.
Visit my website, Admissions Roadmap, today to get in touch with me.