MBA Interview Prep 2: Do’s and Don’ts – Preparing for a team-based interview
2nd in a 4-part series on MBA interviews
While most MBA programs interview applicants one-on-one, there are some schools that follow a different interview style. The Wharton School of Business and Michigan Ross, for example, use a team-based interview format, where approximately four to five candidates are assessed simultaneously on their ability to work collaboratively. Business school is all about working with others, and the aim of these interviews is to test just this.
If you have a team-based discussion coming up, here are the top 10 things you what you should keep in mind:
- Be positive and productive. Although the discussion might get heated, don’t raise your voice, and monitor yourself for aggressive body language. Try to understand other people’s points of view and communicate in a respectful and constructive way.
- At the beginning of the discussion, learn the names of the people in your group. Then, build on someone’s point whenever possible, using their name, for example: “You make a great point Rahul. To add to that, how about we….”. This makes the conversation more personal and engaging, and shows your ability to build on a proposal rather than push to have your own ideas front and centre.
- It’s fine to play devil’s advocate – in fact, in some cases that may be essential to ensure that all aspects are being considered. But don’t be argumentative or defensive. Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to. It’s important to be able to disagree without being derogatory, condescending, or personalising the conversation.
- Balance should be your watchword for participation. You don’t want to hog the floor, because this interview is not about you shining alone, and the person who talks the most isn’t always the person who gets in. However, you also don’t want to be too quiet, forgoing participation or letting others intimidate you. If no one’s given you the chance to express your views, it’s up to you to find a way to join the conversation in an assertive way.
- Listen. Listen. We can’t say it enough! Be inclusive of everyone participating and don’t side-line anyone. You might end up knowing someone in your interview group beforehand, and that’s great, but don’t be overly friendly or favour their ideas solely based on your previous relationship.
- If you feel that the discussion has reached a point where everyone would benefit from a summary, give a quick update to ensure the conversation keeps moving forward and you are staying on track, keeping time in mind.
- Make sure to read the news that morning and be aware of any major updates. You never know how it could come up during the discussion.
- Think beyond your country. How will your ideas and suggestions impact other people, cultures, and regions? Remember you are applying for a global MBA program, so think global.
- Do your homework, especially for schools where the topic is given in advance. Come prepared with specific ideas and questions to ask. At the same time, be flexible, not rigid. Don’t come with a prepared business model and expect everyone to adopt it!
- Keep the team’s vision and goal ahead of your own agenda. It may happen that over the course of the discussion, the idea you came in with is no longer being considered. That’s fine. Remember, this is a group discussion and the best possible outcome is consensus and an idea you can be proud of, even if it wasn’t your original one.
It’s important to keep in mind that the group discussion is only one component of your application. Schools view this in conjunction with all your other materials to make their final decision. What you have said or projected about yourself in your written materials will be corroborated with interview observations, so it’s essential to be consistent and yourself!