Some MBA programs, such as Wharton and Michigan Ross, require candidates to participate in a group interview, either in lieu of or in addition to, the standard one-on-one interview. This is a relatively more recent phenomenon, but the rationale behind evaluating applicants in a group setting makes sense – being able to analyze problems and work collaboratively on teams is important both during business school and in professional settings.
I often get asked by clients about "best practices" when it comes to the MBA group interview. Therefore, below are my tips on how to approach this very important piece of the admissions process.
It is often said that "preparation is half the battle," and this holds true for the group interview. For instance, Wharton provides the group topic in advance; as a result, you should spend the school's suggested time preparing your response. Believe it or not, I have seen some candidates "wing it," where they know what they will speak about but have not practiced it out loud or fleshed out the response. Make sure to clearly address all aspects of what the topic is asking for as you prepare. In addition, you will be much more comfortable with the group format if you practice in a group setting. You can do this by asking some friends and family to participate with you in a mock group interview.
Be a "connector" (don't dominate the conversation)
During the actual group interview, try to come across as a person who is able to connect ideas. This means not dominating the conversation (and clearly not being the quietest person in the group). Acknowledge and listen to group members instead of having the urge to interject with your thoughts; try to build on what others say. Can you help move the dialogue forward if there is a lull? Can you perhaps take disparate suggestions from group members and help the team come to a consensus? Can you encourage the quietest person in the group to contribute his/her ideas? Being a "connector" is a quality that MBA programs like to see in a group interview; it is indicative of how you will act in the classroom and in extracurricular activities.
Be respectful of others
While this may seem obvious, it's important not to attack or "shoot down" other people's thoughts and ideas. It is extremely important to be respectful of other group members, and this includes what you are conveying through your body language. For instance, actions like rolling of the eyes or murmuring under one's breath may not seem overt, but remember that group members are being observed at all times!
Keep the group's goals in mind
For the group interview, it's important not to be stuck to your idea. While you should thoroughly prepare your response (if you know the topic/question in advance), it's also important to keep the objective of the group exercise in mind. In any team effort, a favorable outcome is the goal, and this is true of your group as well. In other words, put your team ahead of any personal agenda.
The group interview can be daunting at first glance, but by following these tips, being relaxed and positive (and yes, even having fun!), you are more likely to ace it.
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.