Wharton Reveals 2 Interview Questions

“What one talent or strength should a leader rely on most in daily life?”

“If you could teach one thing about innovation to a group of new employees, what would it be?”

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is informing this year’s MBA applicants that those are two questions they should be ready to answer if they are invited to interview with the school.

The letter, obtained by Poets&Quants, also provides applicants with more detail on Wharton’s new team-based discussion evaluation method. Applicants who are invited to an admissions interview will automatically be put into the discussion with five or six other applicants.

“The team-based discussion will allow you the opportunity to interact with your fellow applicants through discourse, which will highlight how you approach and analyze specific situations,” according to the letter. “Our hope is that this will give applicants a glimpse into Wharton’s group learning dynamic – which is central to our program. We believe that this type of assessment also serves as a tool to take prospective students ‘off the page’ and allows us to see firsthand the ways in which they can contribute to our community of diverse learners and leaders.”

For Wharton’s Class of 2013, about 2,580 of 6,442 applicants were interviewed. So if the size of the school’s applicant pool is similar, Wharton will have to hold as many as 500 of the new team-based discussions to accommodate the new and novel admissions test.

Wharton says that applicants should plan to spend no more than one hour to prepare for both the interview and the class-like discussion. The off-campus interviews, Wharton reported, will be held in Dubai, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, New Delhi, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.


At least one prominent MBA admissions consultant was critical of the Wharton letter. “Sounds like something sent from the Ministry of Fear in terms of its impersonality, global reach,  phony friendliness, and demands,” says Sanford Kreisberg of HBSGuru.com. “In practice, this will come off like a really bad version of  The Apprentice where all the contestants are talking about innovation instead of doing anything.”

The letter follows:

As many of you know, the Admissions office has partnered with the Wharton Innovation group to launch a new evaluation method, the team-based discussion, for the 2012-2013 application cycle. In anticipation of the interview portion of the process, we have prepared the following to provide further insight into this new format. Please Note: you must be invited to interview in order to take part in the next phase of the process.


If you are invited to interview, you will participate in a team-based discussion with 5-6 other applicants during your scheduled session. The team-based discussion will allow you the opportunity to interact with your fellow applicants through discourse, which will highlight how you approach and analyze specific situations.

Our hope is that this will give applicants a glimpse into Wharton’s group learning dynamic – which is central to our program. We believe that this type of assessment also serves as a tool to take prospective students ‘off the page’ and allows us to see firsthand the ways in which they can contribute to our community of diverse learners and leaders.


Interviews will be conducted both on campus and in select international locations. On campus interviews are conducted by Admissions Fellows, a select group of trained second-year students, while off-campus are facilitated by Admissions staff members. The off-campus interviews will be held in Dubai, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, New Delhi, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.

You will be able to schedule your interview through your Wharton account once you are invited to do so via email. All applicants will have the option of interviewing on Wharton’s campus or in one of our select major cities around the world. While there are two options and no one way is preferred over another, we do encourage invited candidates to interview on campus to get a sense of our community and culture. While on campus, candidates will have the opportunity to take part in our campus visit program by attending a class, having lunch with students and experiencing the MBA community in action. We will not be able to accomodate all requests for a specific location, so we encourage all invited candidates to register for a slot as soon as possible.

Once you have successfully registered for your interview, you will then receive a series of follow-up emails, detailing logistics and next steps regarding the session.

  • There are somethings, however, mere hard work is extremely difficult to overcome. Like going to a high school in Seattle that had computing resources that the vast majority of the nation’s best colleges had yet to have (Bill Gates); and because the PTA moms could afford it no less. That circumstance + hard work + passion DNE the average person with average resources + hard work + passion. The former is far greater than the latter–not by a gap, but by multiples.

  • Indianaizer

    INDIANA is better than Booth and harvard. because it is close to my home and my father graduated there.

  • Dreamer

    That is an awesome book.

    Merit is tricky because how do you account someone who choose a school based on scholarship vs. a guy who never had to think about that in the first place. Though I do think hard work always pay off in the long run. Yes maybe a guy in an ivy school had it easier but eventually you can get those opportunities, it just means working harder and knocking on more doors. If anything it makes you humble vs the self-entitlement I see in some of my peers.

  • Dreamer

    I did not mean that State schools are bad or you wont have any opportunities there. What I meant is that your opportunities are more limited and that you have to work a lot harder to prove yourself. Though I disagree with this view as admission into schools is highly subjective, The truth is that at Princeton there were more recruitment opportunities than at UCLA and a 3.4 GPA could get you a job at M/B/B while I don’t think that is the same for the UCLA student. My point is that while the school would never make you, having a brand name those help make things easier. Easier because more recruitment opportunities and people assuming (erroneously) that you are a more competitive candidate.

    I agree that if getting into HBS or Stanford is the most impressive thing you have done you probably wont get in. My point is not from the admissions perspective but from the applicant.

  • Don’tBeNarrowMinded

    Dreamer – I mostly agree with your point. My premise assumed that people were selecting from what is generally viewed as the competitive schools. While I don’t give much credence to ranking, I do believe that when you aggregate the rankings and focus on the schools that continually are members of the “top tier” your decision should transition from rank order into fit. As for the comment about state schools, I completely disagree. Many of my peers here at Wharton went to state schools and were able to position themselves in elite roles. Feedback that I was given years ago is “If you believe that going to an elite school will dramatically effect your career, then you probably won’t get it.” Top schools don’t want people who are dying to wear the schools banner around their chest like some SEC frat boy, they want people who don’t necessarily need the school, but choose come back for some specific reason: perhaps switching to a career in a different field that was of equivalent trajectory to the one that they were on before.

    In summation, Booth is better than Indiana because Booth attracts more talented students and those students network with a highly concentrated base of alumni. The Booth vs Indiana comparison is easy; however fit is important when comparing Booth to Fuqua, Darden, Sloan, Goizueta, because any of the aforementioned schools could get students exposure to top consulting, banking and industry firms.

  • You make a salient point dreamer. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this phenomenon in “Outliers” (which I will finish reading to take the edge off waiting for final decisions over the next few weeks). I no longer believe in merit–at least not in and of itself. If someone had driven that point home to me when I was 17, I would have definitely taken those Princeton/Brown/Yale/MIT letters more serious as opposed to opting to a full scholarship to a state school. Live and learn.

  • Dreamer

    Though i like your point. i will like to add one more thing. I think that your advice is not applicable to most people. You had to choose between H/S/W and Booth. No one can argue your life will be better by choosing HBS over Wharton. You are already playing at the top and it won’t really matter as they all have great brand names.

    Is different if you are choosing to attend say Indiana over Booth. Indiana might be a better fit but opportunity wise Booth is much better, objectively speaking. Your advice really only apply if you are within the top 5 or top 10. The opportunities that you get attending a top 5 or top 10 are much better than attending a 15-20 program so while your advice has good intentions, is dangerous to say you should always choose fit over everything.

    As an example i went to an Ivy league school and had great opportunities even though my grades were average. When I joined M/B/B consulting firm there was 10 people in my class from my school alone and many other from the Ivys/MIT/Stanford/Duke. yes there was one or two from State schools but those people were at the top of their class (incl. a valedictorian from a public Ivy) while some of the Ivy kids were average at their school, myself included. So brand does matter to an extent. Obv. Yes, you can say that if you work hard you can make it but obv. to be fair the state kids had to work a lot harder than me to get that job.

  • Guest1

    Thanks for putting this out there. I too chose Wharton, but for me it was the Wharton EMBA over the HBS full time program. I did the same as you by visiting the top schools, looking at the programs, and talking to students. In the end fit really does matter. I don’t regret the choice a bit and am happy I made it.

  • Well said.

  • Roland

    agree 100%. and for this reason, the students body and culture, I chose to attend insead in singapore instead of stanford. both great but i felt more comfort in insead atmosphere than stanford.

  • Don’tBeNarrowMinded

    Hey Guys, I am an MBA and I interviewed at H/W/S/B in addition to others. I was accepted at 3 of the 4 that I specifically mentioned. I chose Wharton, and factually cannot be deemed to be an H/S wannabe. Business schools have reputations and prospects indulge in stereotypes that are often untrue. Going into the process, I was set on Booth because I “knew” that it fit who I was. When I interviewed, I was so turned off by the school and the program as a whole. I have friends at Booth who swear by it and I am not saying that it is a bad school, but it wasn’t for me. I am an outgoing, accomplished entrepreneur who is interested is much more than quant-based finance. After visiting Booth and speaking with students, the school seemed to lack a cohesive community and a common focus. Wharton’s entire premise for education is based on team work. Banking is about team work; consulting is about team work; management is about team work; everything in business is about team work. Therefore, team based interviews actually make sense.

    In my class are some of the smartest, most driven people that I have ever met. We have people who worked in the White House, Goldman, Blackstone, Carlyle, Singaporean government, Apple, Microsoft; we have successors to billion-dollar companies and fortunes (lots of them); we have professional and Olympic athletes; we have astrophysicists and physicians; we have highly successful people who merely “wannabe” even more successful in 5 years than when they applied. We compete with one another but there is a complete absence of a cut throat mentality here. Grades aren’t disclosed, group cohesion is not only encouraged, its required, and people continually remark about the school’s collegiality.

    Before you choose one school or another, you need to acknowledge the fact that most of what you know about H/S/W or Booth or the M7 or the top 20 etc… is largely based on hearsay and that others’ interpretations of an institution – and more importantly, its student body – is inapplicable to you and what you want to be. If you don’t agree with the prior statement now, after you visit multiple schools like I did, you will come around.

  • Banker85

    I have been invited to Wharton’s group discussion interview. Just wanted to check if you had any more information on this.

  • inorbust

    agreed. im now just thinking about applying to booth instead of wharton. have the package to get into both but no longer see myself at wharton. too many H/S wannabes. i think im a better fit for booth.

  • Louis

    One more reason not to apply to Wharton. Booth will rise and take Wharton’s spot as #3, I think.