In recent weeks, my Fortuna Admissions colleagues and I have been putting candidates through the paces in mock Wharton TBD sessions, while gleaning insights from those who have completed their interview with Wharton. As Fortuna’s Judith Silverman Hodara (former acting director of Wharton admissions) wrote in a recent post, “this dynamic, relational experience is about much more than delivering a strong pitch – Wharton’s admission committee wants to observe how you approach a challenge, present yourself, cohesively work towards solutions in a small group context and think on your feet.” This year you also have the added challenge of presenting yourself and your teamwork skills over video on Zoom.
(For specific advice for the Wharton 2020-2021 TBD prompt and how to craft your pitch, check out Judith’s related article.)
Given the particularities of the Wharton TBD – six candidates with a unique pitch, 35 minutes, a passive observer evaluating your candidacy within the context of an unforeseeable dialogue – my Fortuna colleagues and I have noticed how participants tend to fall into seven typical “types.” In our experience, your awareness of these types – in yourself and others – can help you adapt in the moment more strategically.
7 TYPICAL TYPES IN A WHARTON TBD + HOW TO RESPOND
So, who’s who in a Wharton TBD? And what should you do with this newfound awareness? Read on for our team’s observations and insights.
1. The “talker”: A candidate who comes out of the introductions very quickly, seems to want to set the agenda and pace also very quickly. They may not necessarily be aggressive but want to set the tempo and the content of the meeting.
If you feel that this person is going to be the voice of the whole meeting and you feel you can jump in, certainly do so! However, if you see that you have openings later in the discussion, you can add your voice without going head to head and “fighting” over ownership.
2. The “facilitator”: A candidate who volunteers to take notes, keep time, and remind others of specific pieces of the project that must be addressed. This person may not contribute much to the discussion, as they may be concerned with the operations of the discussion and not necessarily their own content.
If this is your comfort zone, be mindful to proactively participate and avoid keeping yourself out of the discussion; while groups need help staying on track, you should be cognizant of too much note-taking and not enough engagement.
3. The “networker”: A candidate who learns and uses the names of the participants frequently and easily and refers to each of the ideas with ease. This person may also seek synergies between ideas and synthesize them with ease.
This is a great role to be in. It shows that you are engaged and able to quickly pivot between participants. Generally, these participants may end up giving up on their own “pitch” to show that they are open and generous to others.
4. The “introvert”: A candidate who, after their pitch, may struggle to assert themselves in the discussion. They may be trying unsuccessfully to get airtime, either because of cultural awareness or because of not knowing just how to break into the discussion.
While it can be hard to break out of this position if you’re more comfortable observing, look for cues for entering the dialogue. These kinds of candidates can find that once they practice the “break-in” a few times, they get more comfortable in doing so. (This is where prep in a mock TBD session can be invaluable.)
5. The “thoughtful opportunist”: A candidate who may fit more than one of these frameworks. They may be very good at networking, but also a good facilitator. They could be both a networker and a talker.
If this is you, make sure that you are hyper-aware of bringing others into the discussion; you do not want to be seen as an “airtime hog.” Demonstrate both self- and situational awareness by collaborating with others and managing your own amount of input.
6. “The de-railer”: The candidate who just derails the entire conversation whether they mean to or not.
If you encounter one of these candidates in your session, you can try to bring them into the discussion and give them the opportunity to connect the dots. However, with only 30 minutes on the clock, you may not want to enter into an “argument” with them about their point of view, nor do you want to shut them down. The ideal is to seek a way to gently bring them back to the matter at hand and maintain the flow of productive conversation.
7. “The driver”: the person who is fixated on completing the assignment, is cognizant of the time, and focuses on whether they’ve answered the questions.
If this is you, other participants may find you exceedingly task-oriented, and perhaps pushing the discussion faster than they would like. However, you can certainly state your focus is on making sure you get the assignment completed; and that it’s for the good of the group. Like the “facilitator” you do not want to be so wrapped up in getting the job done that your voice is not heard during the discussion.
If you’re interested in a mock prep session with Fortuna, we invite you to sign up online (spots are limited). You can also find some great tips in this article by Fortuna’s Judith Silverman Hodara (former head of Wharton admissions) on how to tackle the Wharton 2020-2021 prompt.
Michael Malone is a Director at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions and former Associate Dean at Columbia Business School. Brittany Maschal is a Fortuna Expert Coach and a former member of admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton & Johns Hopkins. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.