Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wharton Interview (helpful for R2 interviews)

I hope this post helps people doing their Wharton R2 interviews...

The Wharton interview is...

I do not mean to say you can ramble away. I mean that it is not a stress interview and is meant just get to know you as a person. The idea to judge your communication skills and to figure out if you fit into the Wharton community. There are a few standard questions, beyond that the interview can take any turn depending upon your experience, your persona and your conversational ability. It is possible to guide the interview so as to bring out the best aspects of your past if you are a glib talker.

Another thing which I feel will work to your advantage in the interview is your body language. If you have met Wharton students, you will agree with me that many of them ooze confidence. The interviewer will probably look for confidence in a prospective Wharton student too. Your body language says a lot about your confidence and maturity.

The interview report should ultimately indicate that the same person wrote the essays too :-)

The interviewer sees only your resume. In my case the interviewer took a couple of minutes to read the resume at the start of the interview. So I'm not sure if she even read it beforehand and come prepared with questions. This means that you can reiterate the examples used in your essays. But if you have important stuff that you could not mention in the essays due to lack of space, the interview is a good place to bring it up. An advantage of having examples different from the essays is that they will supplement what you have already mentioned and give a fuller picture of you to the adcom. Promotions, salary hikes and other recognition which came by after you submitted your application can also be stated during the interview.

...not decisive
The interview is just a part of the process and is not the sole elimination criteria. The Wharton interview is not "a make or break". You could get in because of a good interview, you could get in despite a bad interview. There is no reason to be nervous at all. Look at the interview as just a tete-a-tete and talk like you would to someone who has met you for the first time and is getting to know you. There is no right answer for the questions, it is HOW you answer them that matters.

Tips to get more air time
Quoting examples as part of your answers will not only get you more airtime but will also make for convincing answers. Examples are also a way to elicit pertinent follow up questions which is a great way to delve deeper into your experiences and viewpoints. Deep discussion in fewer aspects is better than superficial answers for a large number of questions. It is better not to sound too studied. In fact I would recommend minimal preparation . It is more than enough to know the facts and let your answers flow with the conversation. Going with rehearsed answers for the standard questions might make you sound boring and less confident. However, extempore may not work for everyone, it's a personal choice ultimately. The interview(specially at hubs and on-campus) is supposed to last for 30 mins, but I'm sure there are many people(including me) whose interviews stretched for 10-15 minutes longer. Longer interviews are an advantage most of the time.

Alumni vs Hub vs On Campus
The choice of the type of interview is usually a combination of your schedule and what you expect out of the interview. If convenience and lower cost is the chief concern, then alumni interview is the natural choice. If you want to return to your home country immediately after MBA then you might want to know more about the opportunities and the network available in your country. An alumnus will be in a better position to give you valuable information which will help you to make an informed decision if you have to choose between multiple schools later.

If you want to visit the school before you decide to attend, then the interview is a good reason to make the trip. Also the on-campus interviews are conducted by second year students who will be able to shed light on the life at school. You can also get a feel of the atmosphere and the culture of the school which is an important factor which can sway your decision to or against the school. People who live reasonably close to philly should not miss this opportunity. I say this because I know how difficult it was for me to compare the cultures of different schools using what I read and the few people I could talk to.

Choosing the hub interview means traveling within your country, unless the hub is your city itself. This definitely is not as convenient as the alumni option. The hubs are conducted by members of the adcom and they may not be able to answer some of the questions you might have about the curriculum, job opportunities etc. The flip side is that there will be someone in the adcom who has met you and spoken to you and might support you in case he/she really liked you. This is something you cannot achieve through an alumni interview where you rely solely on the report mailed in by the alumnus. At least during the interview, adcom members tend to be neutral to the industry you belong to/aspire to enter. This could be an advantage and a disdvantage: An advantage because you have a fair chance to showcase your achievements as opposed to talking to a person who belongs to/knows a lot about your industry and hence might undermine your credentials. A disdvantage because you may have specific questions about a particular industry and a veteran in that field or someone who has friends in that field might be able to answer you better.

Links for preparation
Clear admit wiki interview database

Interview experiences of a few bloggers (R1 applicants):
Cornfed MBA
Ganja Turtle

All the Best for your interview!

Disclaimer: This post is a summary of my opinions formed from my own interview experience and those that I have read so far. This is by no means a generalization of all Wharton interviews and I maintain that there is no such thing as "a typical Wharton interview".