Ross to Use Team-Based Interviews for MBA Admissions

Photograph by Agency Collection

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan plans to launch team-based interviewS as part of its MBA admissions process for 2014. The interviews, unlike traditional one-on-one or group interviews, will bring together several applicants to give the admissions team a chance to evaluate them on how they interact. Ross is the second major business school to experiment with this approach.

Ross tested its team-interview concept during January and February in Beijing, Shanghai, and Ann Arbor, Mich., and the admissions committee will spend the summer determining how to formally organize and begin group interviews, said Soojin Kwon, director of admissions at the Ross School. The logistics of bringing together applicants and evaluators might make a global roll-out difficult, she added. “We want to implement this more broadly next year,” says Kwon. “How broadly is the question.”

For the pilot effort, some people who had been invited for the traditional one-on-one interview were highly encouraged to participate in the group exercise. The admissions committee assured them it would not be part of the evaluation of their application. About 110 applicants in all participated in the three locations. Alumni and second-year students served as evaluators.

The applicants sat at tables in groups of four to six with at least one evaluator. First, they were given two random words and 10 minutes to prepare an individual presentation that connected the words in some way. They could take any direction—from serious to humorous, analytical to opinionated—says Kwon. Next the group was given a set of random words and 20 minutes to prepare a team presentation that used the words to address a problem and solution.

“Different things come out in a group interview,” says Kwon. “It creates a more complete picture of what the applicant will be like in a classroom and in our community.”

Kwon consulted the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which launched a slightly different approach to team-based interviews in the fall. Wharton sends candidates a question ahead of the interview and then puts them in groups of no more than six to prepare and present their conclusions and recommendations. A group is granted 35 minutes, from start to finish. Either second-year students or admissions committee members evaluate the interviews.

At Ross, Kwon chose to use random words to ensure that applicants could not much prepare ahead of time, she says. The traditional one-on-one interview has become stale, she says, because many applicants see the questions online ahead of time, get the aid of admissions consultants, and over-rehearse.

Indeed, the Wharton and Ross schools turned to the group interview to see how applicants react on their feet, work in teams, and speak in public. Ankur Kumar, Wharton’s director of MBA admissions and financial aid, says the new model also gives applicants an opportunity to glimpse the culture at the business school, where students are expected to participate in about 15 to 25 teams during their two years in the program.

“We’re not trying to pull any punches or trick applicants,” says Kumar. “We’re trying to get to know the applicants in a multi-dimensional form.”

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