Kellogg to Require Video Essay

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management said today (July 29) it will now require a video essay as part of its 2013/2014 MBA application, which will be available in mid-August. While several B-schools have included optional video responses in their applications, Kellogg is the highest ranked business school to make it a mandatory.

In Kellogg’s case, students will have several minutes to answer a spontaneous, randomized question on a Skype-like screen. “We felt like this was a great opportunity to meet our applicants from wherever they might be in the world,” says Kate Smith, Kellogg’s assistant dean of admissions and financial aid.  “We felt that we were past the tipping point in terms of video technology and comfort with it – most applicants would have used Skype or FaceTime.”

Kellogg’s applicants will have the luxury of three tries to record a compelling answer. If they bomb the first question, they can discard it and request another one – they’ll receive a different question each time. While it sounds stressful, the admissions team hopes it will lead to more authentic interactions with the more than 5,000 people who apply to Kellogg each year.  “The spirit of the questions is to get to know our candidates on a more personal level in a spontaneous format,” Smith says. “They’re designed to bring to life the person we’ve learned about on paper in the application, including their passions, interests and ideas.”


The video component will not replace Kellogg’s personal interviews – a mainstay of the B-school’s rigorous application process. Instead, it’s hoped the taped responses will give the admissions committee a chance to meet the candidate in a video format, Smith says.  Currently, second-year students and alumni conduct many of the in-person interviews.

Kate Smith, new director of admissions at Kellogg. Photo by Andreas Larson

Kate Smith, director of admissions at Kellogg. Photo by Andreas Larson

The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management was the first B-school to pilot a video essay last year and retained it for this years’a application season. Rotman’s applicants are required to answer two pre-recorded questions on camera without any advance preparation (see Video Screen Tests Come To MBA Admissions).

The questions pop up at random from a bank of some 25 questions, each requiring a response no longer than one-and-one-half minutes. This year, the bank of questions has been expanded to slightly more than 100. The school’s advice? ” Be yourself and have fun with this question!”  – a tough task when a flubbed answer could jeopardize a candidate’s odds of getting in.


Of course, part of the reason to go to the video tape is for admission officials to get a glimpse of a more unscripted MBA applicant, without the polishing provided by an admissions consultant. But already the consulting industry is responding to the changes.

The MBA Exchange, one of the largest and most prominent consulting firms, says it is adding a video specialist to its consulting team to provide guidance and feedback to applicants as they plan for video-based interaction with their targeted schools. “His academic and professional credentials span theatre, psychology and multimedia communication, enabling us to advise clients on both content development and authentic delivery,” says Dan Bauer, CEO of The MBA Exchange, which plans to offer the video coaching at no extra charge to clients who pay for the firm’s “comprehensive” consulting package.

Yet another admission firm, Stacy Blackman Consulting, is advertising a $650 video prep package to help applicants “appear calm and polished.” According to Blackman, the video platform allows clients “to rehearse as much as they wish, respond online to a random pool of hundreds of questions, personally view their recordings and select videos for review and feedback.  As part of the video platform service, consultants provide feedback on dress, tone, volume and content, and the unlimited opportunity to practice and review builds confidence.”

Kellogg follows the decision by the Yale University’s School of Management to add a video requirement this year. Yale applicants are expected to answer three questions on video. After each question is posed, a candidate will be given 10 to 20 seconds to think about a response, and another minute to provide an answer. The pre-recorded questions, chosen randomly from a list, are expected to include a behavioral question about a past experience; a thought question requiring a response to a declarative statement and, finally, a question that deals with the interpretation of data. Yale ran pilot tests of video in the past two years before making it a required part of the MBA application this coming year.

Other B-schools are also dabbling in video, but most still offer alternatives to camera-shy candidates. The University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business and NYU’s Stern School of Business both accept video responses to questions that allow candidates to choose from several different answer formats, including the more traditional essay. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management offered a video option last year, but scrapped it when some students didn’t have access to the necessary technology. Most recently, the admissions team at Europe’s INSEAD has also hinted that the school may introduce video interviews in their upcoming application cycle.

  • Cliche

    I am even better, I’m irresistibly good looking!

  • Jimmy

    Thanks for your answer that clarifies everything John. Is it still Kellogg’s policy to interview almost all aplicants?

    I regret the figures we had on Bloomberg that gave the number of applicants, the number of people interviewed and the rank of the last student admitted to the program. It was precious information.

  • JohnAByrne

    Interestingly enough, I asked this very question of Niki da Silva, head of admissions at Rotman which introduced the video component in its admissions last year. Her point is that it is much better to have the entire admissions committee see and hear the person than just one reviewer who does a Skype or in-person admissions interview. She thinks it is far less likely that a person would be judged on his or her looks by seven different people with vastly different backgrounds and experiences.

    Da Silva’s comments are in our other broader story on this topic here which explores what Rotman discovered during its video pilot last year:

  • MBARoadWarrior

    If (and that’s a big IF) they didn’t have a chance because they were fat or unattractive, then coming in person wouldn’t make much of a difference now would it?

  • JohnAByrne

    Sorry for the confusion. In fact, these changes are for the 2013-2014 application season. Kellogg hasn’t updated its website with this information yet because those updates are expected to occur in mid-August.

  • Gawgeous

    Well, thank God I’m really, really, really ridiculously good looking!

  • Ed

    No? Kellogg interviews everyone

  • prusd

    Fat people and really unattractive people won’t even be given the chance for an in-person interview where they can be judged on “maturity, poise and pose, and capability in answering questions.” Their applications will be discarded before an interview. I understand an important part of b-school and the business world is how you present yourself (and even how you look…have you noticed Harvard MBA students are either mildly or very attractive), but the MBA interview, after the Adcom has looked over your qualifications seems like a fairer way to judge people rather than a ridiculous preliminary video answer.

  • Jimmy

    Your article is confusing when it says “as part of its 2014 MBA application”. You should precise 2014/2015 application. I had to visit Kellogg MBA Admission page to understand it was not this year application you are talking about! 🙂

  • SupportSnowden

    Math Error? ::: “Kellogg also slashed the total word count for its essays by 425 words, from 1525 words to 1350 words this yea”

    1525-1350 = 175!!!

  • Socrates

    *right* sue and see if you get accepted. I like the method Kellogg has used to move into a digital age. They get 5,000 applicants a year and they should use techniques such as this to help get a better picture of a candidate.

    If you suspect the schools are judging you on your appearance they are. They are judging you on your maturity, poise and pose, and capability in answering questions. If you were a hiring manager wouldn’t you want to use a new technique to vet a potential employee?

    I like it, even though it would unnerve me.

  • prusd

    This is obnoxious. These schools are obviously judging you on your appearance. Can’t they just wait until the in person interview to understand how you answer questions on your toes and how you present yourself? If I was a more litigious person, with a little bit of evidence to help prove my point, I would even consider suing to eliminate these “video essays.”

    Also, I think Yale is making these videos mandatory too.