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The Man Behind Those Video Interviews

What a video interview looks like from the admissions perspective. Courtesy photo

What a video interview looks like from the admissions perspective. Courtesy photo

Chances are, if you’ve been applying to many top business schools, you’ve come across a video interview section. How do schools come up with the questions they ask? Who sees your answers? Do the responses actually matter?

The man behind many of those questions is David Singh of Kira Academic, the platform supporting video interview questions for schools such as Yale, Stanford GSB, Kellogg, Notre Dame and many others. Singh and his teams work directly with admissions teams to craft questions that will best help the admissions teams make decisions on who they want at their schools.

“The questions schools are focused on are based in the DNA of the individual programs,” Singh explains. “One school is very entrepreneurship focused and they want questions that focus on the entrepreneurial flare of a candidate. Others are general management-focused and ask broader questions.”

SCHOOLS WANT A GOOD STORY

One thing schools using the platform are looking for is a good story from candidates. “That’s what candidates should be ready to talk about,” Singh says. “Stories are memorable. Schools are looking for students to say, here’s what I did, here’s the what the outcome was and this is why it’s important.”

But here’s the difference:Instead of having 1,500 words to make your case, the video interview gives you 60 seconds.

“Whether it’s wrong or right, schools are triangulating how successful a candidate will be in their program based on that 60 seconds,” Singh says. “It’s really important for people to be themselves and not be the broadcaster or news anchor. As awkward as it is, it’s essential to look at the camera, smile and look engaged and tell a positive story.”

David Singh of Kira Talent

David Singh of Kira Talent

FROM LEANING INTO THE CAMERA TO DEEP THOUGHTS

In terms of answering the questions, Singh suggests applicants put an emphasis on the tactical and thoughtful. “First, there are some tactical elements that are important,” Singh notes. “Leaning into the camera gives you better posture on TV. Keeping an eye on time and making sure you are brief and concise is important. It’s better to finish early and concisely instead of trailing off.”

A couple other strategies Singh points out are answering in the affirmative rather than the negative and being especially thoughtful and introspective.

“Research the school,” Singh says. “It’s like going after a corporate job. Hire yourself or admit yourself first. It doesn’t mean you have to have worked at Goldman Sachs or whatever, but you still have to be a match for the program. And you have to know yourself. This is a good time to be introspective and thoughtful. Just because you want it doesn’t mean you are good enough. It is really important to do the research and have three or four points of why you belong there.”

MANY EYES ON THE VIDEO

And it’s not just a small team of adcoms looking at these videos. Your interview responses are most likely being sent to a faculty member or two, up to 10 alums and maybe even a few current students. It’s kind of the point of the video interview. It’s tough to get a lot of people to read a 1,500-word essay. It’s not hard to get alums and faculty members to watch a few one-minute videos. According to Singh, many look forward to it.

“This is allowing the admissions team to do more than ever before and is really the pain-point for schools,” Singh says. “The schools like to be able to continue to engage alumni and the alumni love giving feedback.”

THE NEW ADMISSIONS NORMAL?

Singh sees the video interview as continuing to be a large part of MBA admissions.

“It’s definitely growing and I’m almost willing to say it will be the new normal,” Singh explains. “When we started, schools and recruiters used it primarily for interviewing talent abroad. Applicants could avoid hiring consultants and the schools could avoid Skype issues. There are two reasons I think it continues to grow. First, it adds a ton of efficiency to the process. Second, it gives admissions offices important insights into an applicant. You can see differences in work experiences and how applicants present themselves and how they might interact in a classroom.”

Singh sees two essential ways to prepare for the video interview. First, practice. With the platform, applicants can log into the video interview and rehearse what they will say and get accustomed to the format. Next, they should reach out to alums.

“It’s all about taking the time to be introspective, knowing why you are a good fit and then being confident in that reasoning,” says Singh. “Then go to alumni. Be hard on yourself. The consultants will not give you information and insights like the alumni will.”

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