Video Screen Tests Come To Admissions

Woman Drinking CoffeeWhen Robert’s image pops up on a screen on the wall, all eyes in the room are transfixed on the handsome 30-year-old Brit who is applying to the MBA program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

The eyes belong to the seven members of the school’s MBA admissions committee who sit, like film or television critics, to judge the candidate’s video performance. Robert is in a dark suit, with a blue shirt and red tie. He comes across confident and articulate, doing nothing at least to put him in the reject pile.

“Hello there,” he says in a clipped British accent. “So how do I like my colleagues to see me? First of all, I’d like them to see me as somebody who is fun and outgoing, who is good to work with and can actually introduce some fun into stressful working environments. I think some of the most valuable activity I’ve done has evolved around when we were able to break down some of the social barriers between inter-department teams to enable us to work more effectively together.”

Welcome to the brave new world of MBA admissions, where video screen tests are now becoming popular to test the poise and presence of business school applicants.


Rotman, which required applicants to answer two pre-recorded questions on video last year as a trial pilot, is now introducing them as a graded screening tool for admissions. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management yesterday (July 29) said it would also require a video component to its MBA application this year. Kellogg joins Yale University’s School of Management, which also is going to the videotape for this upcoming MBA application season.

This year’s Yale applicants will be 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 also are 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.

Some admission officials hope that requiring applicants to answer unexpected questions on video is a way to see candidates unscripted and unrehearsed. That’s become increasingly difficult at a time when greater numbers of applicants are hiring MBA admission consultants to sharpen their resumes, polish their essays, and coach recommenders in saying what is needed to get into a top-ranked business school.


Yet already some consultants are responding to the change by offering coaching to help applicants with the video prompts. Chicago-based The MBA Exchange 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 and founder 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.”

For a business school’s admissions staff, the use of video also can save time—because it’s often used as a replacement for written essays which take longer to read and grade. “It is easier and it provides a little bit more variety than just sitting down with a static application,” says Niki da Silva, director of MBA recruitment and admissions at the Rotman School in Toronto.

“We found it incredibly helpful,” she adds. “It really allowed the admissions committee to bring more objectivity to the process.” Usually, only one member of the committee will have interviewed a candidate when he or she is presented in committee. With video, every member of the panel can see the applicant in action. “It’s been helpful to identify superstars and to make some of the tough decisions.”

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