Prepping For Video Essays & Long-Distance Interviews

Stacy Blackman is the founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting

An increasing number of MBA programs are making use of online video-interview platforms, where you must record responses to one or more short-answer prompts before your application is considered complete. Why do schools add this extra step? The inclusion comes in response to applicants who wanted an additional way to present themselves to the admissions committee before the in-person interview.

The new format also strengthens the written essays by demonstrating the candidate’s verbal/visual communication skills. The adcom has seen what you have going for you on paper; a video interview can give them a better sense of your personality and help them judge whether or not the “real you” matches the impression you’ve built through your other materials.

Unfortunately, video essays can also be a source of major stress for already-anxious prospective students. But here’s some good news: the reality is that it’s unlikely you will totally bomb your answer. Sometimes, the system will allow for an extra try if you’re not thrilled with your initial response. Make sure you understand what your program’s video-interview “rules” are before you start the camera rolling.

With just a little bit of confidence and preparation, you could give a response that makes the adcom think, “We just have to meet this person!” Here are some video essay-specific tips:

  • Prepare (and practice) succinct responses for all of the typical MBA-related questions: Why Program X, Why an MBA overall, Why now, What are your career goals, Summarize your career to date, and so on.
  • Then practice by adding some “fun” questions and responses into the mix: Review the last book you read/movie you saw/TV show you watched; What is your favorite song and why; Where’s the best place you’ve gone on vacation, et cetera.
  • Record yourself answering these questions. Have a trusted friend review your responses and tell you how you’re coming off. Tweak your style accordingly. 

From an admissions standpoint, the goal of using video essays is simply to make better decisions about which candidates are the strongest match with the program. This component will better demonstrate communication skills, the ability to think on one’s feet, and possibly help identify those applicants who, while not quite as strong on paper, may actually be the diamonds in the rough that enrich the learning experience for all.

Tips for Your Long-Distance Interview

Video interviewing is both convenient and efficient for applicants who, for logistical reasons, simply cannot meet in person for their MBA interview. Even in the era of FaceTime, for many it takes practice to come across in a professional yet natural way. Some are distracted by their appearance; others find themselves talking in a tone that’s altogether different from a face-to-face conversation. Make sure you conduct various practice chats and seek feedback on your performance until you’re satisfied that you’re conversing with ease.

Remember that technological glitches such as dropped audio or a frozen feed are almost par for the course, but how admissions staff say you react to the situation is what really counts. Maintaining poise and keeping your frustration in check will leave a positive impression on your interviewer. Swearing at your speakers, on the other hand, will not.

Even though you’re likely to be sitting down for the interview, dress in appropriate business attire from head to toe. If you need to stand up for any reason during the interview and have nothing but boxers on, rest assured, that is an impression the interviewer won’t soon forget. Also, make sure your surroundings don’t distract during the video chat. As with clothing choices, the backdrop you choose can make a negative impression if the interviewer is distracted by the messy bookcase or illuminated TV screen over your shoulder. Clean, clear, and well-lit is the way to go here.

When the big moment arrives and it’s time for the real thing, remember that no one is trying to trick you into embarrassing yourself. It’s just another opportunity for you to show what an asset you’ll be to an MBA program.

If you’re feeling unsure about your video-interviewing skills, you might be interested in Stacy Blackman Consulting’s online practice platform. Contact us to learn more about how we can help prepare you for this important component of the application.

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