For all the talk about business schools increasingly adopting video essays in MBA applications, we are yet to see a definite ‘trend’ on this aspect. Sure, there are more schools now having this than say 5 years back, but the number is still perhaps countable on fingertips. When you consider compare this with the universe of schools out there, you know that the trend is far from catching up.
We’ve seen ISB experiment with it way back in 2011-12 and have even written about it here – ISB video essay. But they’ve dropped it since.
Even so, if one of the schools you’ve set your sights upon has this component, it doesn’t matter what the trend is – you’ve gotta do it and do it well. With this post, we’ll try to give you a sense on the Dos and Don’ts for this beast. While the post says video essays, there are three types therein. Let’s investigate each one of these and try to de-mystify the areas.
How to tackle video essays | Tips for MBA admissions
Tips for video essays for INSEAD, Rotman, Schulich, Yale, Kellogg & others
The faux interview question(s)
This is the most common format in vogue currently. For most schools, this is an opportunity to see you and hear you even before putting the effort of an actual interview.
Typically, you get the question/application link for these only after you’ve submitted the rest of the application. Most applications would give you some practice questions to test the technology interface and your preparedness and then would have anywhere from 1-4 questions to respond to.
At the last count, we know of about 6 schools that have this component (tell us if you know of more) – Kellogg (10 practice; 2 actual); Rotman (2 actual); Schulich (5 practice; 2 actual); INSEAD (4 actual); Yale (3 practice; 1 actual) and Queens (4 actual).
The best way to prepare for this is to consider this as an actual interview preparation. The questions vary wildly across schools but a few sample ones could be – tell us about yourself; why are you interested in our program. The wacky ones could be – if you had a ticket to anywhere, where would you go and why.
These questions are designed to be impromptu. The schools really want to see the ‘real’ you, without any bells and whistles or made-up stuff and hence this format. We recommend you prepare all the usual MBA interview questions. Here are 5 quick tips to a good response:
- Be yourself (You’ve heard this before, right?). Don’t try too hard to impress. Authenticity is the key to a good response
- Be technology ready. Make sure you have a good working camera, mic, a silent room, a good and neutral background. Make full use of the practice questions to ensure the response ‘look’ good apart from the content
- Be confident. These go a LONG way in leaving a strong impression. Remember, body language is the key part of communications. Don’t believe me? Read this article on improving communication skills.
- On the above note, dress for the occasion. We recommend donning a full formal garb to present the best version of you
- Though most of the applications won’t give you a lot of time, but the limited time you get, use it to prepare a broad structure to your response. Write it down on a piece of paper if you have to, but make sure you do not look at the paper while recording the response. Look into the camera and maintain eye contact throughout the duration of your response
The optional video essay
Some schools (3 so far as we know of – MIT Sloan, NYU Stern and Texas McCombs) give you an option. You don’t have to do a video but you can. Most of these will have the option of other mediums – written essay, power point, sometimes a bit more exotic. The primary motive behind this option is to provide you a chance at being creative. So, choose this only if you feel you do have at least some creativity in you instead of relying on someone to do it for you entirely. The canvas here is usually quite broad with the prompt either being – share anything or introduce yourself. Let’s see 5 tips on how to tackle this one:
- Creativity is the buzzword here. Unlike the previous category, plain and simple recording of a written response isn’t a great option here. You don’t have to be on the video for the entire duration either. Think about the topic (if there is one) and then come with a potential theme. In most cases, the question is about introducing yourself. Think of what all you’d like to tell someone you meet for the first time – personal, professional, quirks, likes/dislikes. And now think about how you can do that creatively. Outdoor shoots? Indoors? Something else? Caricatures? Basically, let your imagination go wild.
- Technicalities matter. Again, unlike the previous version, the quality of video production matters. Get intelligent yourself or rope in someone who knows the stuff (if you do the latter, make sure to acknowledge them in the end of the video credits or some such). Successful submissions in the past have had really impressive production quality – though there is no set norm here.
- Let them see you. A bit contrary to #1 above, but the point is that for the bulk of the video, you should still be visible. For example, if your talent is photography, don’t just make a video showing your best pictures. They still want to see YOU.
- Dress to the occasion. In this case, it doesn’t necessarily mean formals. For instance, if you are shooting by the beach or in an open market, chance of you looking misfit in that tie and blazer are pretty high. The key here is to blend in with the theme and the surrounding so you appear natural and not fake.
- Yups, this is true here too. Don’t be too sombre or serious – tougher to captivate people in general with that than being happy, smiling and confident.
The compulsory video essay question
This is a bit of a mid-way between the above two. You would be given an essay topic beforehand (no impromptu stuff here) but don’t have an option – you HAVE to submit a video response to it. Apart from ISB which had it a few years back, the only one we are aware of is Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business (the prompt is again – introduce yourself). The general advice on this one will be the same as the previous category although you have to pay heed to the guidelines. Sometimes schools may say they want to see you throughout the response or some such. So, adhere to those instructions.
We wanted to get some official perspectives on the not-so-obvious nuances admission officers look for. So we asked the Ivey MBA Recruiting and Admissions to share some insights. Here’s what they said.
“We are looking for a number of things: overall polish and professional appearance as well as the space that you choose for doing the videos (quiet space, not a lot of distractions or background noise, etc.) We are looking at how you carry yourself overall, whether you speak in a confident and thoughtful manner, stay on topic, and give concise answers. Try to think of the camera like it’s a person and speak to it as though you’re addressing a human being (because you are – we are on the other end!) Treat the entire experience as you would any in-person interview.”
The Ivey MBA team also shared with us the common mistakes they see in many applicant videos.
“We sometimes see candidates who are obviously not prepared or haven’t taken the time to read the instructions ahead of time or to do the practice questions. This doesn’t leave a good impression. The practice questions are essential! Make sure you don’t go to a café or somewhere with a lot of surrounding noise. Wearing headphones can be distracting for the person watching the video, so it’s best not to wear them. Overall, you want to follow all the tips we’ve provided above and any of these mistakes can be easily avoided!”
For more tips, check out this video created by one of the recruiting managers at Ivey.
Sample video essays – A word of caution
Many MBA applicants upload their videos on YouTube. So there’s no dearth of sample video essays if you search online. You could look at them for ideas. The challenging part is to locate the good videos that were successful.
US News hosts a sample video essay that helped get the MBA applicant into Kellogg. Here’s the link to the article with the embedded video.
There are many more out there. Just ensure you don’t binge watch them like your favourite serial. You’d still want to retain your originality in the video.
There you have it – 10 schools have this option so far as we know. Not that very many but yeah, it is a lot more than in 2012 when there were 2 school applications that probably had this feature. You decide if you can call it a trend. Are you aware of other schools that have this feature? If yes, share with the readers in the comments section below.
Image credit: bgsu.edu
Video Essays are very important part of the admission to the Queen’s MBA Program. You need to record video essays through Kira-Talent. This contains two parts: practice, and main. Before recording your responses to the main essay questions, you may practice using practice questions to familiarize yourself with the format of the video essays. I have provided below the list of Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program from which you may get during recording your video essays.
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program (Practice Question – 1):
Q1. People are more motivated by altruism than self interest. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
Q1. Tell us about a time you failed. How did you feel and what did you learn?
Q1. Tell us about a mentor or a person who has influenced you. How so?
Q1. Tell us about a time you motivated people to drive change in an organization or community.
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program (Practice Question – 2):
Q2. Tell us about a time when you received difficult feedback. How did you respond?
Q2. If you had a day of vacation and unlimited resources, how would you spend the day?
Q2. When you have multiple tasks due at the same time, what strategies do you use to ensure all tasks are completed on time?
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program (Practice Question – 3):
Q3. Tell us about a recent dream you had.
Q3. If you could fly anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program – 1:
Q1. How do you think a close friend or family member would describe you?
Q1. Choose a personal experience and tell us how it has influenced your development.
Q1. Tell me about a time when you changed your priorities to meet other’s expectations? What was the outcome?
Q1. Tell me about a person or event that has been influential in your personal development.
Q1. How would you describe yourself?
Q1. Tell us something about yourself that we cannot find in your application.
Q1. What are your short and long-term goals?
Q1. Describe an accomplishment that has given you the most satisfaction and why?
Q1. What will your classmates find challenging about you?
Q1. Tell us about someone who has influenced you and how you have changed your behaviour as a result.
Q1. What are the most important things you are seeking in a career? How will you achieve them?
Q1. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made in your career and what did you learn from it?
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program – 2:
Q2. Tell me about a time when you had to use data to understand or solve a problem. Where did you get the data? And what was the outcome?
Q2. How do you work under pressure?
Q2. Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision. What were the circumstances and what did you do?
Q2. Give an example of a time when your time schedule or project plan changed because of unforeseen circumstances. How did you get back on track?
Q2. Tell me about a time you had many tasks to complete at the same time. How did you prioritize?
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program – 3:
Q3. Tell me about a time when you had to build a professional relationship with a new contact. How did you develop it? And why?
Q3. Tell me about a time when you had to make a quick decision. What were the circumstances and what did you do?
Q3. Tell me about the most difficult decision you have made in the last six months? What made it difficult? What was the outcome?
Q3. Describe a situation during which you had to deal with an angry customer or co-worker. How do you manage it?
Q3. Tell me about a time when a customer or co-worker made unreasonable demands on you. How were the demands unreasonable? And what did you do?
Q3. What do you think are the positives and negatives of business schools relying on standardized tests, such as the GMAT, as part of their admissions process?
Video Essay Questions for Queen’s MBA Program – 4:
Q4. Tell me about a time when you made a promise that you could not keep. What prevented you? And what was the outcome?
Q4. Do you think that social responsibility should always take precedence over profit? Why or why not?
Q4. Tell me about a time when you and another person had to compromise to reach an agreement. How did you reach the agreement?
Q4. Tell me about a time when you were the only person holding an idea you felt strongly about. How did you share your position? What was the outcome?
Q4. Describe a time in your career when you went out of your way to help a colleague or a client.
Q4. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you resolve it?
Q4. Tell me about a time when you acted over and above the expectations of your role.
Q4. Tell me about an instance where you had to negotiate with somebody. Did you compromise and if so, how?
Q4. Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together effectively.
Q4. How would you define leadership?
Q4. Describe a time when you led or motivated others. How did you accomplish this?
Q4. Describe a time in your career when you went out of your way to help a colleague or a client.
Q4. Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as a member of a team.
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