The video statement isn’t only a challenge – it’s a valuable opportunity to bring your application to life.
More business schools are adopting a video component in their applications than ever before. This year, the MIT video statement went from optional to mandatory, and last year Rotman, Yale and INSEAD adopted the practice. While programs have different time limits and questions, all are seeking an authentic and unscripted of your poise, character, motivations and ambitions.
Since it’s practically impossible to avoid a camera these days, it’s common to get complacent or imagine the video questions are an easy win.
Don’t fall for it.
Fortuna’s Cassandra Pittman, an MBA alumna of Columbia who worked in admissions at LBS and INSEAD, offers her insights on how to tackle your MBA video questions.
“The video component is a newer trend for business schools that combines the most challenging aspects of written essays and live interviews with the added pressures of technology concerns, time limits and camera,” says Pittman. “Perhaps most challenging of all is the lack of real-time feedback that you would get from a face-to-face discussion.”
My main advice is to be yourself (clichéd as it sounds). The video question isn’t only a challenge – it’s a valuable opportunity to bring your application to life. Because programs are looking for fit, this is just another way for admissions to get to know you.
“Some worthy candidates aren’t brilliant at expressing themselves on paper, but can do a spectacularly better job verbally,” says Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards, former INSEAD Director of Admissions. “So the video component is a really positive evolution in terms of giving candidates more scope to express themselves in the application process.”
The most important thing to do now for success in the video component? Practice. Then practice some more.
As Cassandra mentions, unlike a real conversation, you don’t get the benefit of seeing your interviewer’s eyes drift when you’ve lost their attention, or light up as you wax. As such, video questions are more like your written essays than an interview, because you have to put yourself out there without knowing how you’ll be received by your audience. But unlike written essays, you need to think on your feet – there’s no revising or editing. That means just one chance to convey your presence, clarity and substance.
So, grab your phone and film yourself answering sample questions. Some business schools post example video questions on their website; others preview questions during online or in-person admissions events.
As a starting point, here are 10 practice questions to work with:
- How would your boss describe you?
- What risks have you taken in your life and what did you learn from them?
- Did you ever get negative feedback, and if so, how did you react?
- If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
- Who has had the greatest impact on you and why?
- What is your favorite book and why?
- What will your classmates be surprised to learn about you?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
- What is the most meaningful thing you have done for anyone else?
- Tell us which project in your work has been a key milestone in your career any why?
Try to answer just a few sample questions at a time, then play back your recording to give yourself an honest evaluation (wait a couple of hours, or even a couple of days). Observe your mannerisms, whether you pepper your statements with “like” or “um,” avert your eyes when considering a tricky question, or what you do when you get uncomfortable or nervous (beware of throat-clearing or hair-flipping).
Consider playing your responses to a friend or an admissions coach and solicit their candid input on your overall performance as well as specific responses. Then, adjust accordingly and practice some more.
Before going on camera, ask yourself these five questions:
- Do I sound natural and can I hear myself well?
- Am I ready to offer concise, interesting, and genuine responses?
- Is the background uncluttered, pleasant and absent of distractions?
- Is my face well illuminated?
- Are my non-verbals consistent with how I’d show up for an in-person interview (e.g. posture, attire and general presentation)?
As you prepare, it’s easy to forget this is just one facet of the overall picture you’re conveying to the Admissions Committee about your candidacy. Ensure your stories fit within the overarching narrative you’ve created in your application, and, while avoiding duplication, connect to the themes you’ve posed in your written essays.
When it’s show time, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the experience. As you tell your story, don’t forget to smile. Genuine enthusiasm, sincerity and ease come across beautifully on camera.
A version of this article was first published on November 7, 2017 on Prodigy Finance as part of an ongoing series by Fortuna Co-founder and Director Matt Symonds.