Chicago Booth has begun to release its MBA interview invitations, and this year there’s a new twist: for the first time, you’ll be asked to submit a 60-second video to support your candidacy.
A growing number of schools have adopted a video component in the MBA application. Last year, the MIT video statement went from optional to mandatory, and Kellogg, Rotman, Yale and INSEAD include a video prompt in the application. While programs have different time limits and questions, all are seeking an authentic and unscripted glimpse of your poise, character, motivations and ambitions. In addition to seeing you in action, your video presentation allows the MBA admissions committee to assess your confidence, presentation style, language skills, and ability to think on your feet.
As former Associate Dean of Chicago Booth (and Booth alum), I see this as an excellent opportunity to convey another dimension of your candidacy by bring your application to life. My Fortuna colleague, Caroline Diarte Edwards, calls the video statement “a really positive evolution in terms of giving candidates more scope to express themselves in the application process.”
This is a new element for Booth’s full time MBA program, although they have used a similar approach for their Chicago Scholars program. As such, there isn’t a lot of history to guide us on how these videos will be used and evaluated. (Although directed only to candidates invited to interview, Booth clarifies that the video is not related to your interviewer nor will be provided to your interviewer.)
The general “rules” of video presentation apply – good lighting, excellent sound quality, background free of clutter or distractions, focus on the camera, interesting visuals if appropriate, etc. (Fortuna’s Matt Symonds offers great advice on how to ace the MBA video essay, including tips on set-up and presentation that are applicable to Booth.) You can record the video with a cellphone, computer, or other video recording device – Booth makes it clear that you won’t be evaluated on the styling and editing of the recording, only the content of your submission.
Speaking of content, you’re given a choice between two questions, and in the invitation letter, Booth explicitly invites you to have some fun with this.
Booth Video Questions & How to Craft Your Response
1) Tell us about something new you learned recently that shifted your worldview. How did it influence your behavior and/or actions?
2) What is something you wish people knew about you, but you’re not sure that they do?
First, I don’t perceive a benefit in going for one question over the other. It depends on which one speaks to you and which will elicit a response that’s authentic, meaningful, and compelling. Booth is deploying this approach as a way to get to know you in a different way – to actually see you, get a sense of your communication style and ability, and to gauge personality. Therefore, how you say things (with style and personality) may be more important than what you say.
That being said, the first question invites you to share a perspective on what is going on in the world right now and how it has affected you. This is a great opportunity to reveal your values, what you care about, and how recent and current circumstances motivate you to drive change or serve a greater purpose. What are the issues that are important to you? What has been learned about the issue? Why has it changed your perspective? How has it moved you to adapt or act? There are many issues in the world today that could influence this response – BLM, the election in the US, China-US relations, climate issues, Covid – the list goes on. This is a chance to highlight an issue important to you and show that you not only pay attention to what’s going on, but also have been motivated to take some action (or at least have ideas on doing so).
This year’s singular essay question for UCLA Anderson is very similar to video question 1, and Fortuna’s Jessica Chung offers some excellent, relevant guidance in her related article. “Rather than referencing several events on a superficial level, pick one that allows you to convey the kind of leader you are and hope to become,” writes Jessica. “As you sift through the possibilities, the single most important action you can take is to spend significant time on self-reflection… What you choose to cite is less important than why you’re citing it: how did it influence your thought process, mindset, next steps, aspirations?”
The second question can be much more personal and could also be much more playful. Dare to have some fun here: It is more about your personality and interests rather than your view of world events. I would use this question if there is something REALLY intriguing about you – not something that could be considered “run of the mill.” I would also try to tie into this WHY this is important to you and how it has affected your life, career, relationships, etc. Again, I think the key here is focus even more on personality. If you go with this question, you’ll want the issue to be captivating and there is even more opportunity to deploy humor, unusual location, props, etc., to get the message across.
Question 2 reminds me of a brilliant 60-second video by an MIT Sloan admit, which Fortuna’s Brittany Maschal describes in her article on how to approach the MIT Sloan video question.
“The secret to his success was to focus on just one story from his life, which revealed a distinctive aspect of his personality. Frankly, it was an anecdote that might easily be overlooked, if it weren’t for the artful way he used his story to illuminate the personal values and attributes that made him a great fit for MIT,” writes Brittany. “…What he achieved was a winsome glimpse into what made him unique, and it exuded warmth, sincerity, and authenticity.”
If you’re noticing a theme here, it’s that 60 seconds is scant time to tell your story. Identifying a single story that conveys something meaningful allows you to offer more depth about who you and what you stand for. This is also the opportunity to add something to your narrative that isn’t conveyed elsewhere in your application.
Finally, it can also be useful to solicit feedback from others. I recommend talking to a coach or a trusted person in your life outside of work. Keep your audience in mind as you prepare and practice (and practice again) your video presentation – this is the Booth admissions committee, after all. Having a deep understanding of Booth’s values and culture will allow you to make relevant connections to your own story.
For more guidance on what Chicago Booth is looking for and how to prepare for the interview, check out my short video strategy session with Fortuna’s Malvina Miller Complainville.
Bill Kooser is a MBA Admissions consultant and Director at Fortuna Admissions, a Booth alum, and former Booth Associate Dean. With over 30 years of experience, Bill has been responsible for nearly every business school function. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation. If you already know what you want, you can sign up directly for MBA interview prep with a Fortuna expert coach or explore all services.