Video Interviews Let Schools See the Complete Applicant

Jan 7, 2014
Tags: Admissions Committees, Admissions Process, Applications, Video

Submitted by By Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of Admissions, Yale School of Management

As admissions offices have experimented over the past few years with incorporating technology into their applications (e.g., PowerPoint slides and video essays), a handful have begun to incorporate video interviews into the application process. We introduced this format (which we call “video questions”) this season as a way to get a fuller, more complete sense of our applicants. Although schools typically claim that essays are the best way for applicants to speak directly to them, we believe that the best way for applicants to speak to us is to let them actually speak to us, and our sense so far this year is that the video questions have helped applicants present their candidacies more effectively than they would from a purely “paper” application. I truly believe that this is an application element that will gain more currency in the coming years.

So how does a video interview work? If you’ve ever used Skype, you’re likely familiar with the format. Applicants log in to a site where they view a recorded question, are given a short time to think about an answer, and then respond to the question using a webcam. Applicants to Yale School of Management, for example, are asked to answer three questions: first, an open-ended, introductory question about yourself; next, a “behavioral” question similar to what you would be asked in a business school or job interview that asks how you handled a certain professional situation; and finally, a “thought” question that offers a statement and asks if you agree or disagree with it, and why. The questions are meant to give us a better sense of who you are, how you act, and how you think.

The questions themselves do not take long to answer – you can complete them in a single 15-minute session – and all you need is a webcam and an Internet connection to do so. Like an in-person interview, the questions and responses are timed. For example, we give applicants 20 seconds to think about their answer and up to 90 seconds for the response, although those numbers can vary by school. And the interview does not require extensive preparation; the time you spent preparing your application and thinking about yourself and your academic and professional experiences should serve you well for the video interview.

Among the benefits of this format is that it is extremely flexible – applicants can record their responses whenever they want, and we can review them whenever we want. This means that we can view many more videos than we would otherwise be able to if we had to get the applicant and the interviewer together at the same time. It also means that we can have multiple people review an applicant’s responses, which minimizes any inconsistencies and increases the quality of our application review. And we do believe that it gets at a series of traits – such as extemporaneous thinking and (for non-native speakers) English ability – that is not possible to evaluate in writing. Because leadership involves the ability to engage and connect in person, not just on paper, an application process that measures these abilities across all candidates is more accurate and, I believe, more fair.