MBA Schools Now Using Video and Team Discussions to Evaluate Candidates

For the vital MBA application process, universities have long relied on transcripts, GMAT and GRE tests, resumes, essays and recommendations to make their selections. These days, however, some MBA schools are changing up the evaluation format. They are adding in more evaluative components to assess the personality and the thought processes of a candidate.

For example, at Chicago Booth, you can do a Powerpoint slide during your interview to provide a broader perspective to the admissions committee about the type of person you are. At Georgetown, you can be asked why you want to complete their MBA program – but you have to answer in a tweet.

Still, to get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate, the interview still seems to be the best bet. Some business schools, such as at Northwestern, offer an interview as part of the application process that the applicant initiates, but at the University of Toronto, the school is now replacing a written essay with a video interview.

The school decided to take this unusual step because it felt that four essays were no longer providing enough differentiation among MBA candidates. The school felt that a video interview would allow them to get a better idea about the personality and passions of potential students.

Also, the university found that applicants were actually taking keywords off the University of Toronto website for their essays, so the written portion of the application process was losing authenticity.

So, the university has devised a new video essay portion to capture a bit of the spontaneity of a real interview in person. This tool has actually been developed for the real world job market, but the school felt that it also would work for the admissions process.

After you log on and practice with sample questions, interviewees then will get two questions. The first one is one that all applicants get, and the second is chosen randomly by computer from several questions that were recorded by the school. The candidate gets 45 seconds to think about an answer, and then they have 90 seconds to give the answer. You might be asked about an event in the past that inspired them, or to think about how their colleagues would describe their work style.

The university has found that it is very telling to see what jumps into the candidate’s mind first. This allows the MBA program to get a glimpse of their value system and perspectives that are not always visible in a paper application.

The 90 second answer period was decided upon based on trial and error. The reason that it is short is that it is very important for a business person to be able to provide a brief, compelling point in less than 2 minutes. The most confident candidates tend to provide an answer in 60 seconds.

It should be noted that the video portion of the application process is not used to find excellent public speakers. Rather, it is an added chance to talk about your stories and your personality. For example, the University of Toronto admissions team watched a video response of a quirky engineer with a high GMAT score and they found that he was a bit odd and quirky, but in a good way. The video helped to seal the deal for the student and he was admitted.

It remains to be seen how many other MBA schools are going to add video portions to their application processes. As it stands today, many top MBA programs only interview you after your written application has been evaluated. Down the road, it is likely that more schools will integrate a video portion into the written application to give the university a better chance to see what MBA applicants are made of.