Presenting yourself effectively on video has become an essential part of the MBA application process. Admissions officers expect you to be able to capture their attention on the small screen. It’s an opportunity for them to see you think on your feet and speak ‘unscripted.’
What MBA programs want to see
- Kellogg says their optional video essay is an opportunity for you “to showcase your personality.”
- INSEAD sees the video essay as a method for you to “share your passions, your motivations and who you truly are.”
- Yale says the video questions “provide a unique way for us to assess your communication skills” and to view a candidate’s “multi-dimensional” profile.
These are just a few of several schools that also include a video component in the application. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all schools allow candidates to select a video interview. Video essays are required or optional among top schools like Kellogg, INSEAD, Yale, MIT, Rotman, and more.
For these schools (and for the rest of your career), your ability to command attention on a video format will become an integral part of your success – and could hold even more weight than the interview!
Types of MBA video essays
Research each program’s application requirements to understand what you should expect when you sit down to record your video essay.
For the most part, schools will provide you with a link to a web-based platform where you can record your video using the webcam on your laptop or smartphone.
Video essays are due 96 hours after the application deadline.
A video essay link will appear on your application status page after you submit your application and payment and take you to the Kira platform.
You receive three questions, one at a time. You will have 20 seconds to think about the question and up to one minute to give your response.
INSEAD also uses the Kira platform.
You will receive four questions that come one at a time.
After each question, you will have 45 seconds to prepare and 1 minute to respond. You cannot redo your answer. It must be recorded in one take.
MIT Sloan is an exception.
You get to prepare and deliver a video statement to introduce yourself to your future classmates. It must conform to the following criteria:
- No more than 1 minute (60 seconds) in length
- Single take (no editing)
- Speak directly to the camera
- Do not include background music or subtitles
How to prepare for your MBA video essay
While the prospect of a single-take video essay may be alarming, don’t worry, here are some suggestions to make sure you’re confident and prepared! They are also useful if it’s not a one-take video.
- Check the details
Before you start, read over any provided materials from your school. Know the deadline for when your video response must be completed, what program you’re applying to, and if they have any special requests. Many programs even have admissions blog posts about what they’re looking for to help you strategize the key points you want to strike in your response.
This may sound redundant, but if you have multiple schools requiring video essays, knowing exactly what each program expects is very important.
- Set the scene for your video essay
Find a well-lit setting and turn on your webcam and adjust your location to ensure you have a clear backdrop behind you. Windows, mirrors, or cluttered walls or shelves are best avoided if possible. Adjust your lighting and position to find an arrangement that shines light on your face, rather than backlighting you.
There’s no set uniform for video essays, but I recommend comfortable, clean, business casual attire. Play it safe with solid colors and comfortable materials so the viewer can focus on the content of your responses.
Once you’ve established your environment, let anyone whom you share a household or office with know not to disturb you. Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door if you must!
- Prepare your device
Picture this: You’re in the middle of your response and a pesky pop-up notification appears on your screen and creates a distraction. Or better yet, you ignore the notification and your computer restarts before you’ve completed all of the questions!
So before you start recording, close any programs that might prompt you with push notifications or pop-ups and ensure your software is up-to-date. Check to see if you have at least an hour of battery life or, better yet, plug into a power source.
- Practice and get comfortable
Record yourself taking a few common questions with your webcam (put an orange sticker with a smiley face drawn on it right next to it to remind yourself to look at the webcam and to smile!) and review your responses.
Here are some common questions to try:
- “Tell us about yourself.”
- “Why do you want to attend our program?”
- “Describe one of your favorite hobbies and why it is important to you?”
- “Tell us about yourself.”
During the time you have to prep your answer, it can be helpful to draw simple pictures on your notepad that symbolize what you want to say, rather than words. That can help guide you and are ‘stickier’ in your brain. Then put the notepad to the side, AND DO NOT LOOK AT IT while you respond. You need to look directly at the camera.
- Keep calm and crush this video
Get a glass of water. Remember to pause and catch your breath. Do a stretch. Listen to your cheesiest pump up song (Eye of the Tiger, anyone?) Whatever you need to do to get in the zone. Remember to take your time with your response, be yourself, and speak from the heart, and you’ll do great.
If you would like help with your video essay, Accepted’s experienced MBA admissions experts, who have been prepping and critiquing MBA applicants for almost twenty years, are more than happy to help you.
Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant. Want Michelle to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
Molly McCracken is a Career Advisor & Internship Facilitator at Western University, previously an admissions editor & higher ed consultant at Kira Talent, an education technology company that builds holistic admissions solutions in Toronto, Canada.