Video in MBA Admissions: A Case Study from the Rotman School of Management
Video provides tremendous value in the admissions process, yielding more reliable and authentic insights into the traits, skills, and experience of each candidate.
Part I of a multi-part series on the benefits of incorporating video in the admissions process.
When I joined the Rotman School of Management in 2012, we were about to embark on an aggressive growth trajectory moving from a full-time MBA intake of 265 to a current intake of 350. We knew that to achieve our desired results we would have to operate differently—to be more innovative and efficient with our time—so all of our activities were ‘on the table’ for potential improvement.
One of the first exercises the admissions team engaged in was a comprehensive review of our admissions process. We wanted to examine each component to clarify whether we were getting what we each hoped would tell us about a candidate. Then we sought to align what we were seeing in actual applications. The most obvious area for improvement for us was the essay. We wanted essays to showcase what makes a candidate unique, not only their ambitions but personalities, character traits, interests, and hobbies. It appeared, however, that the influence of admissions resources (coaching and consulting preparation) was impacting the authentic view of the candidate we wanted to see, and the essays that we hoped would differentiate candidates were all starting to sound alike.
In what later proved to be a lucky coincidence, one of our faculty members connected me to a group of graduates from The Next 36, an entrepreneurial leadership program in Toronto that had developed a new video interview tool. They were hungry for an academic client. After learning more about the product, it seemed like the perfect tool to introduce into our admissions process, to help re-introduce the element of authenticity and highly personal insight into candidates that we had lost in essays.
I then built a case around improved efficiency (video would act as a screening tool prior to interviews) and process innovation, pitched the idea to the managing director of our program, and got the green light. We were now the pioneers—the first MBA program to introduce video to the admissions process, requiring candidates to respond to two randomly selected questions. Being the first to introduce something puts you in the innovator category, and before we launched we discussed this label to ensure that the admissions office was properly reflecting the Rotman brand.
Above: The Rotman video interview user interface
The benefits of video: Much more value than we expected
After a few months of use, we were pleasantly surprised that the video provided so much more value than we expected. Yes, we captured more reliable and authentic insights into the traits, skills, and experience of each candidate, but we also learned a lot about the values and beliefs of our applicants based on the stories they told. Video became another required admissions component that was consistent in all applications (the GMAT® exam was the only other apples-to-apples comparative criteria we had).
We also benefitted by a new ability to assess presence, communication style, and the ability to “think on your feet”–all valuable soft skills and reflective of what our expectations were in the program. Efficiency was another benefit of adding video, as we were able to reduce hours spent interviewing candidates who had little chance of success in the program (important, as we were embarking on a growth plan and needed to scale up admissions with limited staffing increases). Video allowed us to virtually assess candidates in committee, which mitigated potential biases and the risk of having only one opinion on a candidate, as we all virtually “met” our applicants. The next step on our video journey will be to do the analysis to determine whether or not videos have any predictive value for either success in the Program or career outcomes—stay tuned!
Navigating vendor partnerships
Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time fielding questions from schools about how to implement video. I have a number of insights to share based on our experience. First, the approach that has worked for us was to think of our vendor, Kira Talent, as a partner in our business of talent acquisition/assessment. They are not simply providing the system we use but have also become a sounding board and resource as we continue to update our approach to meet our needs.
Beyond this, I have identified three key criteria that contributed to the success of our video-vendor relationship. Make sure your vendor:
- Understands your process and is willing to work within your system/approach
- The vendor needs to spend some time scoping out the technical architecture and CRM/application requirements and be open to inserting the video technology without disrupting your existing process. The video is a component of our application, and we did not want candidates to feel as if it took away from the overall experience.
- The team at Kira specifically has been forward thinking in mapping out our application deadline dates, to ensure the system can handle the volume spikes without any service disruption. The last thing we want stressed-out applicants to experience is a system crash during the final minutes, as they are working to hit a deadline.
- Is committed to ongoing product improvements
- Assess the culture before engaging in a contract with a vendor to ensure there is an explicit goal to innovate and make continuous improvements to the product. After all, this is technology and the opportunity to make it better, or faster, or more user friendly is imperative.
- Align with a vendor that has a vision that fits within your overall admissions vision. The connection for Rotman and Kira around innovation was a natural fit and we work to make each other better at what we do.
- Demonstrates exceptional candidate support
- A firm that understands the stress and can help reduce anxiety for applicants though the process (tips/hints) along with offering strong user support, will ensure that adding video to the process becomes a fun new challenge instead of a stressful technical experience.
- Ultimately, the user experience with the video vendor reflects your brand and process. We have been thrilled with Kira and are proud to call them a partner in our process.
About the Author
Niki da Silva is director, Recruitment & Admissions, Full-Time MBA, Rotman School of Management.