Analyzing the Applications: the Yale SOM Videotaped Questions

Recently, the Yale School of Management announced it would require all Class of 2016 applicants to participate in a type of video interview as part of the 2014 application process. The rationale, according to Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico, is that, “one-on-one interviews, while important, do not do the best job of gauging an applicant’s ability to think on his feet. Responses are polished, and one interviewer’s impressions may not be shared by everyone on the admissions team. Video responses can be compared with those of other applicants and reviewed by multiple team members. Since the questions are not known in advance, responses can’t be scripted.”

While being videotaped may initially make a few applicants anxious, I’d encourage you to rest easy. In fact, I think this could make the application process a little easier. To understand why, read on for more of this edition of or Analyzing the Applications series…

The real innovation of this approach, which will supplement the traditional interview process rather than replace it, is the ability to compare applicants more directly. DelMonico is exactly right in thinking that having only one interviewer judge an applicant is suboptimal to having multiple do so. It also means, as an applicant, that it’s less likely you will get dinged for simply not connecting personally with your interviewer, since you’ll likely connect with at least one of the people that watches your video.

But where I diverge from DelMonico — and why I think applicants should view this piece of the application as easier than an in-person interview — is when he says that one-on-one interviews “do not do the best job of gauging an applicant’s ability to think on his feet.” In fact, one-on-one interviews test exactly that, not only by forcing applicants to answer questions immediately after they are asked, but also by forcing them to string together a coherent story and speak in a conversational manner across an entire interview period. In contrast to that, the videotaped questions will allow applicants 10 to 20 seconds to compose an answer before the camera starts recording. If anything, this should make applicants’ responses more polished, not less as DelMonico says. And the questions themselves, which Bloomberg BusinessWeek says “will probably include a behavioral question asking about a past experience; a thought question asking the applicant to respond to a statement; and a data interpretation question,” are no different than questions you would be asked in an interview.

So, in preparing for Yale SOM’s application this year, relish the time you have to compose your answer. Practice having those 10 to 20 seconds when you are preparing for your videotaped question, and also make sure you dedicate separate time to practicing without those 10 or 20 seconds to prepare for one-on-one interviews.

We’ll be staying on top of all the application innovations this cycle, so stay tuned to our Analyzing the Applications series in the coming weeks and months….

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