Lights, Camera, Acceptance: Crafting Compelling Video/Kira Essays for MBA Admissions

By Arvind Kumar

In recent years, the MBA admissions process has evolved to incorporate various innovative elements, and one such element gaining prominence is the video essay.

While traditional written essays and standardized test scores remain significant factors in the application, many top-tier business schools have started asking applicants to submit video essays.

Video essays allow candidates to showcase their personality, communication skills, and suitability for the MBA program. 

In this article, we will delve into the why and how of video essays for MBA admissions, examining their significance, the qualities admissions committees seek, and tips for acing video essays at some of the top business schools.

We’ve also compiled the list of video essay questions for B-schools that include this component in their application process: Northwestern Kellogg, INSEAD, Rotman, Yale SOM, MIT Sloan, Oxford Saïd, IESE and IE.

Why Business Schools Ask for a Video Essay

Business schools request video essays as part of the MBA admissions process for various reasons. These video essays offer a unique opportunity to assess applicants beyond traditional written materials. 

Here’s a list of 10 key qualities that business schools are looking for in applicants and how different aspects of the video essay can help assess these qualities:

Communication Skills

  • Quality Demonstrated: Clarity of Expression
  • Video Essay Component: The ability to articulate thoughts coherently and persuasively in the video.

Authenticity

  • Quality Demonstrated: Genuine Self-Presentation
  • Video Essay Component: Authenticity is revealed through unscripted, spontaneous responses that show the real personality of the applicant.

Confidence and Poise

  • Quality Demonstrated: Ability to Handle Pressure
  • Video Essay Component: Maintaining confidence and composure while responding to unexpected questions or prompts.

Engagement

  • Quality Demonstrated: Ability to Capture Attention
  • Video Essay Component: Keeping the viewer engaged by using storytelling techniques and compelling anecdotes.

Cultural Fit

  • Quality Demonstrated: Alignment with School Values
  • Video Essay Component: Demonstrating enthusiasm for the school and its culture through genuine expressions of interest.

Problem-Solving Skills

  • Quality Demonstrated: Analytical Thinking
  • Video Essay Component: Responding effectively to complex or challenging questions, showcasing problem-solving abilities.

Leadership Potential

  • Quality Demonstrated: Presence and Influence
  • Video Essay Component: Portraying oneself as a confident and impactful leader who inspires and motivates others.

Teamwork and Collaboration

  • Quality Demonstrated: Ability to Work Well with Others
  • Video Essay Component: Sharing experiences highlighting teamwork, cooperation, and the ability to collaborate effectively.

Adaptability

  • Quality Demonstrated: Flexibility and Resilience
  • Video Essay Component: Adapting to unexpected prompts and situations, demonstrating the ability to think on one’s feet.

Passion and Drive

  • Quality Demonstrated: Enthusiasm and Commitment
  • Video Essay Component: Conveying genuine passion for one’s goals and showcasing the drive to make a meaningful impact.

These qualities are essential for success in an MBA program and in the business world. The video essay serves as a valuable tool for admissions committees to assess these qualities in applicants, allowing them to make more informed decisions about who would thrive in their academic environment and contribute positively to their MBA community. 

As an applicant, you should use the video essay as an opportunity to showcase your unique strengths and qualities that set you apart from the competition.

What do MBA video essays entail

MBA video essays involve candidates responding to prompts from the admissions committee through self-recorded videos instead of relying on written responses.

This component has been introduced as an additional element in the application process for select business schools, without replacing traditional written MBA admission essays or the final admission interview.

It’s worth highlighting that due to the relatively recent incorporation of this concept into the MBA application process, different business schools may use varying terminology.

For instance, Kellogg Business School may label it as a video essay, while INSEAD may term it a Video Interview, and MIT may refer to it as a Video Statement. Despite the nomenclature differences, they all essentially entail the same process, with the only potential variation being the video essay’s format.

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Types of video essays

There are generally two types of video essays asked in MBA admissions: Live/Impromptu and Pre-recorded. Each type serves a unique purpose and presents its own set of challenges and advantages.

Live/Impromptu Video Essays

Live or impromptu video essays require MBA applicants to respond to questions or prompts in real time.

Candidates are typically given a limited amount of time to prepare their thoughts, often ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Once the preparation time is up, they must begin recording their response immediately. 

This format aims to assess an applicant’s ability to think on their feet, communicate clearly, and maintain composure under pressure. Admissions committees use live video essays to gauge an individual’s spontaneity, poise, and how effectively they can address unexpected topics or situations.

Pre-recorded Video Essays

Pre-recorded video essays, on the other hand, allow MBA applicants more control over the timing of their responses.

In this format, candidates receive a set of questions or prompts in advance and are allotted a specific amount of time to record their answers. This time frame typically ranges from a few hours to several days, depending on the business school’s requirements. 

Pre-recorded video essays allow applicants to carefully craft and rehearse their responses, emphasizing their communication skills, creativity, and thoughtfulness in addressing the given prompts. This format allows for a more polished presentation but still evaluates an applicant’s ability to convey their ideas effectively through video.

Which business schools ask to submit a video essay?

Northwestern Kellogg

Applicants are required to complete three video essay questions as part of their application.

These questions provide a valuable opportunity for candidates to showcase their personality, communication skills, and alignment with Kellogg’s values. The video essays are due 96 hours after the application deadline, so plan your application timeline accordingly. 

Remember that you have a 20-second preparation period and up to one minute to respond. Use the prep time wisely to outline your answer mentally, and then deliver a clear and concise response within the allotted minute.

Let’s delve into each of the three video essay questions:

Question 1: Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.

The introduction sets the tone for your application.

Be concise, authentic, and memorable. Start with a brief overview of your background, highlighting key experiences that have shaped your journey.

Mention your name, current profession, and what drives your passion for pursuing an MBA at Kellogg. Use this opportunity to provide a glimpse of your unique personality and values.

Question 2: What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?

Tip: This question demands a strategic approach.

Clearly articulate your career goals, emphasizing both short-term and long-term objectives.

Explain why Kellogg is your ideal platform for achieving these goals. Mention specific resources, courses, or aspects of the Kellogg program that align with your aspirations.

Your response should reflect a deep understanding of Kellogg’s offerings and a strong connection between your goals and the school’s unique advantages.

Question 3: This question will be based on a challenge you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from it.

Tip: Use this question to highlight your resilience and growth. Choose a challenge, either personal or professional, that showcases your ability to overcome adversity and learn from the experience.

Describe the challenge briefly, focusing more on the lessons learned and how it has influenced your character and decision-making.

Conclude by explaining how these lessons will contribute to your success as an MBA candidate at Kellogg.

Compilation of Kellogg Video Essay questions (2023) 

  1. Introduce yourself outside of your CV.
  2. Tell us something about yourself that we won’t know from your resume
  3. There are many MBA schools. What’s so unique about Kellogg?
  4. How long have you been considering an MBA and what have you learned about your goals in this time?
  5. Whose leadership style do you admire the most and you wish to adopt?
  6. Tell us about a time you were uncomfortable. How did you feel?
  7. What is one misconception coworkers have about you and how do you plan to change that?
  8. Tell us about the best piece of advice you have received, how you utilized it and how it impacted you?
  9. Tell us about a time you received harsh feedback. What was your reaction and how did you proceed to act on it?
  10. Tell us about one time when you received feedback that changed your perspective about something
  11. Tell us about  time you received feedback that you didn’t agree with
  12. Tell us about a time when you helped improved a process in your company, organization or community
  13. When and how did you resolve a conflict?
  14. Tell us about a time when you faced unforeseen or unexpected challenges
  15. Tell us about a time you failed and used an unconventional approach the next time. What happened?
  16. Tell us about a time when a conflict affected the productivity of the team? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it?
  17. Tell us about a time where an unexpected situation arose? Why did it arise? What did you do to pivot and why?
  18. Tell us about a time where you used a unique or creative way to solve a problem. What did you do and what was the outcome?
  19. What is one value or quality that you bring to the Kellogg community and how will it help others?
  20. Tell us about an experience outside school and outside office that motivated you to pursue a postgraduate education?
  21. Tell us about a time you leveraged a professional relationship to achieve your goals
  22. Tell us how you created an environment where differences and diverse ideas are respected. What was the outcome?
  23. Tell us about a time you added value in a professional capacity 
  24. Tell us about a time when you had to ask for help. What did you learn?

Note: Please consider this list indicative and not exhaustive

INSEAD

After you’ve successfully submitted your INSEAD MBA online application, an email notification from Kira Talent will swiftly arrive in your inbox, containing a unique link for you to embark on four video interviews. 

These interviews entail answering four distinct questions, and it’s essential to note that the questions presented to you may differ from those posed to other applicants. You’ll have a brief 45 seconds to prepare for each question and a minute to articulate your response.

These video interviews present a distinct opportunity for you to unveil your passions, motivations, and your true essence. The MBA Admissions Committee seeks an authentic portrayal of you as an individual, eager to witness your ability to think on your feet and effectively communicate your thoughts.

It’s important to emphasize that these video interviews do not replace face-to-face/online interviews with Alumni, which will still be a part of the assessment process. The video essay has to be submitted within 48 hours after the deadline of the Round in which you apply to INSEAD.

Tips for INSEAD Video Essay

  • To ensure a seamless experience, INSEAD recommends using either Microsoft Edge or Chrome for recording your Kira videos. Preparing extensively by practicing is encouraged, as it allows you to convey authentic and genuine responses, even though the practice questions and your responses won’t be disclosed to the Admissions Committee.
  • Before you begin recording, conduct a brief technology check by testing your camera and microphone. Once satisfied with the technical aspects, shift your focus to the camera, envisioning that you are addressing the Admissions Committee directly.
  • Wear Business or Business Casual Attire.
  • Lastly, consider keeping a notebook handy during the interviews to jot down key ideas. Remember, you’ll have just 45 seconds to prepare for each answer, followed by 60 seconds to deliver your response to the Admissions Committee.

Compilation of INSEAD MBA Video Essay questions (2023) 

  1. What keeps you engaged and motivated at work?
  2. How will INSEAD help you achieve your professional objectives?
  3. Describe a time when you saw someone else doing something differently. How did you react?
  4. Describe a time when you received negative feedback. How did you feel?
  5. Do you consider yourself to be creative?
  6. What do you think is the biggest challenge in leading a global team?
  7. If you look back 10 years into your life, what would success mean to you?
  8. Who or what inspires you the most?
  9. What is the leadership quality you admire? Why?
  10. How do you handle frustration at work and give constructive criticism?
  11. How can INSEAD help you to contribute to the community?
  12. What skills do you think you are missing that you want to work on while at INSEAD?
  13. Tell us about something that your family or company borrowed from someone else, its advantages and its disadvantages
  14. Why should we select you?
  15. Tell us about the most pressing climate concern today and how you will tackle it?
  16. How do you handle frustration at work? How do you openly communicate to resolve the frustration?
  17. Are you aware of your biases? How does that affect your thoughts?
  18. If you were given unlimited resources, which product or services would you offer to community and why?
  19. What are your guiding principles or involvement in Coporate and Social Responsibility
  20. How is diversity handled at your organization?
  21. Tell us about a new app that was released in the past 3 and has resonated with you.
  22. What do you think are the qualities of a good friend.
  23. How do you generate ideas
  24. What would you do if a new boss was acting in a surprising or offensive way to the local culture
  25. A teammate of yours is shy of speaking out. How would you help them?
  26. Most challenging decision you have taken?
  27. Has your family or company adopted anything from other culture? What impact (positive or negative) it has had on you?
  28. If you won 10 billion dollars, what would you do?
  29. What is the most difficult aspect of working with you?
  30. What do you think people often misunderstand about you?

Note: Please consider this list indicative and not exhaustive

Applying to INSEAD? Learn from Adhiraj’s successful journey to the INSEAD MBA with scholarships

Rotman School of Management

Once you’ve submitted your application, expect an email from Kira Talent, a designated service provider. Within this email, you will discover a link granting access to the video essay platform, a crucial component of Rotman’s application process, which comprises two video questions.

Upon accessing the platform and initiating the session, you will be presented with a total of two spoken questions, delivered sequentially, one after the other.

Once you receive the question, you will be granted a 30-second window for contemplation, followed by a 90-second timeframe for your response. It’s essential to note that there are no opportunities for revisiting or reattempting the question; you have just one opportunity to express your thoughts and provide your answer.

Regardless of when you initially submit your application, remember that the clock starts ticking once you access the video essay platform. You must submit your video essay response within two weeks of submitting your application to complete this vital step in the Rotman admissions process.

Yale SOM

Once you’ve successfully submitted your application, expect an email notification from Kira Talent, the designated company for Yale’s video essay component. Inside this email, you’ll find a link that grants access to the video essay platform.

Upon logging in and commencing the session, you’ll encounter a total of three Yale video essay questions, presented one at a time. These questions are randomly generated but fall into distinct categories, each with its own focus.

The Yale video essay questions are thoughtfully categorized into three groups:

  1. MBA Motivations (Group 1): The initial question in the Yale SOM video essay will center on your motivations, specifically regarding your interest in Yale or the rationale behind pursuing an MBA.
  2. Behavioral Questions (Group 2): Yale values individuals who embody purpose-driven adaptability, teamwork, and strong communication skills. Therefore, they often pose questions aimed at assessing your ability to collaborate effectively and your potential to contribute positively to the Yale community.
  3. The Thinking Question (Group 3): In addition to traditional interview queries, you will be tasked with responding to a “thinking question,” akin to a case study, during the Yale video essay. This question serves to evaluate your ability to think on your feet, a crucial aspect tested in Yale’s raw case method.

As you approach these questions, keep in mind that for the first and third, you’ll have 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to provide your response. However, for the second question, you’ll be granted 30 seconds of preparation time and 90 seconds to articulate your answer.

Regardless of when you submit your initial application, remember that it’s imperative to complete and submit your responses to the Yale video essay questions within a maximum of 48 hours following the round’s application deadline. This ensures your application remains complete and on schedule.

Compilation of Yale SOM Video Essay questions (2023) 

  1. Why are you doing an MBA now?
  2. What motivates you to get an MBA at this point?
  3. Tell us about a time when a team member was not doing his share of work and how you handled it
  4. Tell us about a time you or your team fixed a critical problem at work
  5. Tell us about a problem that you solved by breaking down into its pieces
  6. Tell us about a time when there was a potential problem at work and how did you prevent it?
  7.  Mention a vague problem that was given to you and how did you solve it?
  8. Tell us about a teacher who has impacted you in life?
  9.  Yale School of Drama has produced many world renowned artists (e.g. Meryl Streep). Which artist do you admire most and why?
  10. Which type of art holds significance to you among the various arts across Yale Center for European arts, Yale Center for Natural arts and Yale Center for British arts?
  11. New Haven has great architectural significance (something along these lines). What piece of architecture has the greatest significance to you in your hometown or region? Why? 
  12. What is a tradition you hold dear to yourself?

Note: Please consider this list indicative and not exhaustive

MIT Sloan

Question: “Please take a minute to introduce yourself to your future classmates.”

This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and make a personal connection. Unveil your true self, let your personality sparkle, and have a genuine conversation – this is your moment to shine.

Keep the following criteria in mind when creating your videos for MIT:

  • Keep it under 60 seconds, no more!
  • Record it all in a single take, no editing allowed.
  • Speak directly into the camera.
  • Avoid adding background music or subtitles to your video.

Oxford Saïd

In order to learn more about applicants and assess their ability to think quickly, Oxford Saïd’s MBA application process includes an online assessment.

Once the MBA application is submitted, you will find a link in the application status portal. This link allows you to register with Kira Talent, the online assessment platform, and complete the assessment. The assessment can be done anytime before the application deadline for the desired stage, for instance, Round 1 applicants must complete the assessment by the Round 1 deadline.

The online assessment consists of three parts:

  • Two motivation-based questions that all candidates must answer. These questions aim to let you explain your reasons for pursuing an MBA and why you believe the Oxford MBA is the best fit for you. Each applicant receives the same two questions.

Example: “Why do you think pursuing an MBA is the next step in your career?”

  • One competency-based question chosen randomly from a pool of available questions. This question allows you to demonstrate skills and qualities such as decision-making, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, influencing, change management, and communication.

Example: “Could you share an experience where you successfully handled a challenging situation, either in your professional or personal life? How did you approach resolving it?”

  • A written response (essay), which will be randomized and light-hearted to display how you can think on your feet and write.

Example: “What was your favorite book as a child and why?”

For each motivation-based question, you have 60 seconds to prepare and 90 seconds to respond. For each competency-based question, there is 45 seconds of preparation time followed by 60 seconds to provide an answer.

It’s important to note that there are no opportunities to redo the questions, and you have only one chance to respond and share your answers during the assessment. The entire online assessment should take about 30 minutes to complete, so plan accordingly.

Compilation of Oxford Saïd MBA Video Essay questions (2023) 

  1. Since how long have you wanted to do your MBA? Why now is the right time and what skills do you hope to gain?
  2. Students apply to many programmes and B schools. According to you, what makes Oxford unique?
  3. Tell us about a time you were overloaded with work, how did you handle it?
  4. Tell us about a time you asked for help and how did it go?
  5. Tell us about a time you led a diverse team, what specific skill did you use and why?
  6. Tell us a time when you had an idea and had to convince your project team.
  7. What is the most significant personal weakness that you have identified, what did you do about it and what was the result?
  8. Imagine you are proposing a business innovation idea for a class project and the audience is not interested. What would you do?
  9. How would you convince a team about your idea if you were sure of its positive outcome?
  10. How do you describe the color red to someone who can only see in black and white? 
  11. Do you prefer cats or dogs? Explain why.

Note: Please consider this list indicative and not exhaustive

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IESE Business School

IESE Business School has introduced Video Essays as part of the application process this year, replacing the previous personal essay requirement.

The purpose of this change is to gain a deeper and more authentic understanding of applicants. It allows the Admissions Committee to get insights into the thought process and communication style of each candidate.

After submitting the written application and paying the required fees, you will receive a Kira Video Essay link within 24 hours, to be completed by the Application Round Deadline. This link will expire 48 hours after receipt. You will receive detailed instructions along with the link. Upon clicking the link, you can create a Kira account and practice before recording your video essay.

Each applicant will need to respond to two video essay questions. For each question, there will be a preparation time before recording the response.

Applicants are encouraged to be concise, as they have a limited time of 1.5 minutes to provide each answer. The Admissions Committee values authenticity and is interested in getting to know the real applicant, rather than hearing what they think the committee wants to hear.

It’s important to note that the application will be considered complete and ready for review only after all components, including the video essays, have been submitted.

Compilation of IESE MBA Video Essay questions (2023) 

  1. How do we pronounce your name?
  2. Tell us something about you not in your resume.
  3. Tell us something that’s unique about you – traits and attributes uniquely you.
  4. What is the one feedback you received that you didn’t agree with? How did you react and what was the outcome?
  5. Every team has a certain archetype: architect, analyst etc. Which archetype are you when you play in a team? And why?
  6.  Tell us one thing you like and one thing you don’t like about your current job.
  7. Give a background of yourself and what abilities you can bring to the IESE MBA.
  8. When was the last time you were creative.

Note: Please consider this list indicative and not exhaustive

Check out our interview with IESE MBA Adcom including insights on the application process, interviews, careers and more here

IE Business School

This year, IE Business School has introduced a video essay to get to know you better. The online assessment is quick and won’t take more than 30 minutes.

IE Business School has added this to its admissions process because they believe in innovation. This part of the process helps them understand your personality and how you respond in real time. 

You’ll need a computer with an internet connection, a microphone, and a webcam. You’ll answer three live questions – two in video format and one in writing. You can practice several times, but remember, once you officially start the assessment, you only have one chance to respond. You have one week from when you submitted your online admissions application to complete this online assessment.

Creating Video/ Kira Essays for MBA Admissions: Tips for Pre-Recorded and Impromptu Versions

Video essays have become a vital component of the MBA admissions process, offering applicants a unique platform to showcase their personality and communication skills. Whether it’s a pre-recorded or impromptu video essay, here are ten tips to help you excel in this aspect of your application:

Understand the Purpose

  • Pre-Recorded: Pre-recorded video essays often have prompts that allow for structured responses. Understand the specific question and ensure your video essay directly addresses it.
  • Impromptu: In impromptu video essays, you may not know the questions in advance. Focus on providing insightful, concise answers to the given prompts.

Be Concise

  • Pre-Recorded: Use your allotted time efficiently. Be concise in your response while ensuring you provide a complete and well-structured answer.
  • Impromptu: Stay on point and avoid rambling. Use the given preparation time to outline your response and make your points concisely during the recording.

Prepare Thoroughly

  • Pre-Recorded: Take time to brainstorm ideas, outline your response, and rehearse multiple times. Ensure your message is clear and compelling.
  • Impromptu: Since you may have limited time to prepare, practice answering diverse types of questions to build your ability to think on your feet. Doing Mock Interviews can particularly help.

Showcase Your Personality

  • Pre-Recorded: Your video should provide a glimpse of your character and values. Let your authenticity shine through by being yourself.
  • Impromptu: Be genuine in your responses. Authenticity is highly valued in impromptu video essays.

Maintain Eye Contact

  • Pre-Recorded: Look directly into the camera to establish a connection with the viewer. This creates a sense of engagement and sincerity.
  • Impromptu: Even when you don’t know the questions in advance, maintain eye contact with the camera during your responses to appear confident and composed.

Have a Strong Opening and Closing

  • Pre-Recorded: Begin with a compelling introduction and end with a memorable conclusion that reinforces your main points.
  • Impromptu: Use the initial seconds to frame your response and conclude succinctly by summarizing your key message.

Eliminate Distractions

  • Pre-Recorded: Choose a quiet, well-lit location with minimal distractions for your recording. Ensure your background is professional.
  • Impromptu: Find a quiet spot where you can focus solely on your response without interruptions.

Manage your Time Well

  • Pre-Recorded: Allocate sufficient time for recording, reviewing, and editing if necessary. Avoid rushing the process.
  • Impromptu: Manage your time wisely during preparation and response. Stick to the given time limits.

Rehearse Video Recording Technology

  • Pre-Recorded: Familiarize yourself with the recording equipment and software. Ensure your audio and video quality are top-notch.
  • Impromptu: Check your internet connection, camera, and microphone in advance to avoid technical glitches.

Seek Feedback

  • Pre-Recorded: Share your video with mentors, advisors or trusted friends to gather constructive feedback and make improvements.
  • Impromptu: After practicing impromptu responses, seek feedback on your communication skills and clarity.

In both pre-recorded and impromptu video essays, the key is effectively communicating your message while showcasing your suitability for the MBA program. With preparation, practice, and attention to these tips, you can create impressive video essays that enhance your MBA application.

Final Thoughts

In an increasingly competitive MBA admissions landscape, video essays offer you a chance to stand out and convey your unique value to the business school of your choice.

Use this opportunity to not only address the questions asked but also to paint a vivid picture of your aspirations, experiences, and character. It’s a tool that, when used effectively, can elevate your application and set you on the path to success in your MBA journey. So, embrace the challenge, be yourself, and make your video essay a compelling testament to your candidacy.

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