MPA Application Tips: The Video Interview

MPA Application Tips: The Video Interview-image

Tom O’Toole, Executive Director of the Master of Public Administration, describes a unique part of the MPA application process: the video interview.

The MPA video “interview” is a unique aspect of the application. You might ask yourself what the MPA program could learn about you from the video interview that we can’t learn from the application, transcripts, resume/CV, two essays, and letters of recommendation.

But the fact is that we find the video interview offers a different and valuable perspective on you as an applicant. Here are some tips on what we are looking for in video interviews:

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Can you think on your feet?  

The field of public affairs/administration/policy is one that requires practitioners to respond in a professional, reasoned way to dynamic challenges and conflicts. Whereas the essay attempts to capture the applicant’s writing skills, the video “interview” attempts to capture the candidate’s ability to frame and present an extemporaneous set of responses. This is not meant to be a professional filmmaking exercise, so applicants should avoid using titles, graphics, or sound effects in their responses.

While many applicants think these effects will impress the admissions committee, they can actually diminish the extemporaneous quality of the interview and may be distracting from the content of their response.

Are you taking this seriously?  

Like any job interview, how a candidate presents themselves in the video “interview” conveys a great deal about their character and how seriously they are taking the commitment to pursue graduate studies. Poise, professional attire, and body language all convey important aspects of the applicant’s professional maturity.

No studying required?

A major source of anxiety for applicants approaching the video “interview” relates to the content of the questions. The questions are not difficult, and they don’t require any special knowledge, skills, or abilities to respond. The questions are, however, designed to assess the applicant’s clarity of purpose in pursuing graduate studies in public affairs.

To the extent that applicants can “prepare,” they should think carefully about why they want to pursue a career in public service, the obligations public servants assume upon entering the field, and the leadership qualities they see in effective public affairs leaders.

Practice makes perfect!

The best way for an applicant to prepare for the video “interview” is to use a webcam (or other video recording device) to record their responses to the following questions (these are not the actual questions from the video “interview” but will put the applicant in the right frame of mind): 1) Why am I pursuing an MPA?  2) Why is the Cornell Brooks School MPA ideal for my interests and professional objectives, 3) What qualities do I feel make me a strong leader?

After finishing their recording, the applicant should review their responses with someone who can offer objective feedback (a faculty member the applicant is close with is ideal, since they have most likely served on an admissions committee at some point in their careers).

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