The Waterloo School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) is redefining education to shape the future of business. With a world-class faculty, a wealth of experiential learning opportunities for students, and a 96% post-graduation employment rate, Waterloo SAF attracts many hopeful applicants each year. The challenge for their admissions team is how to identify which candidates will be most successful in the program.
“We've spent several years fine-tuning how we find and enroll the best applicants to our program,” shared Admissions Committee member Catherine Kwiecien. “Long ago, we recognized that grades are not the only factor and we sought out ways to assess our applicants more holistically.”
“Our first step was to include an in-person written assessment,” she continued. “However, the logistics around that day just became a little too overwhelming. We would have over well 2,000 visitors on campus, including the applicants themselves, as well as family members and moral supporters.”
“We saw value in assessing applicants’ written communication skills through candid responses rather than a traditional essay, but there was a significant financial and time cost on that day.”
“We started looking for another way of doing things," Kwiecien explained. "That's where Kira Talent came in.”
Making bias mitigation more accessible
“It’s very important to us that we make our admissions process as equitable and robust as we can,” shared Kwiecien. “Bias mitigation is a critical component to achieving that goal.”
"We hosted workshops for our staff and faculty volunteers to make everyone aware of the implications of bias and give them some guidance on best practices to reduce its influence on the evaluations," she shared. "However admissions bias is not our expertise. We felt that we could be doing more, if only we had the right tools.”
“With Kira, we’re confident that we're making the process as fair, as equitable, and as robust as we possibly can be.”
Breaking down bias in admissions
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Providing an exceptional admissions experience with fewer resources
“With Kira, we were able to take our original admissions process — which was costly and fairly labour-intensive — and recreate it, gathering the same valuable applicant insights but reducing the resources needed to deliver an exceptional applicant experience,” Kwiecien shared.
“We’re enrolling students who are better communicators and stronger problem solvers because we’re able to assess them on that within the admissions process.”
“We evaluate applicants using a combination of video and written responses in an Asynchronous Assessment with Kira," shared Kwiecien. "Once they’ve completed their assessment, we have two reviewers individually score each applicant. If there's a discrepancy between those two scores, we engage a third reviewer.”
“This scoring structure means that we're not just relying on one reviewer’s perspective on an applicant, which is one of the most effective methods of mitigating bias,” she explained. “However, like most programs of our size, we didn’t have the resources in-house to conduct reviews on that scale."
"We use Kira’s Reviewer Services to help us facilitate the equitable review we strive for but completed on a much shorter timeline than we would ever be able to achieve with our internal resources,” Kwiecien shared.
Reinvesting time saved to nurture top applicants
“With the time we save by having Reviewer Services supporting our process, our team is able to spend more time reaching out to prospective students.”
“When we make an admissions offer, we have the resources to create touchpoints with the applicants, strengthening that connection and helping them picture themselves as a UW student," Kwiecien explained. "We know that the sooner we can get that image in their minds, the more successful we are at enrolling them.”
“Working with Kira has amplified our admissions process and it certainly makes my job a lot easier,” she added. “The faculty members who are involved have been impressed with the platform, the integrity of the assessment, and what the process is achieving for our program both in terms of the students in classrooms and the graduates we’re putting in front of our co-op employers.”
The NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) offers a wide variety of professional master's degree and undergraduate degree programs. From marketing and real estate to hospitality and sports management, the school’s mission is to give students the skills they need to build a successful career.
In order to do that, NYU SPS needed a way to assess critical traits and skills during the admissions process that weren’t discernible through their written application. But with thousands of applicants each cycle, the admissions team didn’t have the capacity to conduct interviews for all of their applicants.
Then in 2021, they found a solution with Reviewer Services in Kira Talent.
Scaling holistic review with Review Services
“Academics are a strong predictor of success, but they can’t tell you everything,” the Associate Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Success at NYU SPS, Larry Fillian, shared. “We needed a holistic review in order to evaluate key success factors such as communication skills and program fit.”
“Kira’s Asynchronous Assessment and Reviewer Services allow us to do that by giving us the bandwidth to interview every applicant without overwhelming our staff and faculty,” he explained. “Candidates submit their application through Slate. We collect resumes, essays, transcripts, and recommendation letters. If an applicant hasn’t previously attended an institution where the language of instruction was English, we also require them to submit a TOEFL®.”
“The Kira assessment has fit seamlessly into this existing admissions process,” Fillian continued. “Applicants who have submitted their application through Slate receive an email invitation to complete an on-demand video assessment in Kira. Once completed, the assessment gets reviewed by Kira’s team of raters who are trained on our rubrics and then we receive the scores.”
“Prior to Kira, if an applicant didn’t meet the TOEFL benchmark we had them complete the Pearson VEPT assessment,” Fillian added. “Kira has eliminated that step because reviewers are able to do a secondary evaluation of English language proficiency within the video assessment.”
“We chose to have each of our applicants be evaluated by two reviewers and set a two to four-week time frame to receive the applicant results from Kira’s Reviewer Services team,” Fillian shared.
“We had over 3,000 applicants complete a Kira assessment, and each review was delivered on time.”
Expanding a successful process to more programs
“With Kira, we’re making stronger and faster admission decisions because we have more data,” explained Fillian. “We’re getting a more holistic review of applicants and are gathering stronger data points that help us to better identify program fit.”
“We received record applications this year, with a 30% increase in domestic applicants and a 12% increase in international applicants,” he continued.
“Even with all those extra candidates, we’ve managed to reduce our decision timeframe and get offers out to applicants faster. As a result, we’re seeing record enrollment.”
“We started with a pilot of the Kira process for our human resources and master’s programs,” Fillian explained. “That applicant volume gave us the opportunity to evaluate and tweak our process with Kira before expanding it across all the programs at the School of Professional Studies.”
“For the 2023 cycle, we’re expanding Kira to all of our programs,” he shared. “We’ll be reviewing just over 10,000 applicants across all of our programs using a standard set of questions and assessments. Even scaling to all our programs, our goal of making more informed decisions and getting offers out to applicants faster will remain the same.”
“We’re now also going to use Kira’s Reviewer Services to read and evaluate our admissions essays,” Fillian added. “We estimate that this cycle Review Services will save us 3,000 hours of work.”
“Kira worked with us to ensure that their reviewers were aligned with our rubrics and scoring standards while putting protocols in place to ensure rater reliability,” Fillian added.
“This allows us to make confident and informed admissions decisions and re-invest those time-savings into our recruitment efforts.”
“We know that building stronger relationships with applications throughout the process leads to better yield,” he continued. “So that’s where we want to focus our time and energy.”
Creating an engaging applicant experience
“Our faculty are really enjoying the process with Kira because they get a more comprehensive look into the incoming cohort which helps them better prepare to receive these students in the classroom,” Fillian shared. “Likewise, the applicants really enjoy Kira because they feel they’re able to show off more of themselves, as opposed to in a more traditional process.”
“We had a 96% applicant approval rating of the Kira experience.”
“A lot of programs are using Kira for their admissions processes, so there’s a word out there amongst prospective applicants that it's a positive experience rather than an intimidating one,” he added. “If our applicants had any questions or connection issues, the Kira team was on standby to help solve them, so our applicants felt taken care of. For this past cycle, Kira was able to solve 100% of applicant queries without our team needing to get involved.”
Setting up your admissions process for success
For the 2023 cycle, NYU School of Professional Studies is also incorporating Kira’s Advanced Insights tool into their admissions process, to study the correlation between AI personality assessment and student success.
“I’m a tech enthusiast,” Fillian shared. “I’m always interested in the latest in admissions technology. Advanced Insights will analyze applicants’ soft skills using their recorded Kira video responses.”
“We’re excited about experimenting with the tool, tracking our successful admits and their success rates in their program, and then of course, in good higher education tradition, analyze the data to death,” he added. “I’m hopeful that we’ll identify predictors of student success.”
“I believe that the more data you can gather in admissions, the better,” Fillian continued. “Especially in light of the supreme court’s decision on affirmative action, we need more holistic data review.”
“Having Kira in our admissions process is helping us achieve that,” he continued. “I often recommend the platform to other schools, telling them to follow our steps and start with a pilot. That way you can test it out, fine-tune the process with a smaller subset of applicants, and ultimately make a very informed decision when you expand across the rest of your programs. Plus, when those pilot programs are singing the praises of their new process, it will help the whole school get on board.”
An independent school for grades 6 through 12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Greenhills School is considered a newcomer in the local private education space. Founded in 1968, Greenhills doesn’t have the history of many of its neighbouring schools, but what it does have is a reputation for highly engaging and nurturing classroom dynamics.
“We pride ourselves on small classroom sizes which allows our faculty to really get to know our students,” shared Greenhills’ Director of Enrollment Management, Sylvester Cutler. “We see every child as one-of-kind and we really focus on identifying their individual talents and nurturing those to their full potential.”
“You can have great programming and state-of-the-art facilities, but at the end of the day the dynamic between the students and the teachers makes all the difference,” he continued. “We look at that relationship as being essential to the overall success of our school, so we make sure that we're putting the best educators in the classroom. Then we ensure that we're finding students who are going to be successful in that environment.”
For Greenhills School, Kira Talent plays a critical role in identifying those students from their growing pool of applicants.
Getting the most value from faculty time
“In 2021 we saw an acceleration of interest in our school,” shared Cutler. “My admissions colleagues are also teachers, so they spend 50% of their time in the classroom. That was fine when we had a lower volume of applicants, but when we reached 140 applicants for sixth grade alone, we were constantly scrambling to stay on top of our work.”
“Prior to Kira, we brought applicants to campus for both an in-person interview and proctored work sample with a member of our staff or faculty,” he explained. “Whoever was available to administer those assessments would take notes and write a summary to include in the respective applications. Each completed application was then reviewed by at least two faculty members.”
“Faculty were dedicating more than 20 hours each simply to review applications,” Cutler shared. “And even with that time commitment, they were only reviewing around 60 applicants, and actually meeting even fewer.”
“It wasn’t a good use of faculty time,” he continued. “We wanted to find a way to keep faculty involved in our admissions process but ensure that we were getting the most value out of their time.”
In 2022, Greenhills transitioned their admissions interview to a custom Kira Asynchronous Assessment, helping them streamline their reviewing process while aligning with their school values and admissions goals.
“With Kira, we’ve been able to reduce the time commitment for faculty by nearly 45% even while having them review every applicant.”
“On top of that, they feel they’re getting a better understanding of applicants’ personalities because they get to see each applicant first-hand,” Cutler continued.
“Kira’s competency-based structure has allowed us to divide the application review amongst the faculty, reducing the reviewing time to approximately five minutes per application and enabling each faculty member to see every applicant,” Cutler added. “ They’re able to easily work the review into their day because instead of having to block out large chunks of time to participate in the reviewing process, they’re able to take a few minutes between classes or during a free period to watch a two-minute video or read a short written response.”
“That’s saving each faculty member around 10 hours of work each admissions cycle.”
Nurturing applicants and their families for a higher yield
“We reinvest the time that Kira saves us in how we engage with our applicants and their families,” shared Cutler. “We’re very responsive to families and work to create a lot of touchpoints with them throughout the enrollment process.”
“There’s a common misconception that hosting interviews on campus is the only way to build connections with applicants and their families,” Cutler explained. “In reality, when we conducted in-person interviews we would have eight applicants and their families visiting that day. That meant there were eight work samples that needed to be proctored and eight interviews to be conducted. I had a team of four, two of whom were also teaching half of the day, so we really had very little time to engage the applicants and their families outside of the assessment rooms.”
“Delivering the assessment online with Kira means that when we have families come visit our campus, we’re able to spend that time solely on building relationships with them.”
“There’s a much better atmosphere on campus for our visit days,” Cutler explained. “Families are here to explore campus, get a sense of our school community, and get to know our staff and faculty. With Kira, those activities aren’t overshadowed by the stress of their assessment.”
“Likewise, our staff and faculty aren’t preoccupied with conducting assessments and are able to be present and engaged during the visits,” he continued. “As a result, we achieved a much higher conversion rate in completed applications this year.”
“In 2022, we increased our conversion rate by 28%, to reach an application completion rate of 84%.”
“A significant factor in achieving that conversion is the time we dedicate to connecting with families and guiding them through the process,” he added. "With Kira, we’ve been able to reinvest the time saved into an expanded touchpoint strategy. We now have the time to engage with families throughout their application process; checking in to see how they're doing, sending them information, and making sure that we’re proactively addressing any questions or concerns they may have.”
“These are touchpoints that we always wanted to have, but unless we worked 20 hours a day it just wasn't feasible.”
Building a bespoke assessment
Kira’s fully customizable assessment helped Greenhills School easily replicate the key components of their original assessment and interview while providing them with new opportunities to enhance the equity and effectiveness of the overall experience.
“The onboarding experience with Kira was really incredible,” Cutler shared. “We started by talking about our school mission and values, what makes Greenhills unique, and what traits and skills make for a successful Greenhills student. Kira then took everything we had shared and distilled those larger concepts and values into unique and creative questions for our applicants.”
“We decided to use a combination of timed video and timed written responses in Kira to recreate both our interview and work sample evaluation within one assessment experience,” Cutler explained.
“The platform gives us the flexibility to easily assess for different skills and competencies while maintaining a structure and consistency to the assessment across all applicants.”
Using Kira’s Horizontal Review, Greenhills assigns faculty members to review specific responses across all applicants.
“For example, we have math teachers scoring the quantitative math problems and English teachers evaluating the written communication responses for every applicant,” explained Cutler. “It allows us to be more accurate, fair, and consistent in how we evaluate applicants.”
Mitigating bias for fair admissions
“Kira also offers bias mitigation training as part of the onboarding process,” added Cutler. “It was a great exercise for our staff and faculty to go through, and gave them better insight into the benefits of our new process and why we chose to structure things in certain ways.”
“Prior to Kira, for example, I might have interviewed three different applicants during one campus visit,” he explained. “When I sat down to write my review at the end of the day, it could be difficult to remember all the details from the interview I had that morning.”
“Kira has eliminated that concern,” Cutler continued. “Reviewers are scoring applicants as they’re watching their responses, and they can replay the video as many times as they need to.”
“Having the recordings on demand also means that we’re not relying on one reviewer's summary of the conversation to make our admissions decisions,” shared Cutler. “If we’re discussing a particular applicant in the admissions committee meeting, we can just pull up their Kira assessment and watch their responses.”
“The admissions committee gets to hear from the applicants directly rather than seeing them through the filter of the person who interviewed them.”
“Kira has helped us structure our admissions process to align with our mission of identifying and nurturing what makes every student unique,” Cutler added. “From the start, we tell our applicants that the application process is an opportunity to show us their personality, and thanks to Kira we all get to see it.”
The ripple effect of a flexible assessment
“The feedback from our faculty has been overwhelmingly positive,” Cutler shared. “Within three weeks, even those who were initially hesitant came back and shared how much more they like the process with Kira.”
“Our success has even inspired our language department to rethink how they do the language placement, transitioning the oral assessment from in-person or Zoom to an Asynchronous Assessment in Kira,” he added.
“That kind of feedback is really the icing on the cake because it solidifies that Kira doesn’t just save us time, it’s making our overall admissions process more effective.”
“It's really a great tool,” Cutler continued. “I'm happy to talk to anyone that would be interested in hearing about our experiences because they've been so positive.”
Create the assessment you want easily with the new features and functionalities launched on the Kira platform this quarter. Whether you’re bringing everyone together with Forum Sessions, assessing applicant collaboration in Group Stations, or taking full control of your assessment with the Asynchronous Assessment Builder, Kira’s newest features are here to help you achieve your best admissions cycle yet.
Bring everyone together
With Forum Sessions, you can host meetings with up to 50 participants directly in the Kira platform.
Build the session right into your Live Interviewing schedule to create a seamless experience for reviewers and applicants. You can also create standalone sessions to meet with applicants before or after they complete an Asynchronous Assessment.
Keep the conversation flowing with features such as admin volume control, raising/lowering hands, and screen sharing, Forum Sessions in Kira Talent includes all the tools you need to easily engage large groups.
Make deeper connections with your applicants by creating a space where applicants can get comfortable before their interview, decompress after completing an interview, meet the right people in real time, or learn more about your program.
Get your team on the same page whether it’s hosting reviewer training sessions or a pre- or post-interview sync with your review team.
Round out an elevated interview experience and create a lasting final impression for your applicants so they walk away with your program top-of-mind.
Assess applicant collaboration
Gain insight into how your applicants will work collaboratively in the classroom and beyond. Group Stations in Kira Talent, allow you to bring together groups of two or more applicants during a Live Interview. Whether you want a group of applicants to move through each room together as a unit, or you want individual applicants to come together for a single station, you can build it in Kira.
Take full control of your assessment
The new Asynchronous Assessment Builder puts the power to build and adjust your Asynchronous Assessment in your hands.
With a simple and intuitive builder, you can create your custom assessment, from adding competencies and rubrics to uploading your welcome and closing videos.
Be independent (with full support) with the ability to build and make changes to your assessments while still having a dedicated Client Success Manager to enable custom options, answer your questions, and assist with any aspects of setting up or editing your assessments.
See what your applicants see to ensure a seamless experience for applicants during each step of the registration and assessment completion process.
Duplicate your assessment without doubling your work with the Asynchronous Assessment Builder’s convenient duplication of competencies and rubrics when creating new assessments - making them easy to set up and test.
Coming Soon: Rolling Deadlines in Async
Applicant-specific deadlines are coming soon to Kira’s Asynchronous Assessments. Align your assessment to your existing rolling admissions process by assigning individual deadlines to different groups of applicants.
The #1 ranked school of pharmacy in the United States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy leads by example when it comes to holistic and comprehensive admissions processes.
Keeping patient care at the heart of every decision, UNC Pharmacy goes beyond academics to evaluate applicants’ traits and soft skills to ensure that they’re enrolling candidates who are not just good students but also have the potential to be great pharmacists.
“One of the biggest draws of our pharmacy program is the time we dedicate to in-clinic immersion experiences,” shared Heather Azzu, the Director of Admissions at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Starting with a one-month immersion after their first year, students complete over 50% of their curriculum (2,400 hours) in real-world pharmacy settings in North Carolina including options during the fourth year in locations around the globe.”
“These immersion experiences help our students cement the knowledge that they’re being taught in the classroom,” she continued. “But for that to be successful, they need to be able to communicate and work well with many different people — skills that you can’t assess through a traditional application.”
Those skills are what Kira Talent is helping the team at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy evaluate.
Redefining the pharmacy admissions process
“Each year we receive approximately 500-600 applicants, of whom we invite around 250-300 to interview to reach our average enrolled class of 150 students,” shared Azzu.
“The interview is a critical component in our admissions process because it brings that human element to the application,” explained Bonnie Barsalou, the Admissions Coordinator at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “It helps us get to know each applicant as a person and begin to understand how they think, how they process information, and how they demonstrate important interpersonal skills that are necessary for strong patient care.”
“You can’t really assess those on-your-feet communication skills through a written essay,” Azzu added. “You need that live interaction.”
UNC Pharmacy’s interviews consist of several stations at which applicants are presented with a different scenario.
“It’s not about testing their pharmaceutical knowledge, it’s about how they react to a situation,” explained Azzu. “We’re looking for insight on how they would interact with patients and think through real-life problems or challenges.
“We used to conduct all of our interviews in person,” she continued. “Because we have a rolling application process, which is open from July through to February, we were hosting multiple interview days each cycle.”
“It took us more than a month just to organize the events and secure the commitment of every person that had to physically be there.”
“In the week leading up to an in-person interview day every working minute is devoted to preparation,” added Barsalou. “If you take that amount of time and multiply it by two or three employees, and then multiply that by several interview cycles, the time commitment really adds up.”
“With Kira, we’re saving all of that time.”
Eliminating organizational burdens
“Kira makes the organization and execution of interviews incredibly easy,” shared Azzu. “The pre-interview work is so minimal and it’s much easier to get faculty to participate because they don’t have to be on campus for the interview day. If they’re working from home or travelling, they just need their laptop and an internet connection.”
“This past year we were able to add two interview dates at the last minute,” she continued. “We had many great applicants apply late in the cycle and didn’t have enough spots in our scheduled dates to interview them all.”
“We sent a quick email to Kira asking to add two more interview dates and they immediately replied with ‘Absolutely, we’ll set it up!’.”
“That has been a game changer for our admissions process,” Azzu added. “Prior to Kira, we wouldn’t have been able to consider those applicants because we were out of interview days. Instead, we were able to interview every single qualified applicant.”
Getting offers out faster
On the other side of the interview, Kira’s custom in-app rubrics have also brought increased efficiency to UNC Pharmacy’s admissions process.
“We consider the whole application when making our admissions decisions,” Azzu explained. “Their interview scores are the final piece of that holistic review.”
"Prior to Kira, faculty had to upload their completed scores into an internal classroom grading system,” explained Azzu. “We often experienced a delay in collecting all of the scores, which lengthened the amount of time that it took to make decisions and get offers out to applicants.”
“With Kira, our faculty are scoring the interviews directly in the platform, so all that data is available to us immediately after the interview,” she continued.
“That means that we’re able to turn around and make offers to applicants within a week.”
“It’s more streamlined, more effective, and more time efficient,” added Barsalou.
Reaching and assessing a more diverse applicant pool
“We’re now able to reach more applicants and assess them efficiently and equitably with Kira,” Azzu shared.
“The physical restraints that come with hosting interviews on campus have been completely eliminated,” Barsalou continued. “Our in-person interviews were limited by the availability and size of the rooms. We typically had the space for a group of 15 applicants to participate in each session but room availability on campus meant that we only ran three sessions per interview day. With Kira, we have the flexibility to add extra sessions to cover the larger interview days and host up to 60 students instead of the on-campus maximum of 45 applicants.”
“And it’s not only that we can interview more applicants at one time, but Kira also removes time and cost barriers for our applicants,” Barsalou added.
“It’s extremely helpful for applicants to not have to travel to campus,” Azzu continued. “They can fully participate in the admissions process without having to worry about the financial and logistical implications of travelling here for an interview day.”
Providing a more accessible route to interview for more applicants, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy then uses Kira’s Horizontal Review – where reviewers assess multiple applicants for a single competency – to reduce bias and create a level playing field for its diverse applicant pool.
“Our reviewing process allows reviewers to become experts in assessing one specific competency,” Azzu explained. “They’re hearing responses to the same questions across 25 to 30 people which allows them to be more accurate in their scoring.”
“It also eliminates the potential for a situation where an applicant and a reviewer get off on the wrong foot and that impression influences the applicant’s entire interview score,” she continued. “With Kira’s Horizontal Review, their candidacy doesn’t rely on just one person’s perception.”
The benefits of a full-service solution
“Kira provides us with the flexibility to build the interview we want without any of the technical challenges that come with other online options such as Zoom,” shared Azzu. “When you’re trying to manage multiple links, applications, and windows it can be very overwhelming.”
In Kira’s Live Interviewing, UNC Pharmacy’s applicants click a single link and the platform automatically moves them into the right interview rooms at the right times, according to the set schedule. Reviewers similarly click their link to enter the interview room, and then use the in-app rubrics and notes section to meet and evaluate applicants all in one platform.
“Kira allows us to focus fully on our applicants.”
“You don’t have to contend with any manual or technical work behind the scenes, so reviewers can wholly focus on their conversations with the applicants,” Azzu shared.
“And because we on the admissions team aren’t having to manually run the session, we can be much more responsive to our applicants if they reach out with questions before or during their interview,” Barsalou added. “If applicants had any kind of connection issue or their microphone wasn’t working properly, they were getting support both from the Kira team and our admissions team. It’s really improved the overall experience for them.”
“Applicants have shared with us how easy it was to use Kira and how comfortable they felt in the session,” Azzu added. “Likewise, we hear a lot from faculty just how much they like using the platform.”
“After the initial setup and reviewer training, Kira has been a self-running process. We just log on and it pretty much handles the rest.”
Looking toward the future of admissions
“There has been a lot of discussion around whether we keep the hybrid admissions process or go fully virtual in the future,” shared Azzu. “We don’t want to completely remove all in-person events, but we’re looking at options like hosting admitted student days where successful applicants have the opportunity to come to campus, engage with us, and get a feeling of the atmosphere and community at the school.”
“In general, we’ve been able to transition our traditional admissions experiences online with great success,” she continued. “We host sessions for the students during the times that they are not interviewing where they can learn about student life. We have group sessions at the end of the interview circuits where applicants can decompress and talk to current students.”
“There are so many different ways in which we can engage our applicants where they are. And the Kira platform can help you do that by being as flexible as you need it to be.”
McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering undergraduate programs consistently rank among the top engineering programs in the country. The school’s unique approach to engineering design, which emphasizes hands-on, project-based and experiential learning, allows undergraduate students to work with real clients to develop solutions to real-world problems.
Each year, the Faculty of Engineering receives more than 16,000 applications, with 13,000 unique applicants meeting the academic requirements for a spot in one of their four direct-entry undergraduate programs.
“We want to admit the students who are most likely to succeed in the program and beyond — those who will use their engineering degree to make a difference in the world,” shared Sarah Dickson-Anderson, Associate Dean Undergraduate at McMaster's Faculty of Engineering. “We’re looking for the students who are not only strong academically, but who have key traits and skills such as drive, leadership, resiliency, and an eye for innovation.”
Since 2016, McMaster's Faculty of Engineering has been using an Asynchronous Assessment in Kira Talent to help them efficiently identify those traits in their applicants.
Identifying more best-fit applicants through holistic review
“Before we added the Kira assessment, we were making our admissions decisions based primarily on grades," she continued. "However, so many of our applicants had 90% and above grade averages, making it very difficult to differentiate between them.”
“There’s a lot of insight we gain from our Kira assessment that you just can’t get from a transcript,” she continued. “We can see how an applicant approaches and thinks through a question, how articulate they are in their answers, and how engaged they are in the process."
"With Kira, we’re making admissions decisions based on a more comprehensive and holistic view of our applicants.”
Working with the team at Kira, McMaster Faculty of Engineering customized their assessment to evaluate for the traits and skills that they identified as being most predictive of student success in their programs.
After applying at the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) online portal, Faculty of Engineering applicants receive an invitation from Kira Talent to complete a written and video assessment.
“Once we have the student’s transcript and completed Kira score, we can assess them for admission into our program," shared Dickson-Anderson. "It’s important to us that we consider both components together, as we believe in looking holistically at each applicant.”
“Being able to tailor the competencies to our programs’ specific needs allows us to get the most value out of the assessment.”
Applicant results delivered on your timeline
The final piece of the puzzle came in the form of Kira’s Reviewer Services. Seamlessly integrated with the Asynchronous Assessment, Kira gives admissions teams the ability to tap into a team of over 30,000 trained reviewers to score applicants’ assessments.
“We had 13,000 applicants complete a Kira assessment this year, each of whom needed to be reviewed by at least two reviewers,” shared Dickson-Anderson. “We just don’t have enough reviewers in-house to score that many assessments, and beyond that, we don’t have the capacity to train them properly in order to ensure that they are scoring applicants correctly and objectively.”
“We knew we needed to bring another component into our admissions process and Kira's Reviewer Services gave us a way to do that without completely overwhelming our staff and faculty,” she added.
Once an applicant completes their assessment, the Kira platform automatically assigns a designated number of reviewers to watch and score their responses within the school’s specified timeline.
“Our deadline to apply is in January and Kira has all of the assessment scores back to us by the end of February so we can administer first-round offers in March,” explained Dickson-Anderson.
“That’s a five-week timeline to score 13,000 assessments.”
“Every single one of our reviews gets completed in that short period of time, enabling us to get offers out to our applicants earlier,” she added.
Better predicting student success
“We’ve had the Kira assessment in our admissions process for several years now and we’ve seen a number of really great outcomes,” shared Dickson-Anderson. “We’re enrolling really strong students who are doing extremely well in our programs. It’s not only something that we’ve heard from our professors but it shows in our very low attrition rate. That speaks to the fact that Kira is helping us admit applicants who will succeed in our programs."
“With Kira, we’re able to run our admissions process smoothly and with minimal stress. An incredible amount of work goes into attaining the level of detail we need to identify and admit our best-fit applicants, and Kira takes that all on for us.”
“Kira is a trusted partner in our admissions process,” she continued. “We need to be able to rely on our admissions partners to help us support our applicants throughout this journey. By having Kira in our admissions process, we’ve been able to increase the level of transparency and communication between our centralized colleagues in the admissions department and our Faculty of Engineering.”
A process customized to your needs
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from our faculty on the admissions process with Kira, and we’re hearing from other faculties across the university as well,” shared Dickson-Anderson. “Seeing how it’s enhanced our admissions process, they’re understanding what a Kira assessment could do for their programs.”
Holistic admissions represents an ideal for higher education admissions teams.
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Over the past several years, the University of Texas (UT) at Austin College of Pharmacy has gone through several iterations of their admissions process. Transitioning from interviews on-campus to online via Zoom, Texas Pharmacy’s admissions process had become a tapestry of disparate processes held together by manual workarounds.
“By transitioning our interviews online, we opened a window for us to attract and enroll a more diverse applicant pool,” shared Gregory Caldera, the Director of Admissions and Student Services at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy.
“We wanted to maintain that accessibility, but we needed to do it in a way that was sustainable for our admissions team in the long run.”
“We began looking for an interview platform that integrated both the live virtual experience and an assessment submission tool and dashboard,” he continued. “That’s when I came across Kira Talent.”
Evolving the admissions process
Since 2019, Texas Pharmacy has used a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) to ensure consistency as well as structure throughout their admissions interviewing process.
Kira Talent supports a wide range of interview styles, from Asynchronous Assessments to real-time one-to-one interviews, panel interviews, and MMIs. Find out how Kira Talent can support your interview process.
“When the interviews were originally held in person, reviewers scored applicants using scantrons,” shared Caldera. “Inputting that data was a long and clunky process, but it was what we had always done.”
“In 2020, we transitioned both the interview and the scoring online with Zoom and Qualtrics,” Caldera continued. “Zoom was our quick fix in order to meet our admissions deadlines for that year, but we very quickly realized that the platform required a lot of background support to keep things running smoothly.”
“That burden fell on our staff and student co-chairs by necessity,” he explained. “We simply needed more hands to be able to run our Zoom interviewing process.”
Piecing together disparate tools
From managing breakout rooms and transition timing to flipping between screens to record scores, the disjointed process was putting significant strain on the Texas Pharmacy admissions team.
“Trying to use multiple tools in ways they weren’t meant to be used and then integrating all those systems into one disjointed process was a recipe for stress,” shared Caldera.
And it wasn’t just behind the scenes where the process was causing strain.
“Our interviewers often struggled to shift smoothly between Zoom and Qualtrics to score applicants,” Caldera explained. “And we were relying on applicants to correctly click the right links at the right times.”
“With Kira, those challenges are taken care of.”
Streamlining the admissions interview
“The University of Michigan College of Pharmacy was on a webinar to discuss their experience with Kira and give insight into their interviewing process,” shared Caldera. “I started to explore Kira as an option for our admissions process and found that it checked all of our boxes and then some.”
With Live Interviewing in Kira Talent, Texas Pharmacy has been able to retain the accessibility benefits of the virtual experience while eliminating the technical hassles.
“Our interviewers no longer have to manage multiple windows or multiple programs,” explained Caldera. “They’re able to engage more with the applicants and score them in the moment.”
“For us, that means our interviewers are not only more efficient at reviewing, but they’re more effective with the interview engagement.”
Kira moves applicants automatically through each station, according to a set schedule, while interviewers evaluate and score applicants in-platform. At the end of the interview, Kira’s integration with PharmCAS transfers all the scores and notes directly into Texas Pharmacy’s existing management system.
“Applicants move through several stations of one-on-one interviews and finish with a group activity, which helps us see how well applicants can work in teams,” Caldera shared. “Kira helped us build a schedule that allows us to seamlessly shift from one-on-one interviews to group sessions. ”
“It was very important for us to facilitate a face-to-face conversation between our interviewers and applicants,” Caldera continued. “Kira gave us a way to do that without creating any barriers for our applicants.”
Attracting a wider pool of diverse applicants
“With Kira, we’ve been able to scale our interview process without any additional burden on our admissions team,” shared Caldera. “The platform eliminated a lot of the manual work that went into coordinating our interviews, both on Zoom and in-person and the Kira team helps us manage the rest with on-hand support before and during the interviews. Kira has not only helped us increase the efficiency and ease of our admissions process but it's also allowed our staff and student co-chairs to go back to focusing on applicant engagement.”
By removing the travel and cost barrier associated with on-campus interviews, Kira is also helping Texas Pharmacy reach a more diverse pool of applicants.
“Kira allows applicants to interview without the financial burden of travel, making us more attractive to under-represented minority applicants, nontraditional-aged students, and applicants who live out of state,” Caldera explained. “It’s given us the opportunity to recruit applicants who may have not applied to our program if travel was required for the interview.”
Getting an applicant’s perspective
“The way the faculty interacted with us during my Texas Pharmacy interview was a huge factor in my decision to come to UT,” shared Sydney Bryant, a Doctorate of Pharmacy Candidate at UT Austin College of Pharmacy, Class of 2026.
“I interviewed with five different schools during my application process, four of which were virtual interviews and one which was in-person,” she continued. “Most of the virtual interviews were on Zoom, with the exception of Texas Pharmacy.”
“My overall experience interviewing virtually compared to in-person was so similar that it would have been nice to save the travel time and do it all online.”
“I had a five-hour drive to attend the in-person interview, which meant that I had to miss some school,” Bryant shared. “Ultimately, I felt like I got the same amount of face-to-face interaction through my Kira interview for Texas Pharmacy as I did during the in-person interview for another program. I was able to have the same kind of in-depth interaction with my interviewers and the flow of conversation was similar because it still felt like we were face-to-face.”
“Compared to the in-person interview process I went through, the virtual experiences definitely helped reduce anxiety and made me feel more relaxed,” she continued. “With Texas Pharmacy, this was especially true. For my interviews on Zoom, I had to hop from one link to another, so the whole time I had this underlying sense of anxiety that I might mess up and click the wrong link at some point and end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. With Kira, I didn’t have to keep track of links at all. Once the interview started I could sit back from my computer and just focus on my conversation with each interviewer.”
Keeping up with modern education
“We’re now seeing healthcare delivered to patients through all kinds of different mediums,” shared Caldera. “The rise of telehealth means that virtual technology is becoming increasingly integral to the healthcare profession.”
“At UT Austin College of Pharmacy, we want to make sure that our students are exposed to these new practices,” he continued. “We’re aligning with how technology is being used in healthcare practice today, and Kira Talent is a part of that vision.”
“You often hear about accelerated models in physical therapy education, where students are taking heavier course loads in order to complete their degree in three years instead of four,” shared Dr. Kay Tasso, the program director at Spalding University DPT. “At Spalding, we refer to our curriculum as a decelerated model. By having students enroll in fewer courses per semester, we’re not only improving students’ retention of the material, we’re also making it accessible to non-traditional students who are balancing school with work and family requirements.”
“Spalding DPT’s mission is to make PT education accessible by reducing the obstacles and barriers that a traditional program inadvertently creates for many applicants,” she continued. “Conducting our admissions interviews in Kira Talent was a natural step in achieving that goal.”
Addressing challenges in the traditional interview process
The primarily online curriculum is what Spalding classifies as a ‘low residency’ program, with lecture material presented online and students only required on campus once per month to complete their labs.
“As opposed to programs that have, in recent years, tried to shift a traditionally-designed curriculum online, our course strategies and teaching methods were designed to be delivered online,” shared Dr. Tasso. “We wanted our admissions process to follow that methodology as well.”
“We started designing the admissions process for our brand-new program in 2021,” she explained. “We decided to use Liaison’s PTCAS for our enrollment platform, and they made us aware of this great integration with Kira Talent.”
“I helped manage on-campus interviews in my positions prior to joining the team at Spalding DPT, so I had a clear idea of the barriers they present,” Dr. Tasso continued. “On the administrative side, in-person interviews are extremely time- and labour-intensive, and they carry significant costs for both the applicants and the program. The pressure around these interview days means that students are often very nervous and may have difficulty expressing themselves. That leads to the admissions committee potentially not getting an accurate understanding of an applicant’s character and communication skills.”
“There was also hesitancy surrounding the travel requirements, given that we are a hybrid program,” added Dr. Elisa Zuber, the Chair of the Kosair Charities School of Physical Therapy at Spalding University. “The program is designed to be accessible to busy, as well as non-traditional, students from across the United States."
"An on-campus interview would entirely contradict that vision.”
“Hearing other programs talk about their positive experiences with Kira at an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) meeting really sealed the deal for us,” she added. “Kira has a long track record of success with physical therapy programs. That really contributed to our confidence that Kira could help us deliver our admissions process.”
Building an interview to fit the admissions process
“Kira makes our admissions process easier, less expensive, and much more efficient.”
“From day one, the process has been really smooth,” Dr. Zuber continued. “The structure of the interview was already there, we just needed to decide on the details.”
The question and rubric workshop during the onboarding process helped Spalding DPT determine how to score the responses in Kira in order to best suit their goals for the assessment.
“The objective of the interview is to assess applicants’ communication skills,” Dr. Tasso explained. “To do so, we focus strictly on the basics — do they answer the question and can they clearly explain their reasoning?”
“If a rating scale is too nuanced, reviewers may overthink their ratings or interpret the differences between scores in their own way,” Dr. Zuber continued. “So, we decided on a concise three-point scale rubric to capture the information we wanted about each applicant. ”
“As the assessment is on-demand and applicants have access to Kira’s practice suite in order to get comfortable with the technology, Kira helps mitigate the influence of external factors that could affect their performance,” Dr. Tasso added. “With Kira, we’re getting a more authentic assessment of our applicants' communication skills.”
Managing all the costs — time and financial
“Affordability is a big concern in physical therapy education as well as in the wider healthcare field,” shared Dr. Tasso. “We’re very conscious of the financial burden put on applicants who are trying to get into the healthcare field, and we’re actively trying to reduce those barriers as much as possible. With traditional interviews, there are many costs for both the institution and the applicant that don't necessarily get factored in upfront. Even if you’re recruiting locally, those applicants are taking time out of their busy schedules and money out of their pockets to pay for gas and parking.”
“When you factor in the time-savings from aspects like Kira’s 24/7 applicant and reviewer support, it’s clear,” she continued.
“Kira is worth every single penny.”
By enabling Spalding DPT to dig a little deeper into their applicant pool without overwhelming their small team, Kira helps deliver a comprehensive, and convenient, holistic review.
“Having Kira in the admissions process helps us ensure that what we’re seeing in the application is the reality,” continued Dr. Tasso. “At the end of the day, Spalding DPT is fully invested in our students’ success. We want to ensure the applicants we offer admissions to have the right skills to be successful in the program and beyond.”
Setting up admissions for future success
“Kira has been a really great asset to our program,” shared Dr. Zuber.
“The faculty love the process and find it very valuable,” shared Dr. Tasso. “We’re able to have the entire faculty involved in the reviewing process because they can watch and score responses on their own time, when it's most convenient for them. Then we can get together and discuss applicants at our faculty meeting.”
“Kira took the time to get to know us and our processes, and to help us develop questions that meet our program's intent,” added Dr. Zuber. “Working with the Kira team has brought a new level of ease to the admissions process, from building to monitoring to making any changes. Add to that them being a really friendly and responsive team to work it, and it has been nothing but a hugely positive experience.”
“Kira will continue to be a part of our process for years to come.”