With only 31 veterinary schools across the United States, seats in the top programs are highly coveted. Out of the 1600 applicants who apply to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine each year, 84 talented students are offered a spot.
“Given our small class size and the high demand for a seat, it can be very difficult to make selections,” shared Lori Stout, the Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “That’s why we try to use as many diverse criteria as possible to help make that decision.”
In years past, Purdue used on-campus interviews to evaluate applicants’ soft skills, traits, and passion for veterinary medicine. Taking place over a span of two days, applicants were awarded a 25-30 minute interview with a program faculty member. When admissions processes were forced online, Purdue knew that forgoing interviews would be detrimental to the integrity of their selection process.
With the help of Kira Talent, the college replicated their interviews virtually, bringing flexibility, consistency, and equity into the process. Looking forward, Purdue wants to build on this momentum, leveraging Kira as a way to continue strengthening admissions.
Discover where Purdue is seeing their success:
- Creating an applicant-first admissions process
- Effortlessly transitioning online
- Building a consistent and equitable review process
- Eliminating reviewer fatigue
- Leveraging inter-rater reliability data
- Getting applicant buy-in
An easy choice for admissions teams
“We met with our admissions committee, and with the value of what Kira brings to our process, it absolutely doesn’t make sense to give it up,” shared Stout. “We want to build on what we’ve learned using Kira and tweak things to make this year’s interviewing process even better.”
Although Stout and her team are expecting campuses to be open next year, by keeping their interviews online they aim to reduce barriers for applicants in the admissions process.
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“We typically invite 300-350 applicants to interview for our program,” explained Stout. “Before, those applicants would have had to travel to campus for their interview day. Now, these applicants are invited to complete a Kira assessment.”
“In veterinary medicine, one of the biggest issues that we’re facing, on a national level, is the education debt load,” Stout continued. “If we, as a field, are so concerned about student debt load, why are we asking them to incur all the costs associated with these interviews?”
For many schools, on-campus interviews have a twofold task of assessing applicants while also showing off program facilities and campus culture. But with most applicants applying to programs across the country, interviews can easily stack up. The associated costs, from flights or gas to hotels to time off work, can easily reach thousands of dollars. And given the competitiveness of the field, it’s not uncommon for applicants to pay for a visit to a school they won’t get an offer from.
Instead, Purdue is inviting applicants to visit campus after they’ve received an offer. The “offered student day” is extended to applicants who would like to visit the college and the campus before accepting their seat in the program.
“Our goal is to try to save them money upfront,” said Stout. “Once they’ve received an offer, they can choose to come to campus and see everything we have to offer.”
Eliminating the risk of technical difficulties and logistical nightmares
Before Kira Talent, the work of coordinating and scheduling interviews fell on Stout.
“We would send applicants their invitation via email with a link to a website that we had built and ran internally,” explained Stout. “From there, they were directed to choose between AM or PM, and then we’d assign them a slot.”
Between monitoring the website for glitches, assisting applicants through the process and accommodating requests for interview changes, Stout was not only conscious of the time it took, she was also worried about the likelihood of something slipping through the cracks.
“I had this huge spreadsheet that organized interview scheduling,” she explained. “As I assigned slots and made edits, I’d have to be so careful not to accidentally double up or delete someone."
"The margin for error was greater than I wanted to have.”
When it was clear that interviews couldn’t happen on-campus, Stout’s greatest fear was how she was going to bring the whole process online.
“I was thinking we were going to have to use Zoom, and that sounded like a logistical nightmare!” she shared. “I was not only apprehensive about the level of planning and coordination that would take, I was also worried about the risk of technical difficulties.”
“Not everyone involved in the admission process is technologically savvy,” Stout continued. “If Zoom were to cause issues, I wouldn’t be able to fix it and I wouldn’t have anyone to call for assistance. We would have been at the mercy of something we had no control over.”
From inviting applicants to assigning reviewers and tracking their progress, Kira unified the team’s tools and processes into a single online platform.
“With Kira, it’s as simple as clicking a few buttons,” shared Stout. “Having the manual work done for me makes everything so much easier.”
Redefining success with the help of expert advice
Prior to Kira, interviews at Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine centered around a list of required and optional questions. Using a 15-point scale equated to letter grades (a 15 equaling an A+), interviewers assigned applicants an overall score. “It was very difficult to enforce consistency within that system,” said Stout. “We couldn’t be sure everyone was asking the same thing or defining and scoring the same way.”
When introduced to Kira, Stout was excited by the equity it would bring to their admissions process.
“The Kira team helped transform the entire process. They helped us come up with more specific competencies to assess for, and helped us build structured rubrics to reduce the potential for bias,” Stout explained. “Looking back, that’s what we were lacking in our old process. When you don’t have a structured process in place, you can’t have everyone on the same page.”
Kira helped Purdue’s admissions team establish a focused set of competencies that could be defined on a rubric so that each applicant can be evaluated by multiple reviewers independently and consistently.
“During our onboarding, we did an exercise with our Client Success Manager (CSM) to identify our program’s values and which competencies were most important in successful students,” shared Stout. “Our CSM took those and came back to us with an ‘interviewing mission statement’. It was exactly what we wanted to accomplish but hadn’t been able to put into words."
"To know that the Kira team truly understood what would help us succeed – that was an exciting moment.”
The process helped Purdue create clear definitions, which in turn helped reviewers understand what to look for in an applicant’s response and how to evaluate it.
“Everything was clearly defined, not arbitrary, not subject to interpretation.”
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Creating a process reviewers love being a part of
The simplicity of the Kira platform improved the process for Purdue’s reviewers as well. Because they were reviewing recorded responses, reviewers were able to evaluate their assigned applicants on their own schedule.
“I was worried I might have to push reviewers to get their scores in before the deadline, but that wasn’t an issue at all,” shared Stout. “Everyone completed their applicant reviews before the deadline, and I think the process being so convenient played a large part in that.”
In fact, Stout expects to see a rise in the number of volunteers for next year’s reviewing cycle.
“People who volunteered this year talked about how easy and convenient it was,” she explained. “They could sit down, at home, and complete a couple each night. So for next year, potential volunteers know that they don’t have to sit through a whole day of back-to-back interviews.”
Prior to using Kira, Purdue’s interview days ran from 8 am - 5 pm. By the end of the day, reviewers were, understandably, exhausted.
“I’ve had some interviewees tell me that their interviewer was disengaged,” shared Stout. “And it’s not because they aren’t interested, but by the afternoon of the second straight day, they’ve been listening to similar responses over and over. As hard as they try to stay engaged, reviewer fatigue is a real and inevitable obstacle.”
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This year, Purdue was able to offer reviewers a far less demanding schedule. By giving a timeframe in which they had to complete their evaluations, Kira allowed reviewers to work when it suited them best. “They could do things on their own, at their own pace, and when they knew they were in the right headspace and could give the applicant their full attention,” explained Stout.
Training reviewers based on data, not opinions
In addition to reviewer training during the onboarding process, Kira provides inter-rater reliability data to help admissions teams identify if and when a reviewer deviates from the average.
“The inter-rater reliability reports gave us concrete guidance on who we needed to reach out to and what we needed to work on.”
“Before Kira, I could only rely on feedback from applicants or my own personal estimations," shared Stout. "I didn’t have a full picture of how we were doing as reviewers, or if we were being fair to everyone.”
The admissions team now shares these reports with their reviewers, giving them active and concrete feedback on their work.
“It gives them an opportunity to re-assess how they evaluate an applicant, if they missed something, or if they saw something one way and could look at it differently. Before it was all arbitrary. If the applicant was good, they gave them a good score, but what score that was exactly really depended on the reviewer.”
Keeping applicants' best interest top of mind
As Purdue moves into its second year with Kira Talent, Stout and her team are making a point to share with applicants why the college is continuing with Kira Talent over in-person interviews, and how that benefits them.
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“Firstly, we’re trying to save them money,” said Stout. “The cost of veterinary school is high enough. We don’t need to add to that by having them travel to all these interviews.”
“Secondly, this process helps us form an unbiased view, and that ultimately benefits the applicant. Their success isn’t determined by getting an interviewer with whom they connect because they’re from the same hometown or they have a dog with the same name. With Kira, we have a holistic view of every applicant, which means everyone is assessed on an equal playing field.”