We’re not sure what it is about Canada, but they seem to love creating online assessment tools for medical school admissions.
First it was the CASPer test being invented by McMaster University Medical School in 2010, later piloted and adopted by several Canadian medical schools in 2014-2015, and then eventually spreading to countless US medical schools as well.
But all the while, there was a Canadian start-up company, Kira Talent (founded in 2012), which introduced its cloud-based applicant assessment platform as an alternative to in-person and phone interviews.
The Kira Talent Interview is a holistic admissions assessment platform designed for use by academic admissions departments to assess and enroll students.
Different organizations and institutions can create a customized assessment and record video questions, receive candidate responses, and evaluate the responses virtually within the platform.
The organization or institution records their questions over video and sends them to candidates with an established deadline.
Based on our research, we found that it’s used by the following US medical schools:
If you’re applying to Canadian medical schools, we encourage you to contact Kira for a full list of participating Canadian schools, since this information has been difficult to find in a comprehensive list.
It will depend on the school. Since Kira allows individual institutions to design their own questions and establish their own time limits for applicants to prepare and deliver their responses, you will need to pay careful attention to the instructions and information the schools share with you prior to your Kira.
But overall, the Kira is designed to holistically assess an applicant on factors such as communication skills, comprehension, drive, leadership and other soft skills.
You will log into an online platform and record responses to video and text-based questions, either through recorded video responses or text responses. The questions are randomly assigned, meaning your test may look different than someone else’s. Preparation time is given only for video questions but not for text-based questions.
The interview questions will be sourced from a database and will not be personalized, ranging from 2-6 questions. The questions will be random in nature and will either be written or asked in a video format.
After each question is asked, you’ll be given an allotted time to prepare for the answer. You will get preparation time for each spoken question, followed by additional time to give your answer.
Video Questions: You are shown a video, provided time to critically think, and are asked to record a video response. The length of recording time varies by institution, but preparation time is generally 30-60 seconds. Recording time can be highly variable and might even differ from what you expected. You will receive a countdown on the screen prior to recording.
Text Questions: A test-based question will appear on the screen, and you will type a text response. The time allotted for writing your responses varies by institution. There is no preparation time for text questions.
For both types of questions, your webcam will be turned on to monitor you throughout the response.
Your answers will be evaluated by the Kira Talent team, and an automated system within Kira Talent will review the technical aspects of your written responses like spelling, grammar, structure, and sentence flow.
Each applicant’s responses receive a written communication score based on spelling and grammar, relative to other interviewees, and this score is sent to the institution with your video and text answers. The institution will then give you a rank and determine whether you move onto the next stage.
In some cases, the Kira Talent Interview will be the entire extent of your interview with the school, but more often, it’s used as an additional screening device before the school invites you for a traditional in-person or virtual interview with their faculty, staff, and students.
As you can see below, the questions range widely but typically fall into the following categories:
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why do you want to attend our program?
3. Tell us about a time when you overcame a difficult challenge.
4. Describe one of your favorite hobbies and why it is important to you.
5. How do you work under pressure?
6. If we asked a close friend or family member to describe you, what would they say?
7. What does “leadership” mean to you?
8. What professional skills do you excel in?
9. What did you have for lunch/dinner?
10. What is your best achievement?
11. Describe a recent dream you had.
12. Do you agree that most people act out of altruism rather than self-interest?
13. Tell me about something funny that happened to you recently.
14. Tell us about a time you had to collaborate with others. What qualities do you think are needed for strong teamwork to take place?
15. How do you effectively prioritize when faced with multiple important tasks at once?
16. What is your most significant accomplishment?
17. Tell us about a time when you had to defend an unpopular idea or opinion. How did you make your voice heard, and what was the outcome?
18. What is your strategy when faced with a decision that must be made quickly?
19. Tell us something about yourself that isn’t in your application materials.
20. What three terms would you use to define yourself?
21. Who is your role model?
22. Tell us about your greatest strength. How have you developed this strength and how has it helped you succeed?
23. What factors contributed to your decision to apply for a seat in this program? Tell us about your top three.
24. Please tell me about an experience where you led a team that consisted of a group of very different individuals. What did you do to lead the team to accomplish the objective, and what was the outcome?
25. Outside of school and work, to what activity do you dedicate most of your time? Why is this important to you?
26. Which do you prioritize, social responsibility or profit? Why do you think one should be prioritized over the other (i.e., take a position and defend it)?
27. Tell us about a time when you had to come to a compromise with a colleague.
28. How would you explain social media (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to someone 80 years old?
29. What is the last book you read?
30. What is the most played song on your computer?
You'll need the following things to complete any assessment in Kira:
The platform is not supported on mobile devices or tablets (including iPads). However, Microsoft Surfaces are supported.
You should set aside 15-30 minutes to complete the check-in process.
Before taking the Kira, we recommend doing the following:
The practice questions in Kira allow you to get familiar with the platform and double-check that your device is set up properly.
Even if you feel pretty confident in your skills, we recommend taking advantage of this valuable practice time to get in the rhythm of the Kira and ensure all your equipment is working properly.
Your dress code should be the same to that of an in-person interview, with a few key things to remember:
You not only have control over how you look, but also the environment in which you do your virtual interview. Use this to your advantage:
Just like you wouldn’t sit three inches or eight feet from your interviewer in-person, don’t sit an uncomfortable distance from your computer.
While actual eye contact isn’t possible in a virtual interview, you’ll want to get as close as possible. Looking at someone’s face is usually enough to show that you’re engaged with what they’re saying.
Virtual interviews come with a slew of distractions you wouldn’t normally have to deal with when you travel to a medical school.
Because you’re at home, it’s natural to be a little more relaxed (okay… at least comparatively more relaxed).
We recommend trying to simulate the Kira Talent Interview as closely as possible during your practice. Pick 6 questions at random and record yourself while giving your responses. Do at least 3 video responses and 3 written responses.
Then, when you’re done, show your responses to a few trusted advisors or mentors–it’s best if these people can be objective sources of feedback, so parents and friends may not be the best choices.
Ask them to critique the quality of your content, your non-verbals, and the clarity, conciseness, and fluidity of your delivery. See if they point out any “red flags” or aspects of your responses that could be misconstrued.
Then, finally, review your responses yourself and do a self-critique to identify areas of improvement.
Go through this process several times and try to build on past mistakes and implement lessons from your previous practice sessions.
It might be tempting to approach your preparation this way, but it’s ill-advised. At best, it will likely make your responses seem canned, stiff, or impersonal. And in the worst-case scenario, it will be obvious to your evaluators that you’re directly regurgitating (or even copy/pasting) your responses.
Uphold a sense of integrity and trust your sense of ethics. If it feels like you’re cheating or taking a short-cut, it’s not worth it. If you practice and build the key communication skills you need, you should be fine.
To help in your preparation, we want to place you in the position of the evaluator by showing you a sample Kira response and inviting you to participate in our critique. By seeing the negatives and positives of someone else’s sample response, you can hopefully improve the quality of your own answers. We don’t have a lot to go on, but we decided to make our own rubric. We’ll be using the following categories to critique and grade our sample response:
All categories will be scored on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest score for any category.
Describe a time when someone in a position of authority did something you disagreed with. What was the situation? What actions did you take? What was the outcome?
Transcript of the Response:
A time when someone in a position of authority did something I disagreed with occurred when I was taking an art course and we were all assigned to create a mosaic emulating one of our favorite works of art. My understanding of the assignment was that the only rule was that we needed to break the tile ourselves and then compose it into the work of art that we were trying to emulate. I went about breaking my tile in a very methodical way, trying to chop the tile into the exact size and shape that I would need to put it into my mosaic, in the exact correct spot.
My disagreement occurred when my teacher observed how I was going about this in a very scientific method and she came over and scrapped all of my tile pieces that I had spent days breaking apart and cutting apart, telling me that I was doing the project completely wrong. I was initially very shocked and upset because my understanding of the project was that there were no rules and that I could go about creating my work of art in any way I wanted, and I was also very stressed to find out that the project was due in two days and I would have to start over. I was also upset that she just threw away my pieces before talking to me, and so after collecting myself for a few minutes, I went over and asked her why I was doing the project incorrectly and why I needed to start over. And she explained that the way an artist creates a mosaic is a much more organic process than the way I was going about it, and that by creating the tile pieces in the exact shape and size that I needed, I wasn’t really immersing myself in the artistic process that I needed to do to truly meet the goals of this project.
She offered to work with me to meet the deadline and show me how to go about this as she would, and I explained that I normally go about things in a methodical manner, and she kind of understood after observing me that this is how I normally go about creating my works of art. And so, for the next two days, her and I worked together to create this mosaic that turned out quite beautifully, and by the end of it, I really realized that working with her was totally to my benefit because I learned to create this work of art from a new approach, and I learned that I can go about doing things multiple ways. There isn’t just one correct approach to do something. And I really learned that having the conversation with her to understand why she disagreed with the way that I was going about creating my work of art was super essential for gaining something myself and go on to create something much better and that appeased both of us in the end.
It’s important to note that having “high energy” is not the goal here. Rather, the goal is to exude an appropriate amount of energy and emotion for the given response.
Think about it this way - would your explanation of your greatest challenge have the same energy as your explanation about your favorite hobbies? Probably not. More likely, the first explanation would be more serious and reflective, whereas the second explanation would be more lighthearted and humorous.
Energy is also not simply a matter of speaking loudly or quickly. Instead, energy is conveyed in multiple ways - posture, inflection, volume, tone, eye contact, facial expressions, non-verbals, etc.
Our sample candidate’s energy was rather even-keeled, which felt apt for a response about a disagreement with an authority figure. She used an appropriate amount of inflection when discussing why she was upset with her teacher’s actions; this made the response sound genuine and unscripted, but there was not a surplus of emotion, which would risk sounding resentful or indignant.
Her mannerisms, facial expressions, and non-verbals exuded this same even-keeled energy, riding the line between animated and composed.
Final Score - 5
Our candidate did a good job of following our advice. She was dressed formally and professionally, and her background was aesthetically pleasing and devoid of distractions. She was sitting at an appropriate distance from her webcam, with the right angle and consistent eye contact. The room was well-lit, and she avoided any potential issues with glare, shadows, or reflections.
The only criticism would be that she blinked quite often (to a noticeable degree), and occasionally looked off screen (to the left and upwards). At times, this distracted a bit from the actual content of the response.
Final Score - 4.5
On a tonal and aesthetic level, our sample candidate definitely came across as professional. The actual steps of her conflict resolution with her teacher were also ethical and sound.
However, there was some minor room for improvement here. The diction, or word choice, could have been more formal or elevated at certain times.
For example, phrases like “super essential” or “really realized” came off as a tad too informal and conversational for our personal taste. When in doubt, just drop the adverbs and qualifiers. “Essential” and “realized” would have sounded much better on their own.
Another example was the repeated use of the phrase “the way I go about” (which came up about five times throughout the response). It was noticeably overused, and it’s not exactly a concise, formalized choice, compared to words like “process,” “approach,” “method,” or “system.”
You don’t want to sound robotic, but a finer articulation and wider vocabulary will certainly help you stick out from the pack.
Final Score - 4
Delivery essentially boils down to certain key elements - pace, tone, flow, diction, etc.
In terms of pace, our sample candidate started off strong, with a measured cadence and rhythm, but she had a noticeable increase in her pace as she moved deeper into her answer. The resolution of the story felt especially hurried. This could have been solved by removing some of the superfluous details and repetition in the middle portion of the answer.
As mentioned before, the tone of the response was appropriate for the topic at hand.
There were certain notable disruptions in flow, namely at the 0:33, 0:41, 2:31 marks. To our candidate’s credit, she pushed through them and recovered.
Additionally, certain sentences were quite clunky and long-winded, especially towards the end: “And I really learned that having the conversation with her to understand why she disagreed with the way that I was going about creating my work of art was super essential for gaining something myself and go on to create something much better and that appeased both of us in the end.”
Think about how much better it would have sounded to say: “Having a conversation with her was essential in understanding each other and producing a piece that satisfied us both in the end.”
Even the small difference between “appeased” and “satisfied” is important, since one has a connotation of mere acceptance or tolerance, while the other conveys true success and agreement.
Other sentences were rather circular in their nature: “I explained that I normally go about things in a methodical manner, and she kind of understood after observing me that this is how I normally go about creating my works of art.”
Correcting this would have given more time for a slower pace and more dominant, conclusive final message.
Her diction was sometimes excellent (e.g. “organic,” “emulate,” “immersing”), but sometimes it was a little too informal (e.g. “she kind of understood,” “doing things”).
Final Score - 3
In our opinion, this question was meant to test resilience and adaptability.
Let’s take each of these elements one at a time. In terms of resilience, our sample candidate could have spent a little more time lingering in the challenge of the situation. For example, she could have discussed more of her feelings in the moment when her teacher threw away her work.
Also, the two-day period of rectifying the project was somewhat glossed over, making it feel like less of a challenge than it probably was in reality. Did it involve working at unusual hours? Did she have to sacrifice time that could have been spent on other important tasks? Did she feel tempted to quit? Did it feel like it would never get done in time? Did she ever lose her patience? Did she ever question her teacher’s logic or methodology?
This is not to say that her response needed to be melodramatic, but getting a better sense of her internal conflict, struggle, or frustration would have made the situation feel more like a triumph, as opposed to merely a reconciled misunderstanding.
Adaptability was much stronger than resilience in this case. She showed herself to be a flexible person who could abandon her deeply-ingrained scientific mindset and adopt a more organic, artistic, expressionistic approach. She also illustrated that she can adjust her actions according to the preferences of her supervisors and collaborators in order to reach a compromise.
Perhaps most importantly, she admitted that the opposing perspective and approach were actually more effective, as opposed to being a circuitous, tangential way of achieving the same objective. This showed that she is capable of recognizing when she’s wrong and growing from the mistake.
Final score - 3.5
Total score - 20/25