The Standardized Video Interview, or SVI, is a common interview format used by professional schools in Canada and the US. In this blog, you will learn the rationale behind this interview format, how to prepare for it, and read some sample questions and expert responses that will help you get ready!

1. SVI Rationale

The Standardized Video Interview (SVI) is an interview format intended to evaluate two key competencies highlighted by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME): Knowledge of Professional Behaviors and Interpersonal and Communication Skills. As with other interview formats, such as traditional interviews or multiple mini interviews, the SVI is intended to evaluate an applicant's non-academic competencies (“soft skills”), particularly with regard to emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and maintaining ethical convictions central to the field of medicine. These virtual interviews often act as an intermediary step between the formal application and later in-person interviews. The stated purpose of the SVI is to increase the overall pool of applicants invited to interview, particularly allowing applicants with moderate Board scores, but strong non-academic competencies, to reach the interview stage. After being piloted in, and endorsed by, the emergency medicine program community, the SVI will now be a standard component of the ERAS application for all applicants to ACGME-accredited emergency medicine residency programs, with wider-ranging standardization in other programs a possibility in the near future.

2. What is a Standardized Video Interview (SVI)?

The SVI is an online virtual interview developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The SVI can be completed on any device that can connect to the internet, including computers, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. The interview can be completed on the applicant's own time, within their own schedule, and in their preferred location. In the SVI, applicants are presented with text prompts for six questions, to which they record a response in audio or video format. These responses are then submitted for scoring by AAMC evaluators. While all applicants are evaluated according to the same key competencies, there is a wide range of possible questions for each student, so the questions will likely differ from student to student.

The two key competencies evaluated via the SVI are Knowledge of Professional Behaviors and Interpersonal and Communication Skills, as studies have determined that those who excel in such areas are likely to be successful residents and practicing physicians. Questions used to determine Knowledge of Professional Behaviors are intended to allow an applicant to display his/her ethical convictions and the ability to maintain those convictions in the context of their professional responsibilities as future physicians. As such, the questions evaluate the following sub-competencies:

  • Empathy and Altruism (the ability to understand the suffering of others and the desire to alleviate that suffering)
  • Ethics (a clear sense of right and wrong, working to maximize well-being and minimize harm)
  • Cultural Competence (the ability to take on multiple perspectives, with particular attention to varying social, cultural, and religious sensitivities and priorities which may differ from one’s own)
  • Conscientiousness (mindfulness of the needs of others, careful consideration of the potential outcomes of one’s actions, ability to self-correct)

Interpersonal and Communication Skills questions are intended to highlight a student’s ability to facilitate clear and attentive information exchange, with particular regard to the complexities involved in communicating with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals. These questions evaluate the following sub-competencies:

  • Oral Communication (the ability to speak clearly, attentive to the needs of the listener)
  • Emotional Intelligence (identifying and navigating complex emotional terrain)
  • Teamwork and Leadership (facilitating collaboration amongst colleagues and effectively leading a diverse and potentially multidisciplinary team)

3. Standard Video Interview Format

The interview itself is comprised of 6 questions, presented as text prompts, to which the applicant records an audio or video response. There are two primary types of questions: Behavioral and Situational. For Behavioral-type questions, applicants must reflect on and describe specific life experiences that reflect sound knowledge of the two key ACGME competencies, Knowledge of Professional Behaviors and Interpersonal and Communication Skills. For Situational-type questions, applicants are given hypothetical situations, to which they must apply core concepts of the two key ACGME competencies.

The SVI is completely virtual, and there is no human intermediary during the interview itself. Following a 3-minute introductory video, a technology check, and a practice submission (to ensure everything is working correctly), the 6 questions will be presented individually as text prompts, and applicants will have 30 seconds to review a prompt before responding. After the 30 seconds of reflection time, the student will have 3 minutes to record their response. The 6 prompts and responses must be completed in one sitting. Following the last question, the student will be presented with an optional survey, but the total time spent completing the interview itself is around 21 minutes.

The SVI can be completed online at any time during the application period, though it is recommended that applicants find a private space that is quiet and well-lit before beginning the interview. While, technically, the interview can be completed on any internet-enabled device, we recommend that you treat this as a professional interview, and thus a use desktop computer and professional attire would be ideal.

4. How is the SVI Scored?

Each response in the SVI is rated individually, on a scale from 1-5. Lower scores (1s and 2s) indicate that a student has simple, limited, or no proficiency in the competency being evaluated. Higher scores (4s and 5s) are given when a student has proven that they can successfully navigate difficult and/or very difficult scenarios with a high level of proficiency in the competency being evaluated. Each individual response is rated by a different AAMC-trained evaluator, meaning a total of six different evaluators will examine the student’s SVI. After each evaluator has provided a score for their assigned question, the scores will be totalled, and this total is the student’s SVI score. As such, the possible final scores range from 6 (low) to 30 (high)

5. How to Prepare for the SVI

You should treat the SVI like any other interview format:

a) Practice using realistic mock interviews so you get used to the format and get rid of the fear of the unknown.

b) Seek expert feedback. You'll need someone to provide you with unbiased feedback so you can identify areas of improvement and make changes to your behavior before your actual interview. This has to be an unbiased expert. That means your mom is probably not the best person because she'll probably tell you that you are doing great no matter what!

c) Learn to identify and have a strategy for different types of questions. It's not possible to predict actual questions but if you have a strategy for each type of question, you can answer any question. 

d) Gather all the facts. In hypothetical or scenario based questions, first gather all the facts. Find out what information is missing and verbalize that you would do that first. This is the hallmark of a mature professional.

e) Remain non-judgmental at all times. You don't want to make any hasty decisions or say that you did in the past. Rather as a mature professional, you reserve judgement until you have as much facts as possible (see above). This is equally important whether you're diagnosing a patient or during a conflict with a colleague. 

f) Tell them what you have learned from past mistakes. It's OK to make mistakes. It's not OK if you haven't learned anything from those experience.

h) Provide specific examples and avoid fluff or generic talk. Admissions committee members are excellent B.S. detectors. Be real and provide specific examples rather than generic stories. 

i) Use 'if, then' strategy to address complex problems. This shows that you have complex decisions making capability. 

j) Dress professionally! It’s easy to think that a virtual interview would be less formal, since you’re not meeting anyone face-to-face and you’re doing it on your own time, in a space where you are comfortable. But remember: you are on camera the whole time, and someone will be evaluating your response. Therefore, make sure you have a very neutral background, such white wall, and dress professionally – as if you were actually interviewing with another person.

k) Smile! It goes without saying that you should open your responses with a smile just like a real interview. Nothing draws humans to each other better than a genuine smile. This is the best way to make sure the evaluators can see you as their future colleague. Someone who is approachable and easy to get along with. 

We'll review several sample SVI questions below, if you have other residency interview formats, check out these sample residency interview questions

You can also check out our video, How to Ace the Standardized Video Interview (SVI):

6. Sample SVI Questions and Answers

Interpersonal and Communication Skills Questions

1. Imagine you must tell a patient that they have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. It is not fatal, but it is debilitating, stigmatizing, and there is no cure. How do you communicate this difficult information?

2. Describe a situation in which a colleague was upset with you over a mistake or error you made. Were you able to resolve the situation? If so, how? If not, how could it have been handled more effectively to come to a resolution?

3. Describe a time when you intervened in a disagreement between two peers or colleagues. Were you able to find common ground or otherwise diffuse the situation? If so, how? If not, how might you have acted differently?

Knowledge of Professional Behaviors (Professionalism) Questions

1. Imagine a patient comes into your office, visibly upset with you. They feel you haven’t given them a complete list of possible options for treating their medical condition, based on information they found in an online support group for people with this condition. What do you say to this patient?

2. A parent brings their 11-year-old child in with a fever and pain in the ear, a likely ear infection. You swab the ear, and the swab comes out bright green, almost as if it had been colored with a green marker. What do you say to the parent and/or the child?

3. While going over your charts, you notice you have made an error in reading a patient’s lab work, leading to a misdiagnosis of an infection. Ultimately, the course of treatment will be no different – you would have prescribed the same antibiotics for either infection, and no other treatment will be necessary if the antibiotics work as they should. Do you inform the patient of this error? Why or why not? 

Sample Answers to SVI Questions

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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