Below are MBA admissions interview questions and experiences submitted by INSEAD applicants. If you interviewed at INSEAD, we encourage you to submit a report detailing your experience!
First and foremost, this is my first time drafting any MBA related report; this website has helped me out immensely both during the application process and the interviews themselves, hence I thought it’s the least I can do to help others who’ll be in my situation sooner or later
I applied in round 2 and received the interview decision which I was absolutely ecstactic about. It took some time for the admissions coordinator to locate alumni members in the country I’m in (funny enough there’s 4 or 5 different INSEAD grads at the organization I’m currently at), and initially told me that I might have to do an exceptional Skype interview which I was not too happy about. I strongly believe an interview is your chance to shine and to up your chances of getting in.
Anyways, I did receive the interviewers details shortly after – One was a Vice President (late 30′s) at an asset management firm and the other was an entrepreneur (mid to late 30′s).
My first interview was with the VP which frankly I was kinda nervous about given that I had heard from previous candidates that he tends to ask A LOT of questions and challenges your decisions. Although I come from a different industry, he’s a very sharp man who threw a lot of challenging questions at me regarding how I go about doing my job (I work in Business Development / Strategy) and tried to corner me on several occasions (yes, it sucks). I believe the intention of him doing that is to see your thought process and to judge your ability on putting a sound and logical argument. My advice here would be to ALWAYS make sure have a response to any counter argument on any part of your essays / career choices / etc. and prepare for such situations. He then asked me some standard questions such as:
- Why MBA
- Why now
- Example of a situation where I iniated something
- And several more of the quite typical MBA questions at any school
The interview lasted for one hour exactly and I came out not really knowing whether I did well. Towards the end he threw a question at me ‘What will you do if you do not get accpeted at INSEAD’ which left me thinking ‘oh crap’. However, I did say that I would sharpen my application / GMAT scores / etc. and re-apply once again because I do believe in pursuing realistic goals in life. He had a poker face on throughout the interview which left me re-thinking things over in my head and how I could have answered differently etc. Nevertheless, I’d say it went fairly well but was just difficult to assess how I did.
The second interview was a few days later and I can confidently say this one went well. It was a much more relaxed interview (actually more like a conversation) that went over the very general application, career progress, international exposure that I’ve had and more a ‘fit’ kind of interview. The interviewer was very friendly and the general vibe was relaxing. Likewise, and as expected, it covered general questions such as;
- Why an MBA
- What would be your next step if you were to remain with your employer
- What do you hope to get out of INSEAD
- How will you contribute
- Where else have you applied and why do you think you got accepted/rejected at other schools (do not BS here, just be honest)
- and several similar questions.
Long story short, I think my first interview went fairly well and the second went as I had hoped – very well. One was there to challenge my decisions and see my thought process, and the other looks to see if you’d fit into the INSEAD culture.
Best piece of advise I can give to all candidates out there is be yourself, be confident with what you say and don’t be monotonous. Sound like you’re excited about what you do and how you want to contribute to the school. Also, make sure you thoroughly read your essays and develop counter arguments in your head so you can be prepared for any challenging questions an interviewer can throw at you.
Now it’s time for me to get back to work and to constantly refresh my email in anticipation of the final decision
Good luck to all applicants!
Writing this report as I have benefited from reading the other reports, hope it’s of some help.
I applied in Round 2 and arranged interviews with two contacts provided by AdCom via email; they responded promptly and I booked my ticket to fly to another city (1 is not based locally). At this point I had been through an interview with another school so I didn’t prepare much except familiarising my essays.
Two interviews did not differ in nature so I’ll summarise them into one. Both interviewers did their MBA in 200x and are now partners of private equity firms. Both are friendly, but prefer answers relating to professional life.
Questions I was asked
- Standard ones: Why MBA? Why INSEAD? What are your plans for the future? Tell me about your life and work. Why should we pick you for INSEAD?
- Others: What international events do you follow? How often do you take initiative? Strengths and weaknesses/ significant achievements. How do you handle stress?
I did very well in one and fairly consistent in the other. My view on the alumnus interviews are below:
- The interviewers assess fit for the school in between questions and are good at reading what has not been said. Work on sincerity.
- Questions are not hard and if you give an average answer they will move on, but if you give an excellent answer they can relate to personally, the the conversation becomes even more open ended.
- There are times to ask questions and I personally did not use it as a chance to impress them, but instead asked more practical questions about my areas of interest (i.e. how women progress in consultancy/IBD firms, how they become partners of PE firms, etc).
- If you feel that it’s worth your time and you learned something regardless of the final decision, then it’s worth it and the chances are you will get in.
Hope this helps.
The first interview was with an older alumna at her house. She first asked me casual questions about how I got there and any difficulties I may have had en route. She then took my resume and asked me the following questions:
1. Tell me about your career to date
2. Why INSEAD? France or Singapore? Why?
3. What do I hope to achieve after my MBA?
4. What other schools have I applied to?
5. What is the toughest conflict I faced and how did I handle it?
She was very informative about INSEAD and the culture.
I met with 2 alumni in Hong Kong, both entrepreneurs: one American-born Chinese lady, and one Indian man.
The woman was very friendly, while the man was more professional and to the point. But both were nice anyway.
First interview was in a coffee shop. It was quite short, around 35-40 minutes.
Questions were very standard:
- why MBA
- why INSEAD
- short-term professional goals
When I told her my goal was to go back to my current industry / company, she looked surprised and asked me why I made this choice. Coming from a non-traditional background (construction / workplace solutions), I had to explain what I actually do and why I want to keep doing it. She seemed interested and we spent quite a long time talking about my industry and where I see it going.
I felt she was also trying to size up my fit with the school, and more specifically my cultural awareness and adaptability. I gave more details about my personal and professional life as a European in Hong Kong. She didn’t get to read my essays so I could re-use my ‘cultural shock’ essay in the interview.
Second interview was in a coffee shop as well, also quite short (40-45 minutes)
I didn’t feel the interviewer was keen to analyze my answers very deeply. Questions were, again, very expected:
- walk me through your resume
- why MBA
- why now
- why INSEAD
- career goals
Once the interviewer assessed my level of English, understood that I was on a straight path for the last few years and that INSEAD was merely a stepping stone, he stopped the interview.
The last 15 minutes of the interview, I asked questions about his own experience (same question as the ones I asked to the 1st interviewer):
- What did the INSEAD MBA bring you career-wise, but also from a more personal point of view?
- What are, in your opinion, the most crucial takeaways of the programme
- what did you like the most at school? What did you dislike / is there anything you would change at INSEAD?
- any tip or recommendation for fresh admits / fresh students?
- is there anything you regret since graduation / since the beginning of the MBA programme?
- we also talked about the campus exchange, electives and bidding points
To sum up, no big surprise in the questions asked. But you can feel underlying INSEAD themes all along: students must have cross-cultural experiences and high adaptability, they must know (or at least pretend to know) where they’re going and show they’re ready to hit the groung running, and they must exhibit simple and friendly communication.
Maturity and an entrepreneurial mindset are two traits that, I believe, the school values, so don’t hesitate to emphasize those as well!
I benefited from reading about interview experiences on this blog so I thought I’d contribute.
As usual, with INSEAD, I was given the contacts of two alumni interviewers based in my country – one local, one foreigner.
Both interviewers were fairly senior and were from my industry (banking/finance). They responded fairly quickly to my email to arrange an interview (within 1-3 days). I sent them copies of my CV and my application. It may be cultural (I’m from Asia and both interviewers are Asian), but the interviewers were polite (but not overly friendly) and to the point. Interviews lasted about 45-50mins each. They were free-flowing as the interviewers seemed to go with the flow when asking questions.
I arrived early for both interviews and brought along a copy of my application and CV.
1. First interview was at a cafe, she arrived on time and bought coffee for us both.
I offered to pass a copy of my application/CV but she said it was not necessary.
I did most of the talking as she was rapidly firing the questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How would you deal with freeloaders in a team? (She went on to talk about how groupwork is a major part of INSEAD. My second interviewer also emphasized this.)
- Have you ever experienced failure and what are your thoughts on failure? (When I shared with that I wanted to start my own business.)
- Why do you want to do an MBA?
- Why should INSEAD take you? (This question wants you to state your unique selling points, taking things like leadership, international exposure etc as prerequisites. Useful to highlight things you have that are a minority in the INSEAD class profile.)
She was also happy to answer my questions about INSEAD such as whether she felt she’d gotten what she wanted out of the MBA, what the culture is like. I asked for her view about my fit for INSEAD (hoping to get a hint about her recommendation) but she kept it quite neutral, saying something along the lines of “it’s really about whether you make the effort to get what you want out of the experience”.
2. Second interview was at his office. He was held back 15 mins by some work matters but apologized for being late. He came in with a copy of my CV and application. He was a little tougher than my first interviewer, as he would cut me off when he felt my answers were not making sense (see below)
- Tell me about yourself
- What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
- Why an MBA? Why INSEAD? (When I honestly shared that INSEAD was the only school I applied to as it made more sense financially due to the 1-year program, he seemed pleased with the honesty, remarking that it was “always important to state the real reason”)
- Three unique things about you that should make INSEAD take you (only demographic reasons seem to be acceptable, as being a well-rounded candidate seemed like a prerequisite)
- Your career goals and aspirations
He seemed to express limited satisfaction with some of my answers (e.g. when I shared the most challenging aspect of my job, and then how my team and I had overcome it, he remarked, “doesn’t sound that challenging then”), but maybe he was just playing bad cop.
Again he emphasized the importance of knowing how to work in a team at INSEAD and was happy to take my questions about the school. When I mentioned I’d talked to other alums, he asked what I’d heard from them. At the end of the interview, he was nice enough to walk me to the lift lobby and make some small talk.
I didn’t think I did exceptionally well for the interviews, but not badly either. I admit I didn’t prepare too much, just read through my application; I’m used to talking to very senior strangers in my line of work so I wasn’t nervous. One of my colleagues who is an alum mentioned that if you got the interview invite, you’re more or less in. The alum interview serves mainly to confirm that 1) you’re really what you say you are in the application and 2) you’re a good fit for the school. So I wouldn’t be too worried about the interviews. Just be yourself and you’ll do fine!
Result: Admitted, starting Sep 2014!
INSEAD requires two interviews with alumni who live in your country of residence. I had to catch a short flight and managed to do both interviews in the same morning, last week. Here’s my report.
The first interview was with a director of a large petrochemical company. The interview took place at his office and was quite informal. He was around 40, quite busy, but very open and friendly. English is not our first language, so we chatted a bit in Portuguese to break the ice and then we started the interview in English. He asked me to talk about myself and my career and we talked about that for at least 30 minutes. Then the usual questions: why MBA, why INSEAD and what’s next (no ‘why now’ question). He asked me about other schools I had applied to and then we talked a bit on extracurricular activities, which is my weak point. He did not leave time for my questions, and I did not point it out.
On a whole, the interview took a bit more than one hour. He gave me his business card and asked to let him know about the result.
After a 15-min ride by taxi, I met my second interviewer (whom the first one knew). He is a former consultant and banker, and is now in PE, a bit more senior but nonetheless very friendly. The interview was conversational, covering the same standard topics but spotted with many questions challenging my professional path and my choices, my understanding of the industry I work in, my motivations and my language skills (I spoke mainly English and Portuguese, but also a bit Spanish and Italian).
After more or less one hour, he asked if I had questions, on which we spent 5 minutes. Once again, he gave his business card and asked to keep in touch.
In general, my point about INSEAD interviews is about confirming the good things you put in your essays. I also believe it is an acid test to check if you will integrate in the culture of the school and your maturity. As a result, it is very important to be sure and firm on your message, but also cool and friendly in your attitude.
INSEAD conducts two interviews and mostly these are by alumni. My interviewers had not got my essays; all they had is the interview form I was asked by the adcom to send to them.
First Interview – Junior Alumnus, early 30s. Duration 45 mins
The interview was very relaxed, in a café. It started by the interviewer telling me that she was mainly interested to know what I had done so far, what my career goals are and why INSEAD. I started with my life story and how I had come to become the person I am today. We found a few things in common and talked a bit about those. Then, I went on to describe my motivations and reasons for going to INSEAD. It ended with the interviewer giving me info about INSEAD and how to choose courses etc. To list the questions I was asked.
• Tell me about yourself
• Why MBA? Why INSEAD?
• More questions about my strategy for my business venture
• Did you apply to any other schools? How would you prioritize your decision if admitted to two or more?
• I was specifically asked about the application essay 5 – Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain?
Second interview – Senior Alumnus, mid 50s. Duration 45 mins
My second interview was also at a café. This was a bit more serious than the first one, but not harsh in any way.
• Why MBA? Why INSEAD?
• I was asked some challenging questions about my long term goals and how an MBA would help me achieve my goals as opposed some other courses.
• What is your current role and some technical clarifications related to my job as my job is not something people can easily understand from the job description
• Did you apply to any other schools? How would you prioritize your decision if admitted to two or more?
• Tell me about your international experience. How do you manage cultural differences?
• What are your strengths and weaknesses and what are you looking to get from the MBA. Follow on questions regarding my weaknesses.
A very detail-oriented interview was held. Here are questions:
- Why MBA
- Why Insead
- How is your English? How did you learn English? Will you be completely comfortable in an English environment ?
- What is your greatest strength ?
- How will you use your experience to contribute to class ?
- What are your long term goals ?
- Why do you want to go back to Japan after your MBA ? Are you looking for international work experience ?
- Have you create a business plan before ?
- How do you plan to fund your venture ?
- What are some of the other schools you are applying to ?
Then he exchanged business cards.
I was interviewed by CEO of an MNC.
Interviews were conducted at their respective offices and both interviews lasted 1.5 hours each. Interviewers have to fill a certain feedback form and most of the questions are asked from that form. These were:
- Why MBA,
- Why INSEAD,
- What are your short term and long term goals (geographical location/ industry and skills),
- What international experiences have you had,
- How you can add value to classes at INSEAD,
- Explain your career progression.
Interviewer had 15 years of experience in his field and he told me that he had studied in INSEAD after reaching the position of VP at his previous employer, which just impressed me a lot and I felt a bit nervous too. But, he was very friendly.
He asked general interview questions like why mba, why now, why insead. Why do you want to change fields ? And what was your thinking in choosing the new field- walk me through your decision making process ?
The interview was for half an hour.
Interviewer was another alum and he had started his own startup in Singapore. He was also friendly, but almost straight away jumped into questions. The questions were more detailed and he seemed to be looking for more specific information. What qualities make you good at your current job ? Tell me an instance where you used your qualities to gain appreciation ? How are you going to use these qualities in your future endevors ? What is your gameplan for the start-up you are hoping to create ? How are you going to arrange for the finances ? How would you want to run a company if you had the opportunity as a leader to do so ?
Good Experience overall. Friendly atmosphere was created by both alumni.
I received interview invite a week before the deadline. I was originally given two different names but they were changed and two new names were provided by the end of the next week. I was to contact them and setup the interview within a month. As we all do, I tried to find information about interviewers. First interviewer was in private equity and second in a top three consultancy firm. As already mentioned elsewhere, both of the interviewers were in some way related to my profile – means they would in a good position to judge my profile.
I got my interview setup two weeks later on a Friday. Both of the interviewers were in NYC and since it is few hours drive from my place, they were super polite to accommodate my request for the interview on the same day. I did not know what to do in preparation for the interview. I read a number of blogs, talk to friends who have been to INSEAD and read books about interviews. All of them advised to be MYSELF during the interview and that the interview is nothing but a conversation. I started by reading my essays and profile closely, making up questions that might be asked. I will practice in front of the mirror speaking out loud on how I would answer my questions. This practice probably was helpful to not look for answers when interviews finally happened as everything was in the back of my mind. From experience, I know it looks very unnatural to try to remember details of own profile when in conversation. As the interview date drew closer, I realized that this practice also has a downside. A conversation is not like a speech but I was practicing speech for the lack of a real person asking questions. If I overdo it, our conversation will turn into a one sided talk show. Realizing this, I stopped the practice a week before the interview. Instead I would try to find opportunities at work to have conversation with people around me. It helped me to come back to normal – listen closely, think, respond and ask questions.
First interview was half hour. It was little scary to meet someone so high up. I waited for 5 min. He came to meet and greet me and take me to his office. He had my profile and other information with him. While he was searching his emails and computer, I gave him my CV and a copy of the profile. He was pleased to see that I came prepared. He started by explaining the process of interview. How it would be recorded. Then he went over his own career. I asked a few questions about that as it was quite interesting. He then delved into my profile – questioning every move I made in my career and how INSEAD fits into the picture. I could see very clearly he is making a 3D image of my career and trying hard to understand motivations for going to INSEAD. I was amazed how well he dissected and extracted the essence of my move to MBA. I could understand how futile it would have been to be even a tad bit made-up or dishonest with this guy. He would have found out. Everything went like a conversation after initial hiccups and a few silences in between. At the end of the interview, he told me that he could see why I want to go to INSEAD and would provide me a positive feedback. He asked me to keep in touch.
I was ecstatic.
At the last moment, the interviewer had to change the meeting place. I had just enough time to take a taxi and show up. I reached his place about 15 mins early and waited in the lobby for him. He came, shook hands, apologized for changing venue and thanked for driving few hours to meet him. He was super relaxed and friendly person. When we sat for the interview, he asked me to take off my coat and relax. As CV has worked for last interview, I was quick to take it out and hand it to the interviewer. He did not seem so interested in following a set pattern but took the CV and scanned for something interesting. I have done a number of interesting thing in life – very unconventional and unheard of. We talked about them for a little while with conversation moving back and forth encompassing our experiences. It felt more like a afternoon conversation of friends who shared same interests but met after so long. He gave me tips about INSEAD and how I should proceed in my career. At the end of the conversation, he asked me stay in contact. I was a little worried since he did not tell me how his feedback would be. I wondered if I got too friendly and said something that he did not find so agreeable. Or the fact that interview stretched for 1.5 hrs was not taken kindly.
A few days later, I got email from him asking for my essays. I sent them to both of the interviewers. When I got admit, second interviewer sent me a letter congratulating.