INSEAD MBA Interview

To ace your INSEAD MBA Interview, you’ll need to understand the format and goals of the interview process, and give yourself as much time as possible to prepare.

In most cases, MBA applicants are required to participate in two separate interviews, both with INSEAD alumni.

Alumni are hugely important at INSEAD. In fact, one of the admissions criteria listed on the school website is the “ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience during and after the program.” So it’s no surprise that alumni play an integral role in the interview process, and it should also be no surprise that your ability to contribute to the program will be discussed in the interview itself.

While some top business schools, like Harvard, aim to keep their interviews short and focused, the INSEAD interview is typically more conversational than confrontational. However, you should still be prepared for a thorough dialogue that delves into your background and your path to business school.

One of the primary goals of the alumni interview is engagement. Interviewers want to see that not only are you prepared to answer their questions, but that you have questions of your own. The interview is your chance to find out more about the program and about what life is like at INSEAD, from people who have already gone through it.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity! Demonstrating a genuine interest in student life and in making the most of your time at INSEAD is a great way to show the alumni interviewers that you’re a serious candidate.

What INSEAD looks for in its candidates?

Frequently Asked Interview Questions

Most top business schools emphasize the importance of a global mindset when it comes to succeeding in their MBA program. But at INSEAD, multicultural understanding isn’t just a buzzword used in class, it’s a way of life. With a class profile where no one region makes up even a quarter of the student population, being able to gel with classmates in an uber-international student body is an absolute must.

You should prepare for your interview by thinking through examples of your own experiences with diversity and multiculturalism. The admissions criteria indicates that “most [INSEAD] applicants have either worked or studied outside their home country.”

If you don’t have that kind of international experience, the interview is the perfect place to illustrate why you will still be a good fit for the school, whether through traveling, working with refugees, hosting foreign exchange students, or anything else that has taught you how to work with people from varied backgrounds.

Your INSEAD interviewers will also be very familiar with your resume and application materials. You should thoroughly review all the material you submitted during the MBA application process, because it will come up during the interview. Be ready to address key topics and questions like:

Walk me through your resume.

Why are you pursuing an MBA?

Why did you apply to INSEAD?

What are your career goals?

These are all pretty standard questions, and while the interviewers aren’t looking to trip you up, they are looking for evidence that you’ve put some real thought into these issues. Particularly because the INSEAD MBA is such a short program, they are looking for applicants who have given serious thought to their goals, and who will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as they’re admitted.

Again, the more time you can spend coming up with concrete examples to illustrate your experiences, your strengths and weaknesses and goals, the better prepared you will be for your MBA interview. In addition to the standard topics, the interviewers will ask many different kinds of questions to get to know you, such as:

What do you do for fun?

What do you think your biggest contribution to INSEAD will be?

Where else have you applied?

What will you do if you don’t get in to INSEAD?

Alumni interviewers are not chosen at random – the admissions committee tries to match applicants with interviewers who have similar career interests, or other things in common. Ultimately, doing well in your INSEAD MBA interviews isn’t about coming up with the perfect answers; it’s about having a genuine conversation and connecting with your interviewers.

Interview Transcript - 1

INSEAD takes a different approach to the interview than many other top schools.

All interviews are conducted by alumni.You’ll have two interviews (with two alumni selected based on their backgrounds)Interviews can be longer (over one hour is common)Interviews are not blind.

In general, applicants tend to describe the INSEAD interview process as more in-depth. For an illustration of this, below we have laid-out an overview of the interview experience of an applicant who interviewed last year. As you will see, INSEAD’s interview is focused on how you will contribute, what your leadership potential is, and gaining an understanding of really “who you are” and what drives you.

Jonathan’s INSEAD Interview Experience

I had two interviews: one with a more senior guy, who had completed INSEAD 20 years ago (nine years at McKinsey and now in PE); and one with a more recent alumna who had graduated five years ago (had worked in Telecom in Brazil and is now in Pharma in Switzerland.  Overall, I think my interview with the senior person was more challenging and could have gone better.

I was expecting the senior interviewer to be looking for leadership potential and the recent alumni to be looking for my “fit”; and that was exactly my experience.

The interview with the more senior alum started with him asking me to present my story and who I am, which I did very high level. Then he started going through my CV and asking questions about my university experiences such as why I majored in biology, why I attended Harvard for undergrad, and why I had served in the military. He then moved on to my current role at (a large technology firm) where he phrased his questions like a mini-case-study.  He wanted to know more details about a recent project that I had led including detail surrounding our customers, our model, and why we approached the project like we did.  Finally, he ended by asking me what actions I would take immediately if I were to be named the CEO of my company. The whole thing lasted a little over an hour with the final 10-15 minutes devoted to my questions.

My second interviewer had prepared 10 questions for me in advance of our meeting. She was more interested in understanding my reasons for choosing INSEAD, why I wanted to pursue an MBA, why now, and how I would contribute to the class. During my answers to the final part, she stopped me to do a slight deep dive on my travel (where have I traveled, why, what did I do there, etc). She then shifted gears to discuss my goals in-depth. We talked about my plan to go into consulting and then to a strategy role in tech. She gave me feedback on my goals since she pursued an internship in consulting, and that part of the interview was very conversational. After discussing my goals, she opened it up to my questions, which lasted another 10-15 minutes. The total time for my second interview was approximately an hour and a half.

Overall, I felt that the INSEAD interviewers were very well prepared to speak with me and that they seemed to have an opinion that they wanted to validate.

Debrief: What Does This Mean for You?

Jonathan’s experience is similar to other INSEAD applicants. Of course, alumni interviews will always vary – there is no strict guidebook – but you should expect a similar lay-out with deep dives on your experience, personal interests and your goals and rationale for an MBA. Ensure that you know the program inside and out. Alumni are very passionate about their alma maters and showing that you are equally as passionate can win you bonus points! And of course, ensure that you know what makes INSEAD “the business school for the world”! INSEAD’s unique diversity and culture are near and dear to your interviewer’s hearts, so you cannot research enough to prepare.

Interview Transcript - 2

Hi guys, I just had my first interview. And Pierre it was indeed in French, with just a small section in English.

She is a 2008 alum doing innovation strategy for a tech company:

My feeling about the interview is mixed. She was nice and she said she liked my profile. Yet I felt she really grilled me on future goal questions.

First she asked me to describe my company, what we do, clients and so on, as she is from a completely different industry.

The classic walk me through résumé and the trinity questions, all the while stopping me on the way to get more detail.

We then spent a significant amount of time on my future goals (aka why don’t I just go for them without an MBA, why this particular country, why that business, which segment I am interested in and why, and it went on and on and I provided tones of examples and personal anecdotes that landed me to wanting that particular line of business ).

Other questions were:

– Did you get in touch with people from the industry you are targeting? What did you learn from them?

– How are you going to contribute at Insead

– What are your plans B and C and so on (in terms of both region and jobs). Did you apply to others schools and why?.

– What does your company (boss) think about you applying, how will he take the announcement, will you consider going back after the MBA, why?

– Why do you choose Fonty over Singy?

– What makes you stand out on your current job

Then we talked about her career journey since INSEAD and spent some time on her previous job (until 4 months ago she worked for the same company as my partner so that helped).

We then started talking in “future mode” and she gave me some pieces of advice to fully enjoy the best year of my life  :ie. to do as many things as you can before school starts:

  1. Get rid of the third language requirement before september (not even sure I need that 3rd language, have to check),
  2. Waive the finance core courses of P1 and P2, so that I can take electives during this period and ultimately have time to travel when in Singy.
  3. Stay in fonty on weekends (and not go back to Paris) so as not to miss out on social events.
  4. Get my résumé ready to shoot before I start the programme.
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Interview Transcript - 3

I just had my first interview two days ago. My interviewer is a 2000 Alum, he started by introducing himself and asking me to introduce myself (background, jobs, experiences, how I ended up here, etc…)

Besides asking the classic questions (why MBA, why INSEAD), he digged really deeply into my W/E and details of my companies. Some other questions are:

– Why France over Singapore?

– Did I apply to any other schools? Would I choose INSEAD over those schools?

– If I were offered a job at a different company, would I take the opportunity? (Since I firmly stated that I would return to my current employer and that I favor the short, intensive, 10-month program over others)

– What can I contribute to INSEAD, professionally and personally?

Then I asked him some questions regarding his alumni network, how he ended up at INSEAD, and whether he applied to other schools. The interview lasted 45 minutes and he said that the admission decision is not his to make, he simply input his comments, which I interpreted as “if you are rejected, dont blame me” (I could be too pessimistic)…

Looking forward to my second interview

Hi guys, had my second interview.

Here is the debrief:

Interviewer: 2003 alum, Managing Director of a Subsidiary of Real Estate company.

It lasted two hours, he was actually nice, but clearly challenged my short term goal.

To him, Consulting just didn’t make sense. He said that I would waste my time there, that it wouldn’t get me closer to my future goal that he actually liked.

All the questions were around the countries in Africa in which BCG and McKinsey are based, who the heads of offices are, the types of projects they work on, who I talked to… Then he added that his friends in Consulting in Africa don’t get so many interesting projects other than with the governments, because African companies can’t afford MBB and that multinationals signed contracts with Europe or the US. So clearly going for Africa wouldn’t help, I’d rather work from a European office, I would get more African projects that way.

Then questions on my long term goal, why Kinshasa and not another city, how I would get financing, which organisms do finance projects in Congo, we talked of the World Bank, the IMF, the UN, infrastructure projects in the country, the mining industry in the east, political uncertainties, the war, my family members’ projects and it went on and on. 

He then said that I would be better off working in PE or for the World Bank or UNDP, and that if there are no offices in Kinshasa I could build one. He actually had a point, but I had to defend my consulting position no matter what. That was hard. 

He said that he got it that when people had no idea what they wanted they would go to consulting, but that I have a great project and he just doesn’t believe consulting is the way. I then asked him what he said he wanted to do when he applied to INSEAD, he answered CONSULTING . No comment.

All in all other than the job part that lasted almost an hour and a half, we only spent a couple of minutes on a couple of other questions: the 3 whys, a cultural choc, and ultimately how I would qualify my personality. And that was it.

On the positive side, an hour before the interview I received an email from INSEAD informing me that I was awarded a merit based scholarship, the “INSEAD’s women” one. €15k, should I be admitted of course. So I mentioned it, he laughed and said, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I wouldn’t have spent so much time writing”… I just don’t know what he meant by that!!!

Interview Transcript - 4

Hi guys,

Quick update from me: completed both my interviews last week.

Interview 1 was an awesome interview, we took an hour than went to get lunch together to continue our conversation. Interviewer stopped short of literally saying he would recommend me but he said my story was very strong and that I had great leadership potential. Some questions I remember:

  •    Why INSEAD?
  •    Why an MBA?
  •    What other schools have you applied to?
  •    He asked specifically about my industry experience and how I had progressed in my career (I have a lot of micro-promotions over 5 years)
  •    He asked about a time I had failed and how I overcame my struggle
  •    What are your weaknesses?

All in all, this was a great 1.5-2 hour conversation. I really enjoyed the experience and we had a very organic conversation, made me very excited to go to INSEAD!

Interview 2 was equally awesome, but in a different way. My interviewer was significantly more senior (SVP at a public company) and appeared to play more of a bad cop role and was less responsive to my answers (didn’t show as much emotion). Definitely a more challenging exercise but I believe I did pretty well – he was almost 16 years out of his INSEAD experience and was definitely reminiscing his experience a lot. He also asked some more odd-ball questions that I had a tougher time with:

  •    What book are you currently reading (coincidentally I am reading an INSEAD-book right now  )
  •    What blogs do you read?
  •    How does your company help other companies and how could you help mine?
  •    How do you learn from your mistakes, what process do you follow?

In addition to these questions there were some of the standard Why INSEAD, Why MBA, Where else are you applying type questions.

Overall, I think my interviews went better than I had expected although I probably could have done better on my second interview. Excited to hear back from INSEAD in 2-3 weeks!!

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Interview Transcript - 5

Hi,

As mentioned in another discussion, I had my first interview a couple of days ago. It was with an industry guy, ex-McKinsey. We had a very nice conversation; he was particularly interested in my experiences abroad and in the reason leading me to apply to INSEAD. The usual questions.. why an MBA, why INSEAD, etc… he didn’t ask me “why now”.. he probably forgot to!  

I was pretty optimistic myself about how it went and I got confirmation of my feeling directly from him when he said that he thought my profile was a perfect fit for INSEAD and that he’s going to recommend me to the AdCom for admission.  

I’m very happy indeed and looking forward to the second interview next wednesday. Fingers crossed!

Hey guys,

I’ve just completed my second INSEAD interview. It went even better than the first one. Usual questions (why MBA, why INSEAD), plus some objectives related questions (the interviewer and I had the same long-term goals and spent at least half an hour going through our ideas). He said I’m one of the best candidates he has interviewed so far and that he’ll recommend me to the AdCom. I’m glad about how both interviews went… now it’s just a matter of sitting back and wait!

Interview Transcript - 6

Hi everybody !

Regarding the video interview. I did mine yesterday.

Basically it is the same kind of things asked for TOEFL.

You have 4 questions and for each of them, 45 seconds of preparation and 1 minute to answer.

My question were (in don’t remember the exact wording):

– What are you expecting to learn during INSEAD MBA?

– How your colleagues would describe you leadership style? give an example

– How would you fight stereotypes in a work environment?

– You are starting a new project with team members coming from different cultures and educational background. How would you make them meet?

It is quite difficult to answer in one minute to those question but I thinks that the purpose is more to assess your English level and your behavior in front of the camera than your philosophical reflection about such complex subject as fighting stereotypes (at least I hope, because I have to admit that I did not say things particularly interesting in one minute).

got the following questions in video interview-

  1. What do you do when someone comes to you with a problem?
  2. What was the most interesting project you have worked on? Why was it interesting to you?

3.What does diversity mean to you?

  1. How do you keep track of your vision? Or that of your company?

y questions were mostly focused on entrepreneurship and how I would establish the foundations of my company. I won’t put the exact questions here since I think part of the point is that INSEAD wants to see how you can think on your feet  

I found it really fun! It’s a great way to demonstrate your way of thinking, personality and presence to a committee that would otherwise only be able to judge your potential based on your written application. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, think what a video can do for you.  

If you approach it with this attitude, you’ll do great. Relax and enjoy!

My practice questions :

– name a company you admire

– what does success mean to you

My real questions :

– why insead

– how would you establish the foundations of your company

– management style

– how did you build your international experience

Interview Transcript - 7

The video interview is basically (and eerily) similar to the TOEFL Speaking section. You get 45 second to prep, 60 seconds to answer. Record yourself as many times as possible!! I have my candidates record themselves, upload to YouTube and send me the link so I can coach them around it.

For the “give me an example” questions use STAR format https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situation … on,_Result

The questions are below. Prep a 1-min pitch for each. Eliminate “ums” and stuff – but the key to doing well here is to be as NATURAL as possible.

Do NOT have a script on the screen and “read” from it.

Do NOT sound like a robot who memorized each of the answers.

Do make little grammatical mistakes – it’s charming.

Smile.

And all the basic stuff like dress accordingly, check wifi, be aware of your backdrop. *Do not have posters of naked women on the wall behind you.*

What are you expecting to learn during your INSEAD MBA?

How would your colleagues describe your leadership style? Give an example

How would you fight stereotypes in a work environment?

You are starting a new project with team members coming from different cultures and educational background. How would you make them meet?

What do you do when someone comes to you with a problem?

What was the most interesting project you have worked on? Why was it interesting to you?

What does diversity mean to you?

How do you keep track of your vision? Or that of your company?

Why INSEAD?

How would you establish the foundations of your company?

What is your management style?

How did you build your international experience?

What is diversity according to you?

Describe one situation where you faced ethical dilemma? How did you resolve it? What factors did you consider while resolving it?

What according to you is required to start and run a successful business?

One project which interested you the most and why?

If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be and why?

Tell me what you like most about INSEAD.

Give me an example of how you convinced your other team members.

Give me an example of how you were attracted by culture from other countries.

What are 3 key successful factors to be an entrepreneur.

If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?

What word describes you best and why?

Tell us about the first job you ever had?

What’s the best book you have ever read and why?

When you have a problem, whom do you approach for advice and why?

What accomplishment are you really proud of?

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

If you could witness any event..past present or future-what would it be?

Tell us about an organization or activity in which you have dedicated significant time. Why was it meaningful to you?

What have anyone done good for you and how did you felt about it?

Tell us about the most interesting place you’ve traveled to. What did you enjoy most about it.

What invention during your lifetime has had the biggest impact on you and why?

If money was not a concern, what would you do?

What is the most meaningful thing anyone has done for you in your life?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

What food do you like? Will you be able to eat that food everyday?

How have you changed in the last 5 years?

Whom do you respect most, and why?

What is your favorite motto or quote, and why

What risk have you taken and what did you learn?

What impact do you have on your co-workers?

________

. What kind of skills do you want to learn at INSEAD

  1. What are the most important drivers of a successful business
  2. Tell me about a time you were caught off guard in a different culture
  3. How do you lead your colleagues when business priorities change?

1.How do you lead your colleagues to deal with changed business priorities?

  1. If you were given unlimited resources, what services or product would your company provide?
  2. How do you promote sensitivity and inclusion in the workplace?
  3. Please state why INSEAD should give you a seat?

_________________

Couple more questions for January batch. Client forgot the other two =) He was vacationing on the Virgin Islands at the time.

  1. what did you do to adapt and succeed in a culture different than you own?
  2. why an MBA ?

Interview Transcript - 8

  1. What kind of skills do you want to learn at INSEAD
  2. What are the most important drivers of a successful business
  3. Tell me about a time you were caught off guard in a different culture
  4. How do you lead your colleagues when business priorities change?

1.How do you lead your colleagues to deal with changed business priorities?

  1. If you were given unlimited resources, what services or product would your company provide?
  2. How do you promote sensitivity and inclusion in the workplace?
  3. Please state why INSEAD should give you a seat?

1 – if you were to start your company tomorrow, what would be its 3 core values?

2 – what would you do if you had to work with someone who does not share your ideas?

3 – what sources of information you use to stay up to date with INSEAD news?

4 – give specific examples of the importance of networking to a startup?

Interview Transcript - 9

Had my video interview this evening. 

I think it went quite well… definitely better than my practice sessions yesterday.

 

1 – If you were to start your company tomorrow, what would be its 3 core values?

2 – Why should INSEAD admit you?

3 – Most significant experience of traveling, living, or studying in a new country. How did it impact you and what did you learn?

4 – How do you generate new ideas?

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