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INSEAD MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 1 / Alumnus / Off-Campus

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! 🙂

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