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INSEAD Interview Report: Round 1 / Alumnus / Off-campus

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The following INSEAD MBA interview report was submitted to Clear Admit by a Round 1 applicant who was accepted. Congratulations to them!

Congratulations if you’ve made it as far as getting an interview invitation from INSEAD! If you aren’t already aware, INSEAD generally requires you to do 2 interviews with alumni, and they find current alumni in your city to interview you. When the names of the alumni I was meant to contact were emailed through, I was also instructed to either send the alumni my CV or a copy of my INSEAD application. However, whether or not they read it is completely up to them, as such the interview could be blind or application-based depending on your interviewer.

This report I’m writing is about my second interview with an alumnus who was a partner at an investment banking firm. It was by far the most intense and thorough interview I had experienced, which was a bit of a suprise. In fact, it was so thorough that I wound up having a one hour face-to-face interview and then a follow up 45 min phone interview with him and never got to ask him any questions!

The interview took place early in the morning before regular business hours in his office, which made the atmosphere somewhat formal. He started off introducing himself and said he graduated from INSEAD 12 years ago. He also had a printout of my INSEAD application which I had sent him, and told me that he had read it in detail.

The first thing he told me to do was to walk him through my entire CV. As I took him through my CV, he would often interrupt and ask me “Why did you decide to do that?” or “How did you feel about making that decision?” He basically questioned every step I took in my CV. Many of the questions he asked were around thought processes and what I was feeling when I made various decisions which was different to other interviews I had experienced.

I was asked the typical “why an MBA?” and “why INSEAD?” questions. However, he threw me a few curve balls as well by asking me what I was feeling towards getting an MBA, any reservations I had, and what my greatest fears in doing the MBA would be. These were not questions that had come up in previous INSEAD interview reports when I did my interview prep.

He then moved on to leadership and teamwork questions and again rather than asking about my experiences and successes, he wanted to know my reasoning behind decisions I made and what I felt during the process. This was quite surprising as I had thought about my reasoning but not my feelings per se.

We ran out of time after 1 hour due to all the detail I had to provide and so he asked if he could schedule a follow-up phone interview since he had to go to a meeting. The follow up phone interview took place 3 days later when he had time available and again happened before normal business hours in the morning.

In the phone interview he covered my extra-curricular activities and personality traits. Interestingly he asked specifically for me to describe an entrepreneurial situation and clarified that it could be within the workplace. Thankfully I actually have a hobby side-business, but I think I would have struggled if I didn’t have an “obvious” experience as I was not prepared for such a question.

I was asked about my strengths and my weaknesses, which I had prepared for. However several personality trait questions later, he also asked for specific examples of when I made a good judgement and when I made a bad judgement, which was different from strengths and weaknesses.

I basically used up every single story I had pre-prepared in this interview and had to come up with many more on the spot. At the end he summed up all my strengths and said he had a good understanding now of who I was as a person, and that he thought I’d fit very well at INSEAD. He also gave me some advice telling me that I should be confident and feel like I deserve my place at INSEAD, i.e. to not be in awe of my fellow classmates.

My experience with him reinforced my positive image of INSEAD alumni. In spite of the intense and detailed questioning, I never felt like he was asking the challenging questions to “catch me out”, but rather because he genuinely wanted to get to know me. My advice to applicants is to be “real” and show your interviewers who you are as a person. Understanding your thoughts and feelings helps them connect with you and become one of your “supporters”.

INSEAD informs your interviewers regarding the outcome of your application by the way. I was waitlisted for Round 1 and I contacted him to let him know. He said that INSEAD had already told him and that he had replied to them conveying his surprise at their decision, which I thought was very nice of him. I ended up getting accepted to INSEAD when the Round 2 final decisions first started coming out, though I can’t tell whether or not my interviewer’s remark on INSEAD’s decision in support of me did make a difference.

Preparing for an upcoming interview at INSEAD? Click here to get the Clear Admit INSEAD Interview Guide.

After your interview, be sure to add your first-hand interview report to the Clear Admit Interview Archive.

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