Alongside INSEAD’s MBA deadlines, the essay topics for its Fall 2023 and Winter 2023 intakes are now online.
However you decide to approach these essays, your most important first step should be to develop a deep understanding of the MBA. That will require you to not only know about INSEAD’s program structure, courses and professors but to also understand the outcomes of the MBA and to reach out to alumni for first-hand information. Essentially, you need to identify how INSEAD will fit your profile and professional projects, and, in turn, how you will benefit the school.
Job Essay 1: Briefly summarize your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of the budget, clients/products and results achieved. (200 words maximum)
This first essay question can be approached in a direct manner. If you work within a well-recognized industry, for instance in consulting or in finance, you can assume that the admissions team is familiar with your role and you don’t need to go into too much depth in your answer. But, if you work in an uncommon professional area, you may want to elaborate on your response up to the word limit to help the admissions team understand your role and its responsibilities. And be careful not to fall into the jargon trap—your answer should be readily understandable by the average college graduate outside of your industry.
Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (200 words maximum)
Here, INSEAD’s admissions committee is trying to gauge how well you’ve thought out your potential career paths, one of which would involve remaining at your current company. Is a promotion coming up? Promotion or not, will the size, number or complexity of projects you’re involved in increase? Will your team increase in headcount or impact? There are a plethora of other questions you could answer here, however, whatever you decide to mention about your future, make sure to keep it concise and realistic. If you’re currently an analyst, in most cases, it would probably be best not to mention that you’ll be heading to the c-suite next.
Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (300 words maximum)
This is another question where directness is strongly valued. However, if you’ve changed positions often or have a ton of promotions to your name, then you might end up using the full 300 words. Of central importance is the idea that INSEAD is looking for determined and strategically-minded applicants—individuals who, from early on in their career, defined their professional goals and identified the career path necessary to attain them, adjusting to circumstances when needed in order to accomplish their objectives. So, whether you changed positions ofter or once in a blue moon, rather than just rehashing your CV, try to express the internal logic of the various stages of your professional history.
Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD. (100 words maximum)
When it comes to short-term post-MBA goals, INSEAD prefers candidates who have attractive and—vitally—achievable goals that can be enabled through the MBA. If the admissions team doubts the feasibility of a candidate’s short-term objectives, they may go so far as to discuss it with their career development team, so be sure to describe aspirations that are reasonable. However, in this case, reasonable does not mean aiming low, as INSEAD is a competitive program searching for people who will move on to strong opportunities post-MBA. If you’re unsure what jobs to mention, take a gander at INSEAD’s employment data or take a stroll through LinkedIn.
On the other hand, for long-term goals, being daring is far more acceptable. While you should still present something somewhat feasible, it’s equally important that it expresses your desire to create a greater impact and that you’re able to show how it intelligently connects to your short-term goals. And, it goes without saying, that your future objectives should have a wider impact than what you can achieve immediately post-MBA. Finally, no matter what your aspirations are, try to show a line of continuity and growth in your future career.
Optional Job Essay: If you are currently not working or if you plan to leave your current employer more than 2 months before the programme starts, please explain your activities and occupations between leaving your job and the start of the programme.
Naturally, as an optional essay, you only need to respond if you meet one of the two following conditions: if you’re out of work while applying or you plan to take an extended break before beginning your MBA.
In the first case, INSEAD is looking to understand the reason you find yourself unemployed and how you’ve been taking advantage of the ‘free’ time that you have. It’s certainly not ideal to be jobless at the time of application—in fact, if you’re considering leaving work in order to prepare for the GMAT/GRE and app, as many individuals we speak with every year do, we highly recommend that you reconsider—, however you’re going to need to face the issue clearly, concisely (don’t make overly-long excuses) and intelligently. INSEAD will accept unemployed candidates who understand how to take advantage of their time away from the field.
Otherwise, if you’re planning to leave work more than two months before matriculating into your MBA program, INSEAD won’t necessarily penalize you for it; however, the school would still like to understand your reasons for making that choice and the benefit, to you or others, of that additional time. Naturally, the fewer years of work experience that you have than the average INSEAD applicant or the more job gaps, the less positive an extended break will appear.
Motivation Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary. (approximately 500 words)
INSEAD wants well-rounded, introspective candidates who not only understand their key differentiators and defaults, but also understand how those attributes intersect to shape them as leaders. A strong response weighs these elements in respect to the rest of your app and makes sure to hit all the right INSEAD-fit notes, all while building an engaging narrative. In fact, INSEAD has previously asked candidates to “make [the admissions team] laugh or cry,” so don’t be shy about expressing vulnerable parts of your history and personality, if they’re relevant to your pitch.
This may seem like a tall order at first, but it’s just a question of identifying the threads you wish to connect. Start off by creating a list of major events in your life and try to assess which of your attributes had led to or was impacted by those events. For strengths and weaknesses, if they’re not apparent to you, you can work backwards from the successes and failures you’ve experienced in your life, tracing them to characteristics in your profile. If you’re really lost, there’s no better resource than your friends, family and colleagues, who might be able to provide you with a better and deeper perspective on your attributes.
Another important note is that you should carefully consider how you choose to present your weaknesses. It’s best to avoid sounding generic or presenting false weaknesses that are in fact strengths; every year, INSEAD discovers countless candidates terminally suffering from detail-orientation or perfectionism. Having said that, you should avoid selecting examples that make you appear as a weak candidate or that raise questions on why you haven’t taken steps to correct said weakness.
Motivation Essay 2: Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (approx. 400 words)
Achievements and failures are opportunities to illustrate value, growth and, simply, self-awareness. As you approach this essay, you have to make sure that you frame these events relative to their effects on others. In other words, it’s not just about your leadership and evolution, but rather how your involvement in these successes and failures changed your relationship with those around you.
A final requirement of this essay is to highlight what you learned from these two experiences. In each case, INSEAD wants you to be introspective and examine every aspect of the outcome to discover what left the most long-lasting and positive mark. Since, from INSEAD’s perspective, if we’re unable to learn from our successes, we can’t repeat or improve on them; and, if we’re unable to learn from our mistakes, we can only end up repeating them.
Motivation Essay 3: Describe all types of extra-professional activities in which you have been or are still involved for a significant amount of time (clubs, sports, music, arts, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (maximum 300 words)
The word ‘all’ here may at first seem confusing or even overwhelming. Truth be told, it’s likely you cannot discuss all of the activities you’ve been a part of in only 300 words. Even if you feel you can squeeze in a long list of extracurriculars, it’s probably in your interest to concentrate and elaborate on a select few.
The admissions team really wants to learn about activities that have profoundly shaped your life and that have, ideally, allowed you to develop qualities that INSEAD students share, such as leadership and sense of a teamwork. You can even go further and connect some of your activities to those offered at INSEAD, allowing your past to help explain what motivates you to remain active in the future. Actually, by mentioning specific INSEAD clubs or events that genuinely reflect your previous interests, you can use this question to both highlight your passions and show your readiness to truly become a part of INSEAD’s global community.
Optional Motivation Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approx. 300 words)
Since INSEAD has already provided a myriad of questions through which you can address all sorts of aspects of your life, there shouldn’t be any pressure for you to include an additional response in this optional essay. It’s best to first ask yourself if an extra essay would actually bring your application some competitive advantage, or if it would be reiterating and, therefore, diluting your other responses. If you do want to use this space here, it could be a helpful place to either highlight another positive aspect of your profile that went completely unmentioned in the rest application or to explain away an issue.
In the latter case, if there is any problem with your applicant profile—poor grades, for example—then it is highly recommended that you use this essay to address it. Otherwise, INSEAD is likely to assume the worst case scenario, which could lower your chances of moving forward in the admissions process. Be sure to address any issue(s) in a clear, concise manner and, if possible, include examples of how you have permanently resolved the problem since—for instance, acing additional university courses taken during a recent summer to compensate for mediocre undergraduate grades.
Shortly after completing your INSEAD MBA online application, you will receive an e-mail notification from Kira Talent with a unique link to complete 4 video interviews. Your link will be also available on your dashboard within the application system.
The video should be seen as a unique opportunity for you to share your passions, your motivations and who you truly are. The MBA Admissions Committee is interested in obtaining an authentic view of you as a person, to see how you think on your feet and how you convey your ideas.
The video interviews do not replace the face-to-face interviews with Alumni.
Your application will be considered as complete and ready to be reviewed only once we have received your answers to the video interviews. Please complete your video interviews at your earliest convenience and no later than 48 hours after the deadline to which you are applying. We strongly recommend however that you complete this step before the final date to allow yourself some time to prepare for this exercise.
Since 2016, INSEAD’s video interview has been a way for its admissions team to have a visual and more casual presentation of candidates. It consists of 4 short questions, making it a compact format through which admissions can quickly gauge your communication skills and how you perform under pressure. Note that you cannot rerecord any answers, except if technical difficulties arise, so be sure to practice, practice, practice before starting this stage of the application.
As a final point, while you do want to prepare yourself for a large selection of possible topics, it’s much more important that your practice focuses on structure and presentation than content. INSEAD is aware that the time constraints will not allow for responses that contain perfect arguments and examples, and, instead, the school has a strong preference for answers that come across as engaging and extemporaneous.
For personalized guidance on how to build a successful application to this highly competitive MBA, be sure to reach out to our INSEAD MBA experts. For information about technical requirements in the application process, you can consult the MBA’s official site.