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Monday, March 12, 2012

The INSEAD Interview

The INSEAD Interview

Alumni conduct all interviews. One is often friendly (good cop) while another less so (bad cop). 

Interviews are NOT blind. Sometimes interviewers read your entire file before meeting you. Other times, they only read your essays. 

Prepare for some follow-up questions about what you wrote in your application. 

For example, your interview may ask you to explain more about your goals, or why MBA, or why INSEAD. She may also ask you to explain more details about your most substantial accomplishments, failure, or culture shock stories that you shared in your essays.

My colleague, Steve Green, has provided me with a great organized list of common questions:


RESUME (Expect answers to be probed for details.)
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • What do you do in your free time?
  • Tell me about yourself. / How did you get to where you are now?
  • Tell me about your career progression to-date
  • Why did you choose your current firm / current position?
  • Tell me about your current work responsibilities.
  • Tell me, in detail, about one project in your current job.
  • Tell me about your international experience(s) - both work and personal.
  • Tell me about the major milestones in you life since university graduation.

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your career goals after INSEAD
  • What will you do if you do not get the job you want after graduation?
  • Why an MBA?
  • Why now?
  • Why INSEAD?
  • Where else did you apply? How would you prioritize your decision if admitted to two or more?

  • What is special about you that will make me recommend you?
  • Tell me 3 strengths
  • Tell me 3 weaknesses
  • What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
  • When you are in a gathering, what attracts your attention first?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What do you find intolerable?
  • Where are your peers that started in the same class with you at your consulting firm?

  • What is your style of negotiation?
  • How do you deal with a boss who is not as smart as you?
  • How do you deal with a person who’s determined not to listen to you even though he/ she knows you are right?

  • Tell me about a time when you were in control of a project.
  • Tell me about a time when you were in a leadership position?
  • What is your leadership style?

  • What THREE things would you do if a team member at INSEAD were not pulling his own weight?
  • Tell me about your teamwork experience.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a team.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with conflict on a team.
  • How do you handle cultural differences on an international team?

  • How has the economic crisis affected your company/your industry?
  • What do you think of (SOME CURRENT GLOBAL ISSUE: POLITICS, ECONOMICS, etc.)?
  •  What is the main challenge your industry/company is facing?


The interviews went well. Contrary to my expectation, Interviewer A was the "good cop". He talked mostly about his experience at INSEAD and the only questions he asked me were about my goals, "why INSEAD?" and questions to him.

It was Interviewer B's first experience at interviewing a non-Japanese candidate and he asked me which language I would prefer to interview in. Obviously, I said, "English". He asked me about my goals, "why INSEAD?", contribution to the school, "what if you do not get into INSEAD?".

He also cross-checked a few facts in the essays.

Both reiterated that they do not have any say in the final decision and they would just be sending their feedback to the school within 2 days of the interview.


Below are two alumni interviews for INSEAD. Both interviews held in Tokyo.

Interview invitation mail came on January 12th.

INSEAD asks you to contact the two alumni and finish both interviews by X date. Final R2 results are announced Y date.

Interview with alumni No.1   January 2010

Conversational style interview. Friendly, but I was challenged on all answers.
Interviewer's background was close to mine.
The length was 1 hour and 20 minutes.
@ Starbucks
Language: 90% English, 10% Japanese (interviewer was Japanese but native English speaker)

Interviewer often interrupted me in the middle of most of my answers and changed questions.

Here below are some of the questions he asked.

1. Tell me about yourself?
2. Walk me through your resume?
3. Future goal? Where is your company going? Why X industry?
4. Why MBA? Why INSEAD?
5. Other schools applied? Top choice? Why INSEAD again?
6. How do you act when you don't get along with someone?
7. Ethical dilenma?
8. How I react when I get into the diverse group at INSEAD?
9. How I act if all others in your study group are aggressive leaders?
10. Do you have any questions? x many times
11. Strength and weakness of Japan? Where is Japan going?
12. Why France? Can you speak French? Are you OK with that?
13. What is your motivation?
14. Activities at INSEAD?

The interviewer kept saying he was checking my fit. He seemed to be looking at my personal aspects. Pity that he did not seemed convinced all through.
When we left, he asked me to send him mails if I had other questions...


Interview with alumni No.2     January 2010

Friendly & conversational. Interviewer is working in Private Equity, and his background (finance->INSEAD->consulting->Private Equity)
Completely matched my future career path.
The length was 40 minutes.
@ interviewer's office meeting room
Language: 100% Japanese

Here below are some of the questions he asked.

1. Tell me about yourself?
2. Walk me through your resume?
3. Future goal & Why MBA? Why INSEAD?
4. Why hospitality industry?
5. Other schools applied?
6. Fonty or Singapore?

The interview ended in 15 minutes and entered Q&A. For this interview, I think I was confident on all answers.

INSEAD tends to do both aggressive style and kind style interviews.
One interviewer checks professional activities and goal, and the other seemed to put emphasis on finding out what kind of person you are (soft skills).


With an American INSEAD alumni member working in Tokyo.
Interview took around 30 minutes.
Started from his introduction for 5 minutes and then as follows
-Tell him about myself
-Why MBA?
-Other schools I applied and which is my best? (Of course I said INSEAD!)
-What major will I be interested in?
-Future career?
-His impression about Japanese student (shy and low goal setting)
-Any questions? (I asked strong points and weak points on INSEAD. He highlighted international discussion as strong point of contents of INSEAD program and he did low name recognition as weak point)

 2005 Alumni Interview
My overall impression was that the interviews were the most informal, but the toughest among the ones I took.
I don't quite remember each and every question because it is already a few days since I took the interviews and probably also because I had to bring my concentration level to the highest leaving myself with not a lot of memory afterwards.
Interview 1
Interviewer: Employee of Accenture (Nationality: Japanese)
Time: about 1:15
Language: 100% Japanese
Questions asked:
I am sorry but I don't quite remember each question.
However, a lot of emphasis was put on my work experience and he was checking whether the accomplishments at work were for real.
The interviewer also gave me advice on how I should take myself to the next level before my second interview for maybe more than 15 minutes. (Of course this means that I will not get the highest rating, but he was very serious on helping me out.)
He also made me send answers to my motivation toward INSEAD What my goals are after the interview. (He told me to do so right at the beginning of the interview. He said he did not want to use the time during the interview for those questions.)

Interview 2
Interviewer: Employee of Citi bank Securities (Nationality: British, judging by the accent)
Time: about 1:05
Language: 100% English
First 5minutes, chatted about a couple of things (not about MBA)
Last 10 minutes: Told me about his experience at INSEAD
Things asked (questions I remember being asked)
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about the consumer related industries.
・ (I remember talking about a lot about my visit to the Singapore campus and why I was so impressed with visiting other Asian countries (Singapore and Thailand))
I also remember having long conversations about the diversity at INSEAD.
・What will you be doing in 10 years?
・Tell me about the seminar at university
・Leadership at work
・What do you like to do outside of work
・Why did you quit?
・What are you doing now?
・Do you know anyone in consulting?
・Which consulting firms would you like to go to?
・Any questions?
The questions were pretty much basic, although the interviewer allowed me to add what ever I wanted.
He covered probably every aspect and covered it thoroughly.
Things I heard the from the interviewers what the admissions office tells them

a. The applicant is ranked in 5 levels
b. At least 50% on the interview should be in English (although my first interview had no English)
c. The interviewer has to report back to the admissions office within 48 hours of the interview.

First interview
1. Why INSEAD?
2. What is your ambition? What do you imagine yourself doing 10 years after graduating INSEAD?
3. Why MBA, Why now?
4. What type of leader are you?
5. Does it bother you to work with someone who is not as highly motivated as you?
6. Elaborate on your weakness? Does joining INSEAD help you overcome the weakness?
7. What do your friends say about you?
8. Your accomplishment?
9. What do you do in your free time?
10. What is your interest Asia, or emerging market?

Second interview
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why did you chose to go into accounting field?
3. Why INSEAD?
4. Did you apply to any other school?
5. Why are you not interested in Japanese business schools?
6. Do you plan to come back to Japan after graduation?
7. How many people do you supervise? What do you like and do you not like about leading a team?
8. Have you ever had any conflicts or hard moments with your subordinates? Have you had any conflict with your boss?
9. What do you think you can take from INSEAD’s network?
10. What Japanese business magazine do you read? What do you think about working women’s status in Japan? (He said these questions are just out of his personal curiosity)
11. Interviewer's attitude: Very friendly. Mr. M even gave me his company booklet. It seemed that they also saw the interviews as my opportunity to learn more about INSEAD, and they explained many merits about joining INSEAD.
12. Others: Ms. A asked me to e-mail my CV prior to interview, and also bring 6 pages profile (part of application) to the interview. Mr. M asked me to send my CV and whole application package including essays.

-Updated by Vince on 14 March 2012

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