Six steps to INSEAD Interview success

The INSEAD Interview

  • INSEAD's acceptance rate is reported to be between 25-33%

  • If you made it to the interview, your chance of getting admitted should be close to 50%

  • Alumni conduct all interviews

  • One is often friendly (good cop) while the other can be more aggressive (bad cop), challenging your answers by asking "why?" and "how?"

  • One interviewer checks professional activities and career goals

  • The other interviewer often emphasises soft skills (leadership, teamwork, communication skills)

  • According to this video (jump to 09:52)

  • Two alumni interviewers

    • One from a similar background

    • One from a different background

  • Approach it like a job interview

  • What is special about you?

  • What motivates you to come to INSEAD?

  • Alumni want to know your

    • Fit for programme

    • Qualities to succeed academically

    • Possible contributions to alumni network

    • Softer skills: communications and interpersonal skills

  • Interviews are NOT blind

  • Prepare for some follow-up questions about what you wrote in your application. For example, your interviewer 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

  • Unconfirmed insights from past admitted clients

  • The applicant is ranked along five criteria

  • At least 50% of the interview should be in English

  • The interviewer is supposed to report to the admissions office within 48 hours of the interview


You have been invited to interview with INSEAD.

Now what?

  • I provide school-specific training for INSEAD interviews

  • I am receiving many inquiries from new clients who want help preparing for an INSEAD interview

    • First, l need to take care of my comprehsensive clients

    • If time allows, I would be happy to prepare a few interview-only clients, as well

  • Please follow the six sign-up steps below if you would like to secure my time





  • Please complete my intake form

  • Let me know when you plan to interview, and when you want to practice with me

  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you





  • One INSEAD mock interview training session lasts 60 minutes

    • I ask customized questions for the first 30 minutes

  • We spend the last 30 minutes reviewing your answers

  • I can help you brainstorm more effective ways to answer the questions I asked

  • We can also discuss other ways that INSEAD alumni interviewers might ask you to discuss the same information (different questions that solicit the same core contents that I wanted you to discuss during our 30 minute mock interview)

  • Finally, if time permits, we can discuss other types of questions that might be of concern to you

Not sure how many sessions you need?

  • Most of my successful clients practice INSEAD interviews with me for at least 2 hours (two sixty minute sessions)

  • Some need as little as 1 hour (one sixty minute session), which is my minimum charge

  • Others practice for 5 hours or more (five sixty minute sessions)



My fees are listed here


  • Clients in Japan pay via bank transfer or cash

  • Clients outside Japan pay via PayPal

  • Japan-based clients that want to pay via PayPal are subject to a 5% handling fee to cover PayPal charges





  • Please follow my cancellation policy

If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince’s discretion




Some INSEAD interviewers members read your profile before interviewing you

I want to do the same

Once our session is scheduled, please attach and send me your entire INSEAD application

Also, if you have access to your recommendation letters, please send those, as well

After reading your application, I will prepare a custom list of questions to fit your case

  • I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to your interviewers and/or INSEAD adcoms

  • I also assess your communication skills

  • I cannot predict what questions you will be asked at your real interviews, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what INSEAD expects from admitted applicants

After our session(s), I will destroy all hard and soft copies to maintain client confidentiality





  • I will keep the time of our mock trainings to 60 mins exactly (30 mins of questions and 30 mins of feedback / tips / next steps)

  • I will review your INSEAD application free of charge

  • I will also not charge to create a custom question list based on your situation

  • If you are not my comprehensive client, I will not be able to engage in lengthy email exchanges with you between or after our sessions

  • In short, you are only paying for my "face time" (whether in person or via Skype)

  • I am adding the prep time (up to 30 mins per session), free of charge

  • Therefore, I feel confident that my service offers good value


  • If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

  • Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince's discretion




  • Please note that I would appreciate hearing from you after the interview

  • I will send you a short one page feedback request form that asks if you experienced any surprise questions and/or challenging follow up questions that I could done a better job prepare your to handle with confidence

  • I will keep your replies confidential and use them to improve my service (internally, not externally on my website)

  • Finally, I expect you will tell me about their final admission result after INSEAD informs you

  • By knowing your result, I will know if my service was effective or not

  • I aim to provide the best INSEAD interview training in the world


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.


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.

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 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 dilemma?

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.

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

Time: about 1:15

Language: 100% Japanese

Questions asked:

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

Time: about 1:05

Language: 100% English

First 5 minutes, 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 basic, although the interviewer allowed me to add whatever 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.

More reports here

5 ways to fail interviews

If unprepared, we sometimes fail to:

1. Deliver core content

2. Show confidence

3. Confirm fit + contribution

4. Ask open questions

5. Stay in touch

❶. Deliver core content

2 styles

reactive (study question lists – memorization)

proactive (study your answers – self marketing strategy)

Interviewing is physical, like acting: mind, soul, and body

talk to yourself - mirror method

talk to each other - trade time for mock interviews

Use Vince's "Mirror Method" to practice your interview answers at home

  • Interviewing is physical

  • Do not prepare for interviews by writing outlines or scripts, or, worst of all, creating PowerPoint slides

  • Instead, talk ... to yourself


  • Although I majored in History at Stanford, I took more acting classes than history classes

  • Patricia Ryan Madson was my acting professor (check out her bestselling book)

  • She taught me how to use the mirror to prepare for challenging roles

  • I have modified her method to help you pass your interviews

Supplies needed

  • note cards

  • a mirror

  • a timer set for 30 minutes (typical interview length)

  • a voice recorder (smart phone, computer, IC recorder: anything that will record your voice for playback and review)

Mirror Method Steps

A. Write these 11 core interview questions on note cards

1. SELF-INTRODUCTION: Tell me about yourself / Walk me through your resume.

2. STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: What are your three greatest strengths and three greatest weaknesses?

3. LEADERSHIP (behavioral question): Can you provide me with an example showing your leadership?

4. TEAMWORK: What role do you usually play in teams?

5. DIFFICULT TEAM (behavioral question): Tell me about a time that you had to work on a team that did not get along. What happened? What role did you take? What was the result? Based on that example, what would you do if your study team members were not getting along with each other?

6. FAILURE (behavioral question): Tell me about a time when you failed. What did you learn from the experience?

7. GOALS: What are your goals?

8. WHY US: Why do you want to join this organization?

9. POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS: How will you contribute to our community?

10. ONE LAST THING ABOUT YOU: Surprise me. Tell me something else you want me to know that is not covered in your application.

11. Q and A: Do you have any questions for me? Ask me two or three questions. (Be sure to customize questions depending on interviewer's status, i.e. current student, recent graduate, senior alumni member, staff member who attended the program, staff member hired from outside the communiy)

B. Write keywords or bullet points on the back of each card

C. Assemble the cards in random order (different every time)

D. Start the timer as you begin speaking

E. Ask and answer each question

F. Maintain eye contact (with yourself) as you talk (try not to look at your cards)

G. Ask yourself "why" and "how" whenever appropriate to simulate an interviewer's follow-up questions

H. Make each answer as direct and concise as possible

I. Listen to your answers in between self-study practice sessions to ensure continuous quality improvement



  • Shuffle your question cards every time you practice

  • Ask yourself questions in a different order every time

  • Memory is built through repetition in random order

  • If you expect questions to follow a certain order, you might be surprised and unprepared if the interviewer asks the questions in a different order than you expected

Three methods:

1. mirror method,

2. story matrix

+ Discuss how to use +/- chart

Hard part: determining your +/-

Sometimes the hardest part of BEI is knowing when NOT to share an example

3. put the result first newspaper headline style

❷. Establish presence, show confidence

Interviewers want to hire confident communicators, not self-absorbed speech givers

Do not memorize a script

· Memorize questions and keywords

· Create acronyms: TAI, FYOB, STAR

Behavioral interviews

Turn your resume contents STAR outlines or frameworks

· Hint - results (headline) first

· Practice delivering them in a way that sounds fresh

· Insert pauses between each part of your story

· Your interviewer will appreciate those pauses because they will allow her to ask follow-up questions or confirm anything that she finds confusing

· In this way, your interview will feel like conversation

Put results first and behavioral questions. Also be sure to tell the interviewer what it all means. Headline your answers and identify core qualities values and characteristics that drive your behavior.

Often, interviewers ask a behavioral question without any guidance. The interviewer asks her question. Then, the interviewee mumbles out a long and boring response that fails to address the questions behind the question -- what the interviewer really wanted to hear but did not ask you to tell her.

If interviewers explained the process, interviewees might feel comfortable having a discussion rather than presenting a memorized speech. Therefore, I suggest you imagine your interviewer saying something like this:

"I'm going to ask you a behavioral question. As a part of your answer, please tell me about yourself. Your motivations. Your intentions. Your personal qualities.

In your answer, be sure to cover the situation, the task, your action steps, and the results.

If possible, I would also like to hear what you learn from experience and how you've applied that lesson.

Here is the question:

Tell me about a time you managed a team that failed."

During a behavioral interview, always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely. Your answer should contain these four steps (Situation, Task, Action, Result or "STAR") for optimum success.

Situation: give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome

Task: describe the tasks involved in that situation

Action: talk about the various actions involved in the situation’s task

Results: what results directly followed because of your actions

Whenever you can, quantify your results. Numbers illustrate your level of authority and responsibility. For example: "I was a shift supervisor." could be "As Shift Supervisor, I trained and evaluated 4 employees."

Example of a STAR Answer

Situation: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various events.

Task: I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by 30% over the past 3 years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.

Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go out to the local community businesses. I also included a rating sheet to collect feedback on our events and organized internal round table discussions to raise awareness of the issue with our employees.

Result: We utilized some of the wonderful ideas we received from the community, made our internal systems more efficient and visible and raised attendance by 18% the first year.

Behavioral Interview Example

Question: “Describe a situation where you have had to deal with a difficult person.”

Answer: “I was transferred to a new project at my previous company to replace a beloved member of the team. My new team leader exhibited hostility towards me and I found myself left out of vital communications and meetings. After a few weeks, I was able to talk her into a one on one meeting. When laid out all of the key objectives for the team, the previous employees role in meeting those objectives, and then discussed goals that I could set to make sure I was able to serve as a quality replacement. In our discussion, we also identified a few underlying issues with management that she had been carrying around with her. In uncovering all of these sentiments, she was able to clearly define her situation and achieve an understanding with her supervisors. In the end, the entire team morale improved, I was able to exceed my goals and the company itself became more profitable from our teams increased performance.”

Follow-up questions will test for consistency and determine if you exhibited the desired behavior in that situation:

"Can you give me an example?"

"What did you do?"

"What did you say?"

"What were you thinking?"

"How did you feel?

"What was your role?"

"What was the result?"

Frame as questions

Do you have great ideas?

Can you implement them?

Can you change others?

Can you change yourself?

Do I want you on my team?

Are you mature? How do you react when you do not get what you want?

Are you teachable? Can you remain flexible and optimistic when you face unexpected obstacles?

Do I want you at my party? Do you share our culture? Do you know our people?

Finish behavioral interviews project

How to ask and answer behavioral interview questions

How to assess strengths and weaknesses (complete strengths based leadership exercise - complete list of self-assessment questions (create my own method - help from George?)

How to link strengths and weaknesses to BEI answers

comment on my good better and best sample answers

How to practice at home using Vince’s mirror method

Train the interviewer


Would schools pay me to train their alumni interviewers?

❸. Confirm your fit and potential contributions

Problem - Assume your interviewer knows why you want to join her company

· Fit = culture

· Culture = people

Why this organization?

· Long and boring: Give a long speech listing three detailed reasons

· Better: rank your list

· Best: Describe ONE thing that you think sets this organization apart from others

How did you learn about us?

· Weak: Website

· Better: People (be prepared to share first and last names)

How can you contribute?

· Craft hypotheses, confirm your assumptions

· Relevant: e.g. Japanese language necessary?

· Valuable: make money or save money


· I know sales people expected to do 10

· I will do 20% more


Why should I hire you?

The Only Interview Question That Really Matters

"What's your business plan for doing this job profitably?"

The truly prepared job candidate has researched your company's business in detail and is ready to deliver a "mini business plan" about how to do the job you need done, showing why he or she would be your most profitable hire. There is no way to fake it. This is the only interview question that really matters because if the applicant's answer isn't a good one, then there's no reason to waste time talking about anything else.

Of course, if you're going to expect a job applicant to deliver plans, you need to give all applicants a heads up. Call each one at least a week before the interview. Tell them you expect a brief, defensible plan for doing the job. Tell them what to study and give them useful material to read.

Most job hunters can't be bothered. They don't want to invest the time and energy to get to know your business. They're too busy applying for a job, any job.


I know sales team members do 20 calls a week and bring in $1MM/year

I will do 20% more calls and bring you $1.2MM

❹. Ask open questions

Fail: Ask no questions, or too few, or not strategic

Bad questions for interviewers

· Too basic, too broad

· Easily answered on website

Too narrow

· Trivia or outside scope of interviewer's expertise

· Too personal - Salaries, vacations (save that for the negotiation stage)

Good questions

1) How might my X skills be useful in this role / organization?

2) How are top performers in this role recognized?

3) How would you describe the corporate culture? (start with YOUR idea)

4) What would others in this role say is the biggest challenge they face? (start with YOUR idea)

5) Is there anything else I can further address? (This should be your final question)

❺. Stay in touch with your interviewer

Follow up (thank you & final result / decision)

What didn't you say that needed to be said


1. Prepare

2. Perceive purpose

3. Confirm fit + contribution

4. Ask

5. Connect


INSEAD Admissions Criteria

1. Leadership potential

INSEAD is looking for applicants who can demonstrate their potential as leaders.

We will consider your professional experience and past performance when assessing your application.

Participants typically have an average of five years work experience (between two and ten).

More important than the length of your experience, is the quality of your accomplishments.

Younger applicants who demonstrate exceptional maturity and outstanding leadership through their professional and personal experiences are encouraged to apply.

2. Academic capacity

This section is evaluated on the basis of a sound academic foundation and the GMAT or GRE scores.

Academic foundation: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a recognised college or university (although in exceptional circumstances, we may waive this requirement for outstanding candidates with substantial professional experience). Many of our applicants have advanced degrees but this is not compulsory. To assess your academic background, we consider the competitiveness of the institution you attended and your academic performance.

GMAT or GRE: all applicants are required to take either one of these tests as they provide us with a standardised way of evaluating candidates. While we do not have a minimum score required for admission, we advise candidates to aim for a score at or above the 70-75th percentile for both the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT and a percentile of 75-80th or above for the quantitative and verbal sections of the GRE. Please keep in mind, however, that standardised tests are just one of several admission criteria. A high score does not guarantee admission, and a below average score does not eliminate a candidate.

3. International motivation

The Admissions Committee looks for candidates with very strong international motivation who typically have perceptive insights into the complexities of business in an international setting.

Most applicants to INSEAD have either worked or studied outside their home country; if they have not had such international experiences, they would have demonstrated in other tangible ways (working for a multinational company, learning foreign languages, travelling, etc.) that they are comfortable interacting in diverse communities and are committed to pursuing a global career.

Fluent English is a prerequisite at INSEAD.

In order to start the programme you must also prove that you have at least a practical knowledge of another language.

For more information about these requirements visit the Language Policy.

4. Ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience

We look for participants who can share the insights they have gained throughout their professional and personal experience.

It is our belief that a substantial part of your INSEAD experience will be shaped by your interaction with your classmates and your active participation both inside and outside the classroom.

As such, we welcome participants who are mature, energetic, highly motivated, well-rounded, and possess strong communication and interpersonal skills.