Best Insead MBA application essay tips

Vince hints

INSEAD MBA Job Description and Motivation Essay tips

INSEAD Essay Topics (please, verify all information with schools)

Job Description Essays

  1. Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (short answer)
  2. What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer)
  3. Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer)
  4. Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer)


  • Optional: 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.

Motivation Essays

  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).
  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(approximately 400 words).
  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, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (approximately 300 words)


  • Optional Motivation Essay: Is there anything else that was not covered in your application that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee? (approximately 300 words)

ARCHIVE

INSEAD offers a great first essay set. Perhaps you should start with these essays because these are questions you would be prepared to answer for any school, in interviews if not essays.

Overall, you will be writing over 2,000 words for INSEAD. This includes approximately 1,800 words total to Motivation essays (including the optional essay). Plus, I would suggest roughly 100 words or less for each of the short answers = 400 to 500 words total.

Let’s dig deeper (plesae note: I have paraphrased the questions for the sake of concision. The full question text is below)

  • Below, you can find the tips that have helped my clients get admitted to INSEAD
  • Please note that I am providing tips in the same order that I suggest you write INSEAD job description and motivation essays
  • In short, I encourage you to write the easiest essays first
    • Doing so helps build momentum, which you need to tackle tricky questions about strengths and weaknesses, failure, and cultural diversity

What do they want?

  • First, let’s look at what they want.
  • Then, we will analyse why they want it.
  • Below, I have compiled all written components of the INSEAD application.


Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

  • Job Essay 1: What are your current responsibilities and results? (short answer)
  • Job Essay 2: What would be your next career step (role, title) at current company? (short answer)
  • Job Essay 3: What has been your career path, and why did you make those choices? (short answer)
  • Job Essay 4: What are your short and long term career aspirations with or without an INSEAD MBA? (short answer)
  • Optional Job Essay: How have you used your career gap to step toward your post-MBA goals? (short answer)
  • Motivation Essay 1: Personal characteristics / strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development (450-550 words)
  • Motivation Essay 2: How did your proudest achievement plus one failure impact your relationships with others? (360-440 words)
  • Motivation Essay 3: Positive or negative impact of cultural diversity (270-330 words)
  • Motivation Essay 4: How are you enriched by your extra-professional activities? (270-330 words)
  • Optional Motivation Essay: What else would you like to share with the Admissions Committee? (270-330 words)
  • Motivation Essay 1: Personal characteristics / strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development (450-550 words)
  • Motivation Essay 2: How did your proudest achievement plus one failure impact your relationships with others? (360-440 words)
  • Motivation Essay 3: Positive or negative impact of cultural diversity (270-330 words)
  • Motivation Essay 4: How are you enriched by your extra-professional activities? (270-330 words)
  • Optional Motivation Essay: What else would you like to share with the Admissions Committee? (270-330 words)

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

In what order should you work on your essays and other application materials?

Essay order

    • I suggest grouping your essays into four stages, as below indicated
    • Answer the easiest questions first
    • Applying to INSEAD is like running a marathon, or climbing Mt. Fuji
    • You need to build and maintain momentum
    • Also, do not send me entire essays for initial review
    • Instead, please me outlines or bullet points of possible answers before you write a full essay draft
    • Reason - like admissions office readers, I want to view your application holistically
    • Most of all, I want to help you select the best possible mix of stories before you begin drafting full essays
    • Therefore, please show me your overall application strategy before asking me to cut words from any single essay
    • Please read my best outlining tips here and my best essay framing tips here to understand how my clients organise and share brainstorming ideas before writing full essay drafts
  • Here is my suggested order for completing an INSEAD application:

FIRST STAGE: CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS, FUTURE GOALS

Job Description Essay 1 - current responsibilities and results

Job Description Essay 2 - next career step (expected role and title) if you remained at current job

Job Description Essay 3 - career path and reasons for each choice

Job Description Essay 4 - short and long term career aspirations with or without INSEAD MBA

Job Description Essay - explain your activities during any past or future career gaps of two or more months

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

SECOND STAGE: PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS and lessons learned from PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT and FAILURE

Motivation Essay 1 - personal strengths and weaknesses and factors that influenced your development

Motivation Essay 2 - how one (proudest) achievement and one failure impacted your relationships with others

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

THIRD STAGE: IMPACTS from CULTURAL DIVERSITY and EXTRA-PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

Motivation Essay 3 - positive or negative impact of cultural diversity

Motivation Essay 5 - how you have been enriched by significant involvement in clubs, sports, music, arts, politics, etc.

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

FOURTH STAGE: ANYTHING ELSE?

OPTIONAL ESSAY - what else would you like to share with the Admissions Committee?

FOURTH STAGE: ANYTHING ELSE?

OPTIONAL ESSAY - what else would you like to share with the Admissions Committee?

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, traveling, 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.

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

FIRST STAGE: CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS, FUTURE GOALS

Job Description Essay 1 - current job

THE QUESTION

Briefly summarise your current (or most recent) job, including the nature of work, major responsibilities, and where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, clients/products and results achieved. (short asnwer without a specified word limit)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Can you achieve objectives?

Can you influence superiors and motivate subordinates?

Do others seek your skills and expertise?

Are you the first, youngest, only, or best?

First - did you launch a new initiative, improve a business process, introduce cost cuts, increase collaboration?

Youngest - were you promoted ahead of schedule? are you younger than others who perform the same role? younger than your direct reports?

Only - are you the only man in a team of women, or the only woman in a team of men? are you the only outsider (foreigner) in your team, division, or department?

Best - have you received an award or honor that validates your performance from an external perspective? have you ever earned #1 sales or performance ranking?

Job Description Essay 2 - career progress

What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company? (short answer without a specified word limit)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

How soon do you expect to be promoted?

What would be your next position, title, function?

How would your responsibilities increase?

For instance, would you have more employees under your supervision?

Would you control a larger budget / serve more clients / manage additional products or service offerings?

How old / how many years of experience would you have by the time you took on that new position / title?

What is the average / expected age for someone who takes such a role?

Job Description Essay 3 - career summary and rationale

Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices. (short answer without a specified word limit)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Can you demonstrate "exceptional maturity and outstanding leadership" through your professional experiences?

Why did you choose your field, sector, role, specialisation?

Have you pursued professional development opportunities?

How have your responsibilities increased?

When I started, I could only ... or When I started, I need to ask for help from A to do B

After two years, I was finally able to ...

Today, I am the only one who can ...

Job Description Essay 4 - goals

Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with or without an MBA from INSEAD. (short answer without a specified word limit)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Short term career goal

What job do you want post-MBA?

My assumption: INSEAD Admissions Committee readers want to see a goal that is both realistic and ambitious

Are you trying to use MBA to change careers, or advance your current career?

My assumption: Most short term goals fit into one or more of these three categories

1. Vertical move (advance current career)

2. Change career (horizontal move)

Go into financial services

Go into consulting

Go into consumer goods / marketing

Go into technology

Go into media / entertainment

Go into non-profit / social ventures

3. Join or launch start-up (entrepreneur)

Long term career goal

What job do you want in five to ten years?

My assumption: Most long term goals can be simplified to fit one of two paths

CEO (C-level executive role such as CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CIO, etc.)

lead an existing organization

entrepreneur

join or create a new organization

My assumption: If you plan to lead a large organisation, you need to know how to

scale a business

hire the right people

drive growth to match market conditions

In my view, the job of a CEO is to build the best team, secure resources, and communicate the mission.

How does an MBA best prepare you to transition from your short term goal to your C-level executive role?

My assumption: A future CEO might be trying to use an MBA to help transition

1. From specialist to generalist

2. From tactician to strategist

3. From problem solver to problem finder

The entrepreneur path

My assumption: if you plan to create a company, you should know how to

identify and capture opportunities

create products and services that reflect market conditions and excite customers

Whether you are trying to become CEO of an existing company or founder of a new company

Show confidence: You WILL achieve this goal with or without business school

Still, earning your INSEAD MBA accelerates your progress and maximises your potential

A good long term goal represents the next logical step after you achieve your short term goals

For instance, if you plan to spend a few years in management consulting, then it might make sense to move into a management role at a leading company in your coverage area

Doing so would allow you to utilise the expert knowledge and skills, as well as the professional relationships, that you established during your consulting career


Optional Job Description Essay - employment gap(s)

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. short answer without a specified word limit)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Why are you between jobs right now?

Did you leave your previous job voluntarily, or due to restructuring?

How are you using this time to prepare for INSEAD?

How do your current activities prepare you to achieve your post-MBA goals?

SECOND STAGE: STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Essay 1

Give a candid description of yourself, 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.

    • Note: I recommend you start the recommendation letter process after confirming the strengths and weakness you plan to share with INSEAD Admissions Committee readers

Motivation Essay 1 - personal strengths and weaknesses

  • Give a candid description of yourself, 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)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

  • This is my favorite INSEAD essay because it allows you to demonstrate self-awareness and maturity
  • Other schools have adopted this question, but it has been part of the INSEAD application for as long as I can remember
  • Like Stanford's "What matters most to you, and why?" question, INSEAD Essay One requires candidates analyse WHY they are they way they are
  • For starters, I encourage you to read my (interview) tips for how to discuss your strengths and weaknesses
  • My tips are written to prepare candidates for interviews, but the same methods work for essays, as well
  • In addition, you might want to include some of the following details:
    • Stories that describe life-changing events and how they’ve shaped your values and beliefs
    • Stories that reflect recurring patterns in your life/career and what those patterns mean
    • A story that demonstrates the roots of your ethics and values
  • Note: I recommend clients start the recommendation letter process after confirming the strengths and weakness that they plan to share with adcom readers

Context

Admissions criteria

Curriculum

Your goals

Two accomplishments

The method

Tools

Situational leadership model

MIT

SBL

Please fill out this Strengths (+) and Weaknesses (-) chart


s2

Need more hints? Please check my "brainstorming weakness" links.

I also encourage you to read this handy list of 28 soft skills from "Ask a Wharton MBA" ▸ http://j.mp/28skills

Here is a list of 28 skills to get you started

MANAGING YOURSELF

Self awareness

Emotion management

Self-confidence

Stress management

Resilience

Skills to forgive and forget

Persistence and Perseverance

Patience

MANAGING OTHERS

Communication skills

Presentation skills

Facilitating skills

Interviewing skills

Selling skills

Meeting management skills

Influence / persuasion skills

Teamwork skills

Management skills

Leadership skills

Skills in dealing with difficult personalities

Skills in dealing with difficult situations

Networking skills

Interpersonal relationship skills

Negotiation skills

Mentoring / coaching skills

Organizing skills

Self-promotion skills

Savvy in handling office politics

Professional Example - Option 1

Accomplishment details (what you did, when you did it, how you did it, results and impact on you and others)

Why it is substantial to me / others

Why it is the MOST substantial personal accomplishment of my life

Pros of choosing this story (positive messages I could send to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Cons of choosing this story (negative messages I might be sending to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

What story do you want to tell?

Why do you want to tell it?

Why is this accomplishment substantial?

Did you deliver results (making money or saving money for your company and/or your client)?

Did you impact others (motivate colleagues, inspire juniors, influence seniors, set a new standard for your team, division, company and/or industry?)

So what?

What do you want your readers to know about you?

How does this example demonstrate your technical skills, your analytical skills and/or your interpersonal skills?

How does this story demonstrate your ability to contribute to class discussions, project teams, and alumni activities?

Professional Example - Option 2

Accomplishment details (what you did, when you did it, how you did it, results and impact on you and others)

Why it is substantial to me / others

Why it is the MOST substantial personal accomplishment of my life

Pros of choosing this story (positive messages I could send to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Cons of choosing this story (negative messages I might be sending to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Personal Example - Option 1

Accomplishment details (what you did, when you did it, how you did it, results and impact on you and others)

Why it is substantial to me / others

Why it is the MOST substantial personal accomplishment of my life

Pros of choosing this story (positive messages I could send to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Cons of choosing this story (negative messages I might be sending to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Personal Example - Option 2

Accomplishment details (what you did, when you did it, how you did it, results and impact on you and others)

Why it is substantial to me / others

Why it is the MOST substantial personal accomplishment of my life

Pros of choosing this story (positive messages I could send to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

Cons of choosing this story (negative messages I might be sending to adcom readers who learn about this accomplishment)

What is failure?

Too often, clients send me failure essays that I do not believe or care about

Do not play it safe

If you have not failed, you have not tried hard enough

Share a real failure, not a success story that required persistence.

Failure usually involves damage. What was lost? Did you lose time, money, trust, reputation, or all of the above?

In discussing what you learned, you might want to share an example of how you have applied the hard-earned lessons that failure taught you.

Still, be sure to keep appropriate balance in your essay.

If you get stuck, watch the original Rocky. (Spoiler alert!) Rocky loses the fight, but we like him anyway. His failure provides a perfect set up for his comeback in Rocky II. In this case, save the sequel for another essay.

RULE #1: SHOW the DAMAGE

What was lost?

Did you lose money?

Did you lose time?

Did you lose trust?

Did you lose future business?

ASK YOURSELF FIVE QUESTIONS

1. SO WHAT?

Why should anyone care?

Was something damaged? (lost money, lost time, lost reputation, lost trust, lost business)

2. WAS I TO BLAME?

Did the failure occur because of you / was it your fault?

Some setbacks are not your fault. Something happened that was beyond your control, but still affected you deeply. Think 2008 financial crisis, or 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.

But a true failure, as asked by INSEAD and other schools, should be your fault. You made a mistake, but you learned from it.

3. DID I LEARN SOMETHING?

What did you learn about yourself?

What did you learn about other people?

4. HAVE I CHANGED?

Did you change your attitude?

Did you develop new skills?

Did you deepen your understanding of yourself

Did you change your assumptions about your role in your organization?

Did you find new ways to add value to your team?

Can you prove that you learned your lesson?

5. CAN I PROVE IT?

Can you show a brief example of a time you applied the lesson?

Many good failure and setback stories involve personal transformation.

Did you change your role (external change) and/or your attitude toward people or problems (internal change)?

Did you become more aware of your self-limiting tendencies or bad habits that hold you back from achieving your full potential?

Are you able to limit the negative impact of personal limitations that might otherwise lead to future mistakes or setbacks?

To show personal transformation, try adding details that display a clear "before" and "after"

BEFORE - how you were

AFTER - how you changed

IMPACT - how does this accomplishment prepare to contribute to MBA life and achieve your career goals?

NOTE: THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL

You might not have space in the final essay to mention a different example of a time when you applied your learning, but thinking and writing about it for now will help me understand and evaluate your story.

Need a sample failure story?

Please watch this

SAMPLE BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW ANSWER

Q: Tell me about a time you managed a team that failed.


Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

THIRD STAGE: ... CULTURE

Motivation Essay 3

Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way (approximately 300 words)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Motivation Essay 4

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, politics, etc). How are you enriched by these activities? (approximately 300 words)

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

FOURTH STAGE: ANYTHING ELSE?

THE QUESTION

Is there anything that you have not mentioned in the above essays

that you would like the Admissions Committee to know?

This essay is optional.

QUESTIONS BEHIND THE QUESTION

I advise all of my clients to use this opportunity to share another side of themselves.

Here is a decent sample answer:

Please tell the Admissions Committee whatever else you would like us to know.

I would like the Admissions Committee to know how my international upbringing influenced my character. I attended a local elementary school when my family lived four years in Los Angeles. Coming back to Japan for middle and high school, I could integrate my easy-going California style to make changes within Japan’s traditional culture.

When I was at college, my cultural flexibility allowed me to create a volunteer community even though I was a newcomer. I started fishing in college after my father bought a house near a favorite local fishing spot. I gradually started making friends with other fishermen. Listening to them tell old stories, I learned that the number of fish they catch is decreasing, partly from overfishing but mostly because of pollution and proposed that we form “Coastal Cleaning Crew” (CCC).

To increase my impact, I convinced nearby fishing shops to support CCC. Some contributed work gloves, trash bags and even fishing gear as prizes to attract volunteers. Shops put up CCC posters and I made a simple website to announce the next clean-up. We eventually gathered over 30 people. Local television programs and fishing magazines featured our actions. Now, the fishing spot is cleaner, shops enjoy the publicity, and fisherman know each other better.

This experience gave me confidence to build and lead effective communities everywhere. At X, I hope to lead Net Impact.

You MUST write an optional essay if

Your GPA was significantly below 3.0

If your GPA does not show your academic potential, you might want to write something like this, “Here’s why my GPA was sub-par, and here’s what I’ve done to confirm my time management skills and academic competence. ”

Do not make excuses or blame others. Hopefully, your GMAT and work experience compensate for low grades

Also, remember that adcom members dig into your transcript to check if you took honors or advanced-level courses

Ask your mentor or admissions consultant, but the following template might help you get started. Just remember, keep it brief

My 2.5 GPA at X University does not adequately reflect my academic potential. During school, I had to balance my time

working multiple part-time jobs to support myself

varsity sports

leadership roles in extracurricular activities (students clubs, special events, conferences)

health issues (had to take care of yourself or a family member)

personal tragedy (death of a friend or family member)

Since then, I have improved my time management skills

proven my academic ability by [add concrete examples]

Ideally, you took some advanced courses since graduation and earned high grades

If not, can you show recent examples of how you have successfully managed multiple tasks?

At INSEAD, I will be able to manage my time more effectively.

You MUST NOT write an optional essay if

... you are repeating yourself

... you are telling the adcom something they do not want to hear

Please resist the urge to include an essay you already wrote for some other school

If adcom members wanted to read another story about your achievements, leadership or teamwork experiences, they would ask

Moreover, if they did not ask you to share a mistake or failure story, why would you want to tell them?

"Should I use the optional essay to write more reasons why I want to attend this MBA program?"

If you want to spend two years at their school, shouldn't you use this opportunity to tell them so?

No, you should not. They asked that question. If your answer was not good enough, go back and make it better. Do not waste their time by writing more reasons here.

The operative phrase in the following question is "about you": Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy?

Bottom line: Show them that you can follow instructions. Make this essay about you, or write nothing at all.


INTERVIEWS

Please read my latest interview tips here The INSEAD Interview


Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

FAQ

LINKS

See ▸ Describe a situation where you failed

See ▸ http://bitly.com/Optional_essay

See ▸ http://delicious.com/admissions/culture_shock

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.