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Essay Current Job Responsibilities

INSEAD apparently has not felt the pressure to alter its essay questions or requirements this season, as many U.S. business schools have done. Except for reversing the order of some questions, no changes have really been made to the school’s queries or allotted word counts. The program’s six “motivational essay” prompts are the primary ones, and we will examine those in depth in this analysis, but applicants must also provide two to three shorter “job description essays” that generally require (or allow, depending on your perspective) candidates to provide a fuller picture of their current positions and career progression to date than a resume or CV might provide. We will briefly address these essays first.

Job Description Essays

Essay 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. (250 words maximum)

Essay 2: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position? (250 words maximum)

Essay 3 (If applicable): If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme? (250 words)

For these essays, we would encourage you to very carefully parse what data the school is requesting in each and then provide all of the relevant facts. For example, the first job essay prompt requires that you outline as many as seven different aspects of your current/most recent position. Make sure not to leave any out just because you would rather write more about others. In addition, take care for all the job description essays to avoid using acronyms or abbreviations that would not be easily recognizable to most, and consider providing some description of your company or industry, if the nature of either might not be readily clear. Using shortcuts (in the form of abbreviations) and skipping this kind of information could make your descriptions less understandable and therefore less compelling and useful to an admissions reader, so you are in fact doing yourself a favor by more completely depicting your situation—while adhering to the maximum word counts, of course. To make your responses to these rather straightforward queries more interesting to the admissions reader, consider framing them in a narrative format rather than simply outlining the basic information. Strive to incorporate a sense of your personality and individuality into your submissions.

Motivation Essays

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. (600 words maximum)

Although INSEAD’s request for “main factors … which have influenced your development” comes near the end of this essay prompt, we feel you should actually provide this context for your formative experiences before discussing the strengths and weaknesses you derived from them, because showing a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the two is important. The school asks that you offer examples “when necessary,” but your essay will be strongest if you present anecdotes to illustrate and support all your statements. Still, your essay should not end up being a hodgepodge of unconnected anecdotes that reveal strengths. Instead, focus on two or three strengths and one or two weaknesses in the mere 600 words allotted.

An important note: be honest about your strengths (do not try to tell the committee what you think it wants to hear; truthfully describe who you legitimately are) and especially about your weaknesses—this is vital. Transparent or disingenuous statements will not fool or convince anyone and will only reveal you to be someone incapable of critical self-evaluation.

Essay 2: Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such. (400 words maximum)

Do not be intimidated by the minimal word count allotted here for what many would consider a rather significant topic. Writing a complete story on two important accomplishments in just 400 words is definitely possible. First, choose two examples—ideally, as INSEAD notes, one from your career and one from your personal life—that reveal different talents, and develop a succinct narrative that explains how you achieved what you did. Avoid leading with your accomplishment with a statement such as “My greatest accomplishment was when I did X” and simply declaring your conclusion with no anecdotal context. Doing so will kill your reader’s curiosity and remove any incentive he or she might have to read on. Most importantly, do not neglect to explain why you view your two chosen accomplishments as “your most substantial.” This element of the essay can reveal an important angle on your character and personality that will complement the evidence of your skills and motivations provided by your examples. Always respond to the school’s entire question/prompt.

Essay 3: Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned. (400 words maximum)

To craft a truly effective and compelling “failure” essay, you must first show reasoned optimism and tremendous momentum toward a goal—a goal that is ultimately derailed. In most cases, you will need to convey that you were emotionally invested in the project/experience, which will help your reader better connect with your story and vicariously experience your disappointment. If you fail to demonstrate that you were emotionally tied to the experience in some way—perhaps because of pride, a possible resulting promotion or bonus, etc.—your reader will have a hard time viewing the incident you describe as a true failure or learning experience.

As INSEAD requests, be sure to reflect on the situation and explain what you learned. Trite and clichéd statements about your takeaways are not recommended. For example, everyone gains some level of resiliency from a failure, so you will need to offer something less common and more compelling and personal. Take the time necessary to create a truly unique statement about your road forward and lessons learned, and your payoff will be an essay that is much more self-aware and individualized than thousands of others the admissions committee will see.

As we noted earlier, avoid disingenuous statements about your failures—be sure to take responsibility, rather than shifting the blame!

Essay 4: Please choose one of the following two essay topics:

a. Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? (250 words maximum)

b. Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock. (250 words maximum)

INSEAD prides itself on its international focus, and with this essay, the admissions committee clearly wants to get a sense of your cultural sensitivity and international awareness. If you have traveled at all—for business or pleasure—we recommend answering Essay Prompt A, because it will present you within the international sphere. In contrast, Essay Prompt B allows you to demonstrate your domestic knowledge, which is generally less desirable in the classroom, though highlighting aspects of your home country’s culture within the context of how a foreign visitor might perceive them could help demonstrate the diversity you would bring to the school and your ability to relate to others with different backgrounds. For either essay, you must offer anecdotes and try to capture the spirit of human interaction. Simple country facts will bore, whereas placing the reader in the middle of your experience would be quite compelling.

Essay 5

a. Discuss your short and long term career goals… (300 words maximum)

b. …and how will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision? (250 words maximum)

This two-part prompt essentially amounts to a request for a personal statement essay, and because personal statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

Essay 6 (Optional): Is there anything that you have not mentioned in your application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know? (350 words maximum)

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity, if needed, to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer may have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a notable lack of international experience, a gap in your work progression, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide (available through our online store), we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay to help mitigate any problem areas in your profile, and include multiple examples of effective optional essays.



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Another international program, INSEAD is a renowned business institution. As a result, applicants should expect to spend considerable time ensuring their INSEAD essays are as good as they can possibly be, since the admissions committee puts substantial weight on having excellent MBA essays. And considering that they ask you for 6 required essays, you’ll be writing for a while.

INSEAD essay prompts are quite diverse, and cover many of the same elements that your standard MBA programs ask about: career progress and accomplishments, leadership, and teamwork, for example. Make sure to carefully review the INSEAD essay prompts, as you need to understand exactly what they’re asking to write great essays.

No matter which of the essay prompts you’re working on, EssayEdge has a detailed analysis of the 2011-2012 INSEAD essay prompts. If you’re wondering how you can go about writing a great INSEAD admissions essay, scroll down the page to see our prompt-by-prompt breakdowns.

Section 1: Job Description Essays
Prompt 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.

Approaching the prompt

There’s no need to try to be fancy here. INSEAD wants you to get to the point quickly and highlight for them the most dynamic aspects of your current or most recent position. They’re looking for you to display a high level of achievement and leadership as well as a willingness to take on responsibility.

Common pitfalls

Not Covering All the Topics in the Prompt. You’re not going to have room to go into much detail in this essay. Nevertheless, all aspects of the prompt need to be addressed – if only briefly. Omitting any part of the prompt sends the message that you may have trouble meeting goals within the limits set by your instructors/supervisors.

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Section 1: Job Description Essays
Prompt 2: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. If you were to remain with your present employer, what would be your next step in terms of position?

Approaching the prompt

This prompt almost seems to contradict itself. A full description of your post-baccalaureate career in 250 words or fewer? How is that even possible? Therefore, think in terms of career path or progress. Show the admissions committee how you have been steadily improving and that you have a plan for how to capitalize on your current position – even if you are certain that you will not be with your present employer after you complete the INSEAD program.

Common pitfalls

Forgetting to Address the Second Half of the Prompt. Many applicants have quite a bit of ground to cover in this essay. For this reason, they run out of space and don’t respond to the second half of the prompt. INSEAD is looking for you to show that you are not just jumping out of your job and into graduate school. Demonstrate that you have a plan for how to move forward in your current career.

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Section 1: Job Description Essays
Prompt 3: If you are currently not working, what are you doing and what do you plan to do until you start the MBA programme?

Approaching the prompt

Even if you are not employed at the time of your application, INSEAD still wants you to reflect the qualities of leadership and a strong sense of purpose. Are you solidifying your academic foundation? What about volunteer work? Have you been traveling to strengthen your global mindset? Regardless, represent this information to the admissions officers in a way that is relevant to the INSEAD program.

Common pitfalls

Seeming Unfocused. While many applicants have – for whatever reason – chosen to have a gap between work experience and enrolling in a graduate business program, make sure that you demonstrate you had plans and goals for this break. This is not the place to say that you just wanted to ‘see what was out there’ or go ‘wherever the road of life’ took you.

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Section 2: Main Essays
Prompt 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.

Approaching the prompt

It can be exceptionally difficult to reflect accurately on ourselves. Most applicants tend to either be too lenient or too critical in their self-evaluations. This is where feedback from others is very helpful. Ask for insight not only from friends and close colleagues, but also from people who work with you but do not know you too well personally. You’ll probably discover both strengths and weaknesses that you were either unaware of or did not place high on your list.

Common pitfalls

Not Including Examples: Although the prompt states to give examples ‘when necessary’, they simply mean to do this as needed. It does not mean that the examples are optional. INSEAD wants examples from your life that have been most pivotal in your personal development.

Being Cagey About Your Weaknesses: Stating that you are sometimes short-tempered with your subordinates because of your high expectations of them seems like you are blaming them. While it is excellent to show that you have grown and make progress to mitigate your weaknesses, make sure that responsibility for your actions rests squarely with you.

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Section 2: Main Essays
Prompt 2: Describe what you believe to be your two most substantial accomplishments to date (if possible specify one personal and one professional), explaining why you view them as such.

Approaching the prompt

Realize that INSEAD is not asking for the accomplishments that have necessarily garnered you the highest accolades or rewards. If these happen to mesh, that is fine. However, what the admissions officers would like to read about are the ones that you feel have had the biggest impact on your personal and professional progress to date. The admissions committee is less concerned here with outcomes than with your internal process. For this reason, demonstrate insight and the ability to reflect meaningfully on your actions.

Common pitfalls

Focusing on the Accomplishment Itself: The admissions officers will have a copy of your CV. For this reason, spend less time describing the incident and more time giving the admissions officers access to your thoughts and how you view this accomplishment in relationship to your other achievements.

Not Including Both a Personal and Professional Accomplishment: Yes, it is optional to include both a personal and professional example. However, it is highly recommended, and you would avoid this strong recommendation from the INSEAD application at your own peril. It can be challenging to sift through our personal lives and decide on our most substantial personal accomplishment. Remember, the goal here isn’t to impress the committee with the achievement. There may have been a personal experience that, while it would not impress others, made the difference in how you approach the world and your career. It is the explanation that matters most.

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Section 2: Main Essays
Prompt 3: Describe a situation taken from your personal or professional life where you failed. Discuss what you learned.

Approaching the prompt

INSEAD isn’t mincing words here, and they’re expecting honesty in return. While it can be difficult to admit failure, a life and career of challenges, risks, and triumphs cannot be achieved without it. For this reason, choose a situation that is relevant to your application to INSEAD. Show that, as a result of the failure, you gained something that you would have never learned without it. Most of all, show that you have integrated the experience and are now better prepared to deal with new challenges and opportunities as a result.

Common pitfalls

Blaming Others: If the situation was genuinely out of your control, then the failure wasn’t your fault. Don’t use that as an example. INSEAD wants to read about a time where you either took an unsuccessful action or did not act when you should have.

Not Making a Connection to the INSEAD program: Life, particularly adult life, is largely trial and error. Therefore, anyone who is actually living their life has numerous cringe-worthy circumstances from which to choose for this essay. Therefore, make sure that you select and anecdote that relates to the character strengths that you wish to display or the growth areas that you wish to address in the program.

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Section 2: Main Essays
Prompt 4: (Two Parts) a) Discuss your short and long term career goals. and b) How will studying at INSEAD help you achieve your vision?

Approaching the prompt

This is really a single prompt, but INSEAD wants you to approach it in a very specific way. The admissions officers are looking for direct connections between the offerings of the INSEAD program and your career goals. For this reason, taking the time to become very familiar with the course program and other opportunities is invaluable. Not only will it show that you have made an informed decision in applying to INSEAD, it will demonstrate that you are prepared to maximize the INSEAD experience.

Common pitfalls

Focusing on the School’s Reputation. Yes, it is true that an INSEAD education will open many doors for you. However, that will be true of all applicants. Moreover, it could be said of any number of top business schools around the world. INSEAD is looking for the specific reasons that INSEAD is uniquely suited to your short and long term goals.

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Section 2: Main Essays
Prompt 5: (Pick 1 of 2) a) Have you ever experienced culture shock? What insights did you gain? b) Describe the ways in which a foreigner in your country might experience culture shock.

Approaching the prompt

Whichever one you choose, the admissions officers want to know that you have the ability to reflect and analyze culture on a broad scale. You’ll work with an international cohort at INSEAD, and the ability to be objective about different cultures is a required skill.

Common pitfalls

Being too Negative. Culture shock is almost universally an unpleasant experience. And while culture shock can result from colliding with the less than ideal aspects of any culture, it is nevertheless imperative to always retain a positive tone.

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