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INSEAD Interviews – Part 2

My 2nd interview was 2 days after my first one, which was incidentally on a Wednesday. This didn’t really leave me with too much time to ruminate over my bizarre 1st interview. I decided not to prepare for this one and instead go in with a relaxed attitude.

The 2nd interview was at a coffee joint at 10 AM. I had taken a half-day leave from office that day. My interviewer this time was the Marketing Director of a well-known technology company. His LinkedIn profile was very useful once again in giving me some background info about him. I have to note here that this interviewer was very different from my 1st one. When I first contacted him to schedule an interview, his immediate response was to congratulate me profusely for having made it to this point. He was very flexible with his timings and actually came way out of his way to meet me in a coffee joint near my place. He was also considerate enough to call me at 9 AM and inform me that he would be running 10-15 minutes late. A small gesture, no doubt, but one that was extremely polite.

I, however, did not take any chances and arrived 10 minutes before time and waited for him. He arrived in a t-shirt and jeans (this is why I said suits are overkill) and his demeanor in general was extremely easy-going. For lack of a better word, I’m going to call his approach soothing. He was extremely well-spoken, polite and immediately put me at ease. We started off with my background and he asked questions whenever appropriate and had some very nice comments about my varied non-professional experience. We then spoke about my professional experience and my reasons for changing jobs and the kind of responsibilities I handle. My advice here to interviewees is to make sure you know exactly why you’ve changed jobs and what prompted you to take such decisions (if you’ve been selected for interviews, you should have no problems with this one considering one of the essays asks for this). He then had some situational questions for me. I list them here for everyone’s consumption:

  • When you’re in a gathering, what attracts your attention first?
  • What makes you extremely angry/ passionate?
  • What is your style of negotiation?
  • How do you deal with a person who’s determined not to listen to you even though he/ she knows you are right?
  • How do you deal with a boss who is not as smart as you?

Additionally, he also had the usual INSEAD questions of why now, why MBA and why INSEAD. He was particularly pleased with me when I told him that one of my biggest motivations in joining INSEAD was to actually experience different viewpoints because I believe that different cultures breed different thought processes. This is something I’ve experienced all my life as I’ve moved between Singapore, Malaysia, U.K, U.S. and India. Each place has exposed me to a variety of ideas that are generated by different cultures and this has always fascinated me.

Throughout the interview, he kept telling me of his different experiences at INSEAD, how the study groups worked, how he now just has to whip out 4 slides of his microeconomics (Prices and Markets to you INSEADers) class and everything comes back to memory, etc. It was clear that he loved INSEAD, his time there and the friendships he had made. In between all this, he managed to enthuse me even further about joining INSEAD.

We spoke for nearly an hour-and-half and then he concluded the interview. I offered to drop him to his office in case he wasn’t driving and he offered back likewise (both of us drove BTW). Before parting, he told me that he was extremely happy with me and that he was going to recommend me (after my 1st interview, I didn’t know what this meant and didn’t pay too much attention to it. Read my 1st interview to know why) and that he sees me at INSEAD as I exhibited all the qualities that an INSEADer should have (this I felt happy about. If he could see it, I hoped the adcom would see it as well). I came away from this interview feeling nice about myself.

A side-note: If you ever have your interview in a non-office environment and ordering of food/ beverages is involved, don’t be a scrooge. Do all you can to pay the bill. Firstly, it avoids any awkward and embarrassing moments, and secondly, you come out looking and feeling better about yourself. Think about it. It’s difficult to be unappreciative of someone who’s just paid for your refreshments :). All in all, it’s just good manners. In my case, we had a friendly banter about the bill and finally I gave in and let him pay the bill (hint – prolonging banter for too long will go back to awkward/ embarrassing stage. sense when to withdraw).

I did fret for the next 3 week about the decision in lieu of my 1st interview. In the end it all worked out. I conclude this post by reiterating once again the cardinal points I believe lead to a good interview:

  • Be Confident. You made it this far, you will get further. The interviews are solely in your control. One of the few things in an MBA application that are. You might not be able to make the final cut even with stellar interviews, but you sure as hell can break it by screwing them up.
  • Be Assertive. Stand up for what you believe in. It need not be right always (what’s “right” anyway?) Being assertive defines your individuality. Caution – there’s a subtle difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
  • Be Sensitive to your surroundings. Listen to what the interviewer is saying, don’t just hear. Watch your and your interviewer’s body languages. Maintain eye-contact always. Avoid controversial topics (like God, religion, beer vs. whiskey, etc.) which don’t have an end-game. They can work against you if you’re not careful.
  • Maintain your Equanimity in the face of anything that is thrown at you. Let nothing fluster you. Remember the interview is about you. Who knows you better than you? Be in control of the interview, don’t be in charge.

Corny as it sounds, if you make a CASE for yourself, you’re well on your way to getting past the interview stage successfully.

Best of luck!


One Response

  1. Congratulations on your admission! You had a great interview. Thank you for blogging your experience in such a great detail. Your advice is very useful to future MBA interviewees. We included your blog in our interview experience resources list.

    Best of luck!


    – Get Ready For the Interview
    Mock Interviews By Current Students and Alumni

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