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How to Ace the INSEAD Job Essays

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Joined: 30 Nov 2009
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Location: Chicago, IL
Schools: Brown University, Harvard Business School
How to Ace the INSEAD Job Essays  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Dec 2019, 08:38
We looked at INSEAD's video essay on this forum earlier this season, but as deadlines approach, let's examine INSEAD's battery of "job description" mini-essays.

Job 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.

Okay folks, no real need to be creative here, or dramatic, or “interesting.” Why say that? Because if you attempt it, it may come across as an insecurity. You’re the guy who doesn’t understand when straightforward is actually a show of strength.

Be brief, straightforward, and get into the details…fast. One way of looking at this is simply to flesh out (somewhat) your latest entry on your resume. Just, turn it into a readable paragraph so that anyone reading it can understand exactly where you work, exactly what it is you do, and exactly what your accomplishments mean (i.e., you’ve given us enough context to be able to make sense of them). And that’s all, folks. Aim for 250 words.

Job Essay 2: What would be your next step in terms of position if you were to remain in the same company?

Assume for a minute that you are going to STAY at your current place of work for the next twenty years (just pretend). Presumably, you’ll rise in the ranks in SOME capacity. Even if you’re the CEO of a start-up, your position will evolve somehow as your company grows. Imagine that spectrum between today and 20 years from now sub-divided into five major bumps. What’s the very next one? Explain the bump in terms of what is it you do/oversee today and how it will CHANGE once you’re promoted or rise in the ranks some other way.

All we’re trying to do is understand where you are in life. That’s it. No need to explain that you truly want to do something else; we’re just getting our bearings. Aim for 250 words.

Job Essay 3: Please give a full description of your career since graduating from university. Describe your career path with the rationale behind your choices.

This is where it starts to get real. Whereas the first few can be extremely devoid of “carefully chosen words,” here, you need to express ideas clearly, and compellingly.

…and this is gonna take some thought.

Start by explaining the context behind your very first post-graduate decision, by way of some overarching goal — as clear or as nebulous as it may have been. Given that you one-day wanted to X, you decided to pursue Y as your first official move after university. Explain your developments, skills gained, ways in which you advanced your career interests (or gained clarity on what it was you truly wanted to do), and let that guide your description of whatever major thing happened next. Presumably, you were promoted, or you chose another job, or you chose another industry, or a life circumstance spun things in a new direction, etc. Whatever it is, keep in mind that this is all part of a single narrative that connects each juncture along a single spectrum that takes us from the first job after university to wherever you are today, with your decision-making as your rudder at each key moment. We should be able to read this essay and then repeat back not just what the steps were of your career, but why you made your choices at each step.

Aim for 300-400 words.

Job Essay 4: Discuss your short and long term career aspirations with an MBA from INSEAD.

Seems they changed it from “with or without” to … “with.” You know what? It doesn’t matter. Follow our recipe here, you will end up in not just the same place, but a better one (than if you’d ignored that previous version).

So, pretend – for a second – that it says “with or without an MBA from INSEAD.” In other words, think of it as “I know what my long term aspiration is, and whether or not I go through an MBA program, I’m going to pursue and achieve it, come hell or high water.” With that mindset, lay out everything you need to do/achieve along the way, explaining the rationale behind each step and why it (1) is necessary and (2) improves your ability to achieve the next step along the way. Those two are generally the same thing. You’ll find that there are a handful of KEY nodes along your future journey.

Now, if you’d like, go through this exercise as though you will NOT be going through an MBA program. What does THAT path look like? How long is it? What moves will you need to make in order (eventually) to make it to your ultimate goal? Remember, success AT that goal is assumed for this exercise. Okay, now that that’s done, do that entire thing over, except this time, insert an MBA from Insead into the mix. How does that CHANGE your plan? Does it make it faster? Does it make the achievements along the way BETTER? Does it even somehow affect the “amplitude” of the ultimate outcome? Once you understand the DELTA that passing through an INSEAD MBA has had on your game plan, NOW attack this 300 word prompt, fresh with insights on how to articulate your aspirations.

Focus on the things you’re hoping to achieve at each critical stage (there should be around three key moments along your journey – some will require more, some less). Each stage should feel absolutely necessary in order for the next one to be a possibility. There must be logic connecting the dots. THIS is where you can show off your business brain. How measured is your plan? How researched are you? Is it too fragile? Does it seem likely to happen? What if things don’t go your way; does your approach seem to suggest that you have a Plan B? On the surface, you’re just explaining us the pieces of the pathway, but underneath, if you’re doing it right, you’re selling us on this plan as though it were a BUSINESS plan. Make us believe that your “idea” and “plan” are bulletproof, and that you are the guy who’s gonna make it happen.

Be sure to back up your reasoning with a sense for how the MBA from INSEAD is likely to catalyze this entire chain reaction.

Optional Job Essay: 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.

Only answer if this one if it applies to you. If you’re explaining the “not working” aspect, be extremely straightforward. The more it seems like you’re justifying something, the “guiltier” you’ll come across. Imagine you’re re-assuring the person who just hired you why there’s this strange gap that we just noticed. Before we get cold feet, make that feeling go away quickly, with extreme confidence, clarity, and brevity.

If you’re answering the other option, CREATING a gap (whether by choice or not) that gives you the ability to spend your time somehow before the program begins, you’ll want to approach it similarly, but this time, you may need to add a touch of justification, lest it arouse suspicion. Say, for example, that gap is six months, and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it. Here, you may have decided to travel the world, or learn a new language, or… you get the idea. Just about anything CAN be an amazing reason, we just need to be sold on it, is all. Brevity here is your best best best friend. A long optional essay can be a death sentence. Stay crisp, aim for 150-250 words.


Need more help? Take a look at the complete INSEAD essay analysis on our website, and feel free to ask us questions in the comments below!
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How to Ace the INSEAD Job Essays   [#permalink] 16 Dec 2019, 08:38
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