This is the second post in a 4-part series that examines INSEAD MBA’s 4 admission criteria.
Sure, international experience is a big plus for an INSEAD applicant. But the website says that they seek candidates with international motivation which, in their eyes, means having “perceptive insights into the complexities of business in an international setting.” It also involves “adaptability and flexibility in multicultural environments” – which you can hardly achieve without some insight, so these elements naturally interconnect. The final component of international motivation is goals that have a global dimension.
So, meeting this criterion involves more than working in multiple countries, continents, or galaxies. “International” should be an element of focus, reflection, and growth.
What if you don’t have international experience? You can still possess international motivation if you’ve had global exposure (an example might be leading or serving on a virtual global team). It can even be in non-work form. (If you’ve had neither global experience nor global exposure, INSEAD might not be the school for you…)
To summarize, the three key elements sought by the adcom – whether you have global experience, global exposure, or both – under this criterion are:
- “Perceptive insights” about international business
- Adaptability across cultures
- Global goals
What does that mean for you?
Global experience and/or global exposure is simply a qualifying point. To make yourself shine among INSEAD applicants, go further. Offer vivid, thoughtful, sharp insights from your experiences. Those insights don’t have to be cosmic in scale. They do have to address “complexities of business in an international setting” in some way, shape, or form. Your insights should show that you are thoughtful, synthesize your experience and distill meaning from it, and are open to learning as you grow professionally.
Also, through example and anecdote, demonstrate your ability to adapt across cultures – and beware the pitfall of using stereotypes when doing so (the Japanese are indirect, the Israelis are blunt, the Indians are culturally conservative) – hint: stop when you find yourself saying “the French,” “the Chinese,” “the Saudis.” Very likely a simplistic stereotype is about to burst forth.
Here are some specific ways to incorporate this criterion into your application:
- If you DO have international work experience, present anecdotes and examples from it in your essays, make sure to portray your cultural adaptability and flexibility, and include insight you gained from this experience.
- If you DO NOT have international work experience, make certain to detail your international exposure, include insights gained, and show how this exposure involved your cultural flexibility.
- In the goals discussion, of course mention the global aspect, but go one step further, e.g., not just “become CIO of global pharma company” but add details about what that global aspect really entails for pharma, what are the specific global-related challenges and/or opportunities in the future, etc. Show awareness of global trends for your target industry, function, etc.
- Make sure your resume maximizes global-related experience.
- Go into the interview with (a) a good grasp of current economic and geopolitical realities to add context for anecdotes and discussion points when possible, (b) a fresh recollection of your global experiences (professional and personal), and (c) thorough understanding of INSEAD’s global culture and how you fit into it.
- INSEAD includes its language requirements within its discussion of international motivation, so when you describe actual cross-cultural interactions (in essays and/or interview), if relevant include language component.
I am always thrilled when I get an “I’m in at INSEAD!” email. I welcome the chance to help you show you belong at INSEAD and receive such an email from you in the future.
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• The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Competitive MBA Applicant, a free guide
• What’s New at INSEAD? a podcast episode
• INSEAD MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines