INSEAD Introduces Video Component to MBA Application

July 26, 2016 | by Matt Symonds

INSEAD recently announced some changes to the admissions process for the September 2017 intake and going forward.

The school has been thinking about these changes for some time, and from our discussions with the admissions team, the goal with introducing the video component is really to enable the staff to observe the candidate much more directly. As INSEAD only has alumni interviews (admissions staff never interview candidates), the school rarely gets an opportunity to see the candidate in action. There are many benefits of the video questions: it can be an opportunity to evaluate communication skills, English fluency, and to see how they present themselves. Caroline Diarte Edwards from our team at Fortuna remembers from her days as Admissions Director that with 3000 alumni admissions interviewers around the world, it is really impossible to ensure consistency in the interview process, and comparing candidates based on the feedback from interviewers can be very tricky indeed for the admissions committee. Furthermore, sometimes one interviewer will rave about a candidate, and the other interviewer will want to ding them. (Candidates normally have two interviews). In such situations, the admissions committee can be left scratching their heads, wondering whose report they should give the most weight to. So the videos are really injecting an element of the “level playing field” in terms of the evaluation of how the candidates perform “live” and will be especially useful in evaluating borderline candidates and candidates who have very divergent feedback from their interviewers.

The school has at the same time eliminated one essay question, which was about the candidate’s experience of cultural diversity: “Tell us about an experience where you were significantly impacted by cultural diversity, in a positive or negative way. (approx. 300 words)”). The quality of responses to this question were a bit hit and miss, as some candidates struggled to interpret the question and figure out what the school was looking for here. Most likely the school will be looking to evaluate the candidate’s international perspective via the video questions. Adaptability and flexibility in multi-cultural environments is really central to what the school is looking for so we expect to see this come through in the video component (and this is also evaluated in the interviews).

INSEAD doesn’t change its admissions process lightly – they experiment much less than other schools with trying different questions to shake things up. Caroline, as an MBA alum herself, stated that “The set of essay questions has hardly changed since I applied to the program back in 2002.” They also haven’t followed the rage amongst many other schools to drastically reduce the length of the application. The school really prides itself on how thorough the application process is and they prefer to err on the side of capturing too much rather than not enough information to make a decision. Candidates also often appreciate that they really get enough airtime with INSEAD to be able to get their story across.

The school will be hoping that the video component doesn’t deter any candidates from applying, and hence impact application volume. That’s also why they have eliminated one essay – to roughly keep the effort required to apply the same. They are also trying to keep the video component as straightforward as possible, so that candidates don’t feel intimidated.

The school is also introducing the videos so that candidates have another mechanism to communicate their candidacy to the school. Some great candidates aren’t brilliant at presenting themselves on paper, but can do a much better job verbally. So this is a really positive evolution in terms of giving candidates more scope to express themselves in the application process.

Finally here are a few pointers for candidates in terms of what to expect for the videos:

Candidates will be asked 4 questions (unknown at this point) – there are no right or wrong answers – the hope is to offer applicants a fun and interactive way of engaging with the ad coms.

  • The video link is available after the applicant has submitted his/her application (within an hour)
  • The video link is displayed on the dashboard of the applicant
  • The video link is also sent to them via email

Applicants will have a week to complete this component. Then, the application will be considered as “complete” and can be reviewed.

As an applicant, if you find yourself in unexpected poor conditions while recording the video (the doorbell rings, the dog starts to bark, it is a total mess), INSEAD can exceptionally reset his/her answers to one or all 4 questions.

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