Last updated on 19 February 2021

Global Director of INSEAD Executive Degrees Anne Bresman sheds light on our Executive MBA (EMBA) admissions criteria, essays, assessment options and more.


What type of candidate is INSEAD looking for?

All candidates need to have managerial experience (managing projects and/or leading a team) and a clear desire for intellectual growth, both in the classroom and through working with peers on group projects.

In addition to strong academic aptitude, the ideal candidate should bring an international outlook and cross-cultural understanding.

Ultimately, we are looking for participants who will contribute proactively to the class discussions and share the insights they have gained throughout their professional and personal experience. This rich and meaningful interaction inside and outside of the classroom is what makes the INSEAD EMBA experience and the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) journey so special.


There are five essays as part of the application form. How important are they, and can you give some advice on how to approach them?

Both the job description and the motivational essays are key in your application as they will give the pre-selection committee an insight into who you are, so use this opportunity to highlight your achievements and your motivation to join the programme.

Before writing your essays, take some time to reflect on your professional and personal development so far, and ask yourself why the INSEAD EMBA is a good fit for you, why this is the best time to do an EMBA, what are the benefits and how you will contribute to the class; this understanding and self-awareness should be reflected in your application.

The essays are also a great opportunity to cover all four admissions criteria and convince the pre-selection committee that you are the right candidate.

My top three tips:

1. Be genuine: The best essays strike a balance between personal and professional details. Stay away from clichés as there is no perfect mould to which you need to fit. Reveal the real "you" by honestly reflecting on the unique qualities you can bring to the programme.

We recommend you to have your essays read by someone who knows you well to ensure that what you write truly reflects who you are.

2. Take extra care to describe your professional experience: We need to clearly understand your professional responsibilities and experience as these are some of the most important assets you will be bringing to the classroom.

We are also looking for applicants who can demonstrate their potential as leaders. For example, to write "I manage IT projects" is not enough; instead, describe the nature of your work and management experience using concrete and specific examples. Do provide a description of your organisation and its structure, products and market landscape. Highlight your strengths but also reflect on your areas of improvement.

3. Be short and to the point: It’s important to stay focused, so stick to our recommendation of approximately 300 words per essay.

The essay are also a great exercise to prepare and be ready for the interview.


What assessment options are available besides GMAT and GMAC Executive Assessment (EA), and which one would you recommend?

The INSEAD Assessment Day was developed as an alternative to GMAT, GRE and EA. While we don’t have any preference in regards to which option you choose, the INSEAD Assessment does provide us a more holistic view of your application.

Having said that, our recommendation is that you choose the form of assessment that is most practical and best plays to your strengths.


The recommendation letters also play a big role in the admission process. What do you want to see?

We require two recommendation letters which will need to be completed by your chosen referees through online forms. These should be written in English by individuals qualified to comment on your professional achievements and your career potential.

One of the letters should ideally come from a direct supervisor and the second letter is at your discretion, but should also be from someone who can evaluate you in a professional setting – it could be a client or former supervisor.

As your recommenders may need time to complete the forms, it is crucial that you start this process well in advance. Talk to them before sending the form, and make them part of your decision to apply to the EMBA programme.


Any final words of advice?

It’s very important that the application is consistent throughout, as the pre-selection decision is based on all the application elements. I would also recommend to apply early, as this will allow you sufficient time to prepare for the programme and hit the ground running once it starts. 

Lastly, do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns prior to your application!