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EMBA Application Tips - Edward Buckingham, INSEAD

Edward Buckingham, INSEAD

Edward Buckingham tells you how to make your EMBA application the best it can possibly be. As director of the INSEAD Executive MBA program, his tips will go a long way for EMBA hopefuls.

What do you tend to notice first when you first meet a candidate?

When we meet with candidates we quickly discover if they have researched the programme. We take notice of the types of questions that they ask. This is usually a good indication as to whether the individual has thought through the arguments for applying. The questions candidates ask are also a good indication of motivation. Those candidates that demonstrate a good understanding and high motivation naturally attract more attention than those who do not.

Typically we look out for individuals who have assumed significant responsibility, managed teams and changed their organisation in someway. EMBA candidates often have technical backgrounds and may have worked many years to reach the top of their field in sectors such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals or energy. These candidates often transition into high level roles in general management following the EMBA.

Any advice you can give on making a good first impression?

  • Read the information on the website. 
  • Download and read the brochure and write down your questions about the programme. 
  • Send an electronic copy of your resume to the person you will meet ahead of time and bring a resume with you. 
  • Above all prepare a business case for yourself. Think through how the EMBA will fit with your personal and professional life. 
  • Start exploring your own expectations of the EMBA and look at the cost-benefit. This will help prepare you to ask the right questions.

Any typical questions you could offer advice on? Do's and Don'ts?

If you are asked if you are applying or are interested in other programmes you should answer honestly and take the opportunity to explain your reasoning. It will help you with your final decision when it comes time to take it. It will also demonstrate that you are serious about making an informed decision.

Try to avoid long monologues and demonstrate your interest by asking questions.

Read the application essay questions before the meeting and think through how you would answer them. You might find that by the time you have finished speaking with us that you have most of the ideas in place to write the essays.  Most essay questions are designed by admissions committees to assess the quality of your thinking and resemble a business case. 

Who are you clients and how do you provide assistance during the decision-making and application process?

Our clients are our prospective participants and their companies. We strive to align the needs of the candidate, the company and the EMBA programme. We go to great lengths to set expectations so that the learning experience has the greatest impact possible for both the participant and the company.

The prospective participant plays a key role during the application process convincing his or her company that the EMBA is the right course of action.  The company may well contribute financial support and employee time to the programme (for our programmes it is 12 weeks of work time over 15 or 18 months depending on the programme). For strong prospective students we often assist on how best to present their case to their employers.

Equally companies often approach us to discuss talent management, retention and succession planning and use the EMBA as a way to assess, retain and promote managers. This is especially true for those companies facing talent shortages. This has been especially true in technical sectors such as Energy.

We offer information to our clients via a number of channels such as EMBA fairs, our website, brochures, web videos, information sessions, master classes and one-on-one sessions.

How important is the GMAT for an EMBA candidate?

It depends on the programme and how it is structured. If you want the widest choice of the top programmes you should do the GMAT. 

Our programmes at INSEAD draw participants from all over the world from a vast array of industries and are incredibly diverse. Our curriculum is demanding, our participants are excellent and we standardise a large proportion of our results. This means that we encourage a healthy amount of competition amongst the participants. This ensures that they extract the maximum out of the coursework and that we as a school award a top quality degree. 

It is very important to our programme that we admit candidates that have scored well on the GMAT and that there is not too much variance amongst the class because we want a healthy amount of competition. Whilst the GMAT score is a good indicator it is not definitive in terms of how well a candidate will do on the programme. However, it does help candidates get back into the habit of preparing for and taking exams again. Even after a decade or so out of the classroom it is amazing what a warm up can do to help get the mind ready for study again.

Any "insider" tips you might be able to offer our readers?

After most first meetings we evaluate the candidate on their fit and their level of motivation. This holds no bearing on the admissions process but our marketing department will naturally invest more time in strong candidates that demonstrate high motivation.


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