INSEAD MBA Essay 1 Tips: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person)

Essay 1: Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary (approximately 500 words).

This essay perhaps is one of the toughest questions to answer, not because of the complexity of the question, but for most of us, writing about our weakness is an ego buster. But don't worry. We have covered strategies to present your weaknesses in our Essay Guide. INSEAD MBA Admissions team knows that leaders have one unifying quality – “they have an encyclopedic awareness of their Strengths and Weaknesses.”

Why is Self-Awareness Important?

Self-awareness evaluates your leadership quality. If you have never reflected, at least informally, about your weakness, you are blinded by the halo of grandiose – a quality that is cited as the major reason why top performing professionals are rejected from the application pool.

Team Building

The value of self-awareness is not limited to your emotional intelligence but acts as the foundation for team building. A competent team needs functional experts. While recruiting, leaders have to pick individuals who complement their skills. Even if a team leader picks the right mix of skills and temperament, the dynamic nature of the technology landscape and consumer preferences means leaders have:

1) To continuously monitor the skills of the team
2) Set up training schedule based on the team’s strengths and weaknesses
3) Set up training program according to changing markets

During the learning process, to develop new skills and mitigate the risk of skill deficiency, teams have to collect real-time feedback about the experience. After the training, the leader has to evaluate whether the acquired skills have helped the candidates.

Evaluating weaknesses and strengths of the team as a unit, and at an individual level is a skill that Managers and leaders should possess. Without a clear understanding about the skills, tasks will be misallocated, problems will remain unresolved, and projects delayed. Other secondary traits that you can highlight as a leader is included in our Essay Guide. Download here.

Emotional Intelligence

We are not talking about excessive self-praise. Even high-performing team needs a leader who recognizes the fears and insecurities of the team and takes small but essentials steps to ease the tension.

For INSEAD, they want candidates who can recognize their and the team’s strengths and weaknesses. This quality would play a major role during negotiations, sales pitch, and motivating the team towards challenging goals.


When you describe your strengths and weaknesses, don’t just list them out in a plain vanilla form. Use one life-changing event to demonstrate your strengths, and cite the weaknesses that you had to overcome to meet the goals, jump a hurdle, or overcome a setback. Overcoming a setback is a narrative that will encapsulate both weaknesses (the reason for your setback), and strengths (overcoming them).

The most common essays are about Time Management with four variations:

1) A key member leaves the team.

Will the departure lead to missed deadlines?

2) A complex project assigned to an inexperienced team.

Is delay inevitable?

3) An unforeseen problem starts to plague the schedule.

Will the problem cause the team to miss the final deadline?

4) An overbearing customer adds requirements at the last stage of the project.

Will the change in scope, impact project delivery and team morale?


Download our Insead MBA Essay Guide for Complete INSEAD MBA Essay Tips plus 200+ pages of General Essay Writing, Storytelling & Editing Tips

Testimonial - Insead MBA Essay Guide

"I zone out whenever an essay asks me to write about Strengths and Weakneses. I downloaded a few sample essays and found what other applicants had written, but it never helped me to write as my true self. F1GMAT's Insead MBA Essay Guide gave a process to shortlist strengths and weaknesses at a personal and for the role I was assigned. Now this is what makes the book special. The Essay Tips chapter showed the power of "W" pattern narrative while citing strengths and weaknesses. I understood why the Essay Question is important at the end of the exercise. " - Verified Purchase

"My first draft had a few achievements that looked silly after reading the Essay Guide. The IMPACT table gives clarity to what you have achieved, right to the dollar terms. The Strengths, weakneses, and how to use narrative were other tips that I used for my essay." - Verified Purchase

"The 16 Personality type test was a starter kit for finding my strengths and weaknesses. I was surprised by the result. Thank you!" - Verified Purchase

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