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Why An Applicant Interview Requires a Different State of Mind

Interviews are another piece of the application puzzle and another opportunity to show how great of an addition to a business school’s class I will be. At first glance, I thought that since interviewing relies on many of the same themes, thoughts and stories I used to write essays and fill out applications, it wouldn’t require too much additional preparation. But, the format of interviewing requires a different state of mind – one that I hadn’t paid much attention to until I started practicing interviews with someone else.

When I first did a mock interview with a friend, we both noticed that my answers were a bit stiff and formal, like a canned response. The content of my answers was fine, but it didn’t allow my personality to shine through. After a few more questions, I finally realized that I had been speaking like I was writing essays. In fact, my friend observed that an interviewer “shouldn’t be able to hear the commas” while I spoke. Not good. Especially with an interview coming up before the end of the year.

In essay writing, it’s fine, and probably preferable, to include structured sentences and paragraphs to convey a complete picture. But, an interview is an informal conversation, a set of brief back and forth questions and answers designed not only to convey my story but also a sense of how I think on my feet and respond emotionally to different situations. As much as essays can give a sense of a person, speaking with someone can connect people in a way that reading written words can’t – assuming I don’t speak like I write.

My essay-writing mindset positioned me to receive an interview, but it won’t help me receive an offer of admission. In the end, I just needed to stop heavily filtering what gets sent from my brain to my mouth, like I do in everyday life.

This post is adapted from Just Ship, a blog written by an anonymous MBA applicant who has a GMAT score above 760 and is targeting six or seven of the top ten business schools. You can read all of his posts at Just Ship.

Previous posts by Just Ship at Poets&Quants:

“Just One of 4,653 Applicants Trying To Get Into A Top B-School”

“Why I’m Not Applying to Harvard Business School”

“The Deafening Silence Is Broken: An Invitation to Interview from NYU’s Stern School”