How to be Both Witty and Original When Answering Classical Interview Questions

By: Ruchama Benhamou  |  February 22, 2024

By Ruchama Benhamou, Managing Editor 

In the midst of preparing for graduate school interviews, I have been forced to reckon with the question: Who am I? How would I describe myself? How would my friends, family, teachers, and peers describe me? Having a vivid passion for philosophy and its expansive texts, I have thought of this question for far too long.

The truth is, I do not know how to really answer that question. As human beings, we are always  evolving in the ever changing world we find ourselves in. Who I was yesterday is not who I am today or will be tomorrow. So how do I answer this pivotal question when asked by my graduate interviewers in the coming weeks?

I have decided to throw them for a loop. Instead of taking the traditional route of answering this question by explaining my background and undergraduate career, I open with something more esoteric. “I have been thinking about that question a lot recently, since I need to condense my life story in a neatly packed 15 minute speech for Stomp Out the Stigma.” The wow-factor produced by this response gives me a little more time to come up with a “real” graduate-school worthy clever response. 

Although this proved to work well in my interviews, I cannot say the same for when it came to actually writing my speech for this event. As a writer, editor, and lover of words, I thought this would be easy. It’s just another essay, just another assignment. Simple. Right? But coming face to face with my own journey and the struggles that have fashioned my identity was draining in every way. 

Just to sit down and have the mental bandwidth to brainstorm, organize, and plan the flow of my speech was difficult. It felt impossible to put words together to display the intense emotions of my experience. Through countless drafts, dozens of meetings, and many edits, I am still unsure if my speech will truly encompass the essence of my story and the message of Stomp Out the Stigma. 

Beyond that is the worry of actually giving the speech. To be vulnerable and open unapologetically is not something I have ever truly done. It is like no other speech I have ever given. The prospect of standing before a crowd, baring one’s soul, feels like stepping onto a tightrope stretched across an abyss. It’s a balancing act between the fear of judgment and the desire for genuine connection. Yet, perhaps therein lies the beauty of vulnerability – in its rawness, its authenticity. It’s the willingness to expose the depths of our humanity, flaws and all, in pursuit of a deeper understanding. And though the thought may be daunting, there’s a glimmer of liberation in the idea of shedding the layers of pretense and embracing our true selves.

But as the moment draws near, doubts creep in like shadows cast by the spotlight. Will they understand? Will they accept? It’s a dance of uncertainty, accompanied by the rhythmic pulse of a racing heart. Yet, buried within the fear lies a flicker of courage, a reminder that within vulnerability lies strength. For it takes resilience to lay bare the innermost chambers of our hearts, to share our stories with unyielding honesty.

And so, as I stand on the precipice of vulnerability, I am reminded that true connection is born from the willingness to be seen, to be heard, and to be understood. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for empathy and compassion. So, let us cast aside the armor of fear and embrace the power of authenticity. For in the vulnerability lies not only our humanity but also our strength.