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Admission Application Suggestions (Part XVII)

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Three baseball umpires were discussing how they made their decisions. The first one said, “some’s balls and some’s strikes and I call ‘em as they is.” The second umpire said, “some’s balls and some’s strikes and I calls them as I see ‘em.”

Finally, the third umpire said, “some’s balls and some’s strikes but they ain’t nothin’ till I calls ‘em.” Students, these are the standards interviewers will use in assessing you. Standards are a personal matter and your presentation and behaviors are what their standards will be compared to -- and it does not matter if you have a contrary opinion. By doing things in opposition to the interviewers’ standards is to create or enlarge upon a Communication Gap. Such a gap means that there are broken places and wide openings within the understanding of communication. Such a gap prevents the formation of a harmonious rhythm between you and the interviwer. Such a gap is likely to cause you to lose.
To help minimize communication gaps it is important to picture the communication as being shaped like an iceberg. An iceberg consists of mountains of fresh water ice floating in the ocean, with about 90% hidden underneath the water. When a large iceberg is sighted from a ship, no one can tell how far the ice extends under the water. Similarly, it is important to realize that the “iceberg” the interviewer is using to assess you is made up of 93% of non-verbal assessments and only 7% of what you say. An example of the former is whether or not you are on time (to be late or an hour early creates a bad first impression). Others are your dress, your general appearance and your gestures. Some of your gestures are instinctive and done unconsciously -- as when you look surprised with raised eyebrows or when you appear worried (e.g. forehead wrinkles). Some of your learned gestures may suggest different meanings to interviewers of different cultures. For example, we westerners consider the “thumbs up” sign as meaning things are good or okay. This is a hold over from ancient Roman times when the crowd made the decision whether a gladiator should be killed for losing (thumbs down) or be spared (thumbs up). However, among certain Nigerians and Australians, a “thumbs up” is offensive. Another example is folding your arms in front of your chest. This may be misinterpreted as you being resistant to what the interviwer is saying. There are numerous books on “body language” and on “cross-cultural communications” which help you avoid using “bad” gestures with interviewers of various cultures.
The tip of the iceberg is what is related to the rules involving the admission application process and visible part of the interview (e.g. the introductions, the handshake). Below the surface is the interviewers’ culture, values, biases, and prejudices applied to assessing you. Thus, communications gaps can be greatly lessened by knowing as much about the interviewers as possible; being aware of what you do; and doing what is proper. Sometimes Black speech can be rather abrupt in the context of a seeming “attitude problem.” That will not work well with Asian or other gentle speaking interviewers. Abruptness may irritate interviewers who come from authoritarian cultures and who therefore believe you are of a lower status (not necessarily a racist thing). Authoritarians’ directness in speech (“you do this”) may irritate you -- but please, do not react negatively regardless of what is said or how it is said. You and your interviewers think, feel, say, and do things automatically. It is your job to become aware of how you are and adjust yourself to them.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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