Matters to a Degree

Many students experience angst about internship interview etiquette: Should you accept a cup of coffee if it's offered? How might it be interpreted if you paperclip as opposed to staple the extra copy of your CV that you bring along? Better yet, should it be on ivory or white paper? Should you wear nylons or socks, jewelry or no jewelry? The truth is that interviewers don't really care about these things.

Unfortunately, there are some well-meaning people who suggest that these details will make or break an interview. Mostly, these needless musings only serve to make you overly anxious about irrelevant minutiae while distracting you from the most important aspects of interviewing-making yourself positively memorable for your skills and personality.

So, drink a cup of coffee if it's offered and you need hydration. Present your CV in a manner that best reflects your style. And simply dress professionally and save the black fingernail polish for another venue.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

What's most important on interviews is thorough preparation and an impressive delivery. Generally, if you've made it to the interview stage, supervisors believe you have at least met the minimum qualifications for the position and you've made an adequate impression on paper. The interview provides a valuable opportunity for both parties to more directly assess the potential match. An ideal match, however, may be defined or prioritized differently by various sites, which will likely influence the style and tone of the interview.


 

INTERVIEW FORMATS

Expect a range of interview procedures, from telephone calls to in-person meetings, brief to all-day events, and formal questioning to casual chats. Some sites only conduct telephone interviews that last from 30 minutes to one hour. It's convenient to be able to refer to your notes, the program brochure and other materials while in a comfortable and familiar environment. What's more, you can wear whatever you'd like, worry-free!

The majority of sites will conduct in-person interviews that range from standardized to free-flowing exchange. You may meet with one supervisor or all members of the faculty. You may talk or eat lunch with the current interns.

Most types of interviews are designed to allow you to elaborate on your strengths and weaknesses, further define your training goals and how you believe the site can help you reach them, and identify common clinical or research interests. Other times, the interviewers will mainly want to get know you as a person. You may be surprised that they ask little about your interest in the site or your clinical experiences. In these situations, be able to demonstrate that you're likeable, easy to work with and open to feedback.

Sounds easy enough, but some students are caught off guard when asked to talk about themselves instead of their work. Remember that you need not reveal private matters in these conversations. Instead, you can discuss hobbies and interests, books you've read, volunteer work or pets you have. If you can smoothly integrate examples that show your character attributes, that's ideal.


 

PREPARATION AND DELIVERY

Regardless of interview format, it is always better to be overprepared than underprepared. Be sure to read the program materials thoroughly and develop a list of site-specific questions. Identify and explain clear matches between the site's requirements and your skills and needs. Expect to discuss legitimate areas of growth. Be ready to articulate your theoretical orientation and apply it to a case, your testing and report-writing experience, client problems you are more and less experienced or comfortable working with, diversity issues and supervision preferences.

It is not uncommon to be asked how you resolved an ethical dilemma, dealt with a difficult client or supervisor or how you work on a multidisciplinary team. Practice your responses to ensure a polished delivery.

Your preparations will never be wasted; the internship interview is one of the best ways to rehearse for your postdegree job interviews. However, your time will be much better spent learning about the site and assessing and reflecting on your development rather than ruminating about details that don't really matter.