This is the time of year when many students think about upcoming interviews for programs, internships, postdocs and faculty positions. I remember how my own internship interviews last year evoked a curious combination of excitement and terror. These interviews are some very challenging, high-stakes conversations, so I thought I'd share some strategies that worked for me:
Even the most outgoing and eloquent students can get tongue-tied at crucial moments. Keep this from happening to you by participating in mock interviews with faculty or peers, and make these practice sessions as realistic as possible. Generate or search for lists of common interview questions, but allow your interlocutor to throw in surprise questions so you can prepare for the unexpected. For internships, it's especially helpful to practice talking thoughtfully about past clients and sticky situations you've navigated with supervisors. If you're interviewing to get into grad school, make sure you can expound on research or specialty areas you'd like to explore. Practicing your answers to these questions will allow your actual interview to flow more smoothly and you'll sound more polished.
Interviews can spark some serious anxiety. While you may not be able to completely block your worries, you can develop a plan to manage them. For some people, deep breathing does the trick. Or perhaps you can practice a little mindfulness meditation in the lobby while you're waiting for your interviewer to arrive. If the timing is right, you might want to center yourself by going for a jog beforehand. Come up with an anxiety management strategy that works for you and plan how you can implement it during the interview. Remember that anxiety is a natural part of interviewing, so prepare for it as best you can.
An interview is a chance for you to gather information, not just for others to learn about you. So, while putting your best foot forward, notice details that might help you decide among programs, interview sites or jobs later on. What was the feeling you got from the staff? Did people seem happy to work there? Does your future supervisor or advisor seem to value work-life balance? Could you see yourself living and working in the location? Immediately after your interview, write down what you noticed, liked or didn't like. Otherwise, you might forget important insights that will help you decide among opportunities.
I remember being completely exhausted after my internship interviews. The combination of travel, anxiety and excitement left me in desperate need of a nap and some alone time. To keep from burning out, make time for self-care. Plan to take the rest of the day off after an interview, or at least give yourself an hour or two to recuperate. Caring for yourself will help you stay balanced and prepared to perform your best.
Armed with these techniques, I found that interviewing was not as stressful as I had feared. I even found myself enjoying the experience a little — it was fun to reflect on what I've learned and show off a little. We psychology students have a wealth of opportunities to choose from, and interviewing gives you a chance to imagine yourself taking different career paths. So, whether you're interviewing for a job, an internship, a postdoc or acceptance to grad school, I wish you success and perhaps even a little bit of fun.