It's that time of year-internship interview season. And the competition is fierce. Your application has carried you this far, but that's not enough. For training directors, the interview will make or break your shot. Be prepared, professional and positively amazing. Here's how:
Step 1: Plot your route. It's too risky to wait until interview day to find the site. If the program is local, find it in advance and arrive early on interview day, experts suggest. If you're traveling for the interview, consider arriving a day early to find the site and get a good night's sleep.
Step 2: Dress for success. A coat and tie for men and a dress or suit for women are usually the safest choices, say training directors. And don't forget to bring extra copies of your application, essay and curriculum vitae.
Step 3: Snoop around online. "Make sure you've done as much research as possible," says Sonja Batten, PhD, training director at the Veterans Administration Maryland Healthcare System/University of Maryland Baltimore Psychology Internship Consortium. "Know who you are likely to meet on your interview day, what rotations are offered and what parts of the training would be a good fit." If you can speak intelligently about the details that drew you to the program, it shows the interviewer that you're serious about the process, she says. It's also important to emphasize how your past experiences make you a strong candidate. Re-read your application before the interview so that you can touch on any relevant points you made in your essay.
Step 4: Reflect on your training. Prepare to answer such standard questions such as, "Why did you apply to our program?" and "What do you want to get out of our internship?" Also, be ready to address what Batten calls "more thoughtful" questions about your training and career goals, theoretical orientation, work style and professional curiosity. Her area of expertise is post-traumatic stress disorder, so she asks questions such as, "What is your conceptual framework for understanding the effect that trauma has on people?" There's not really any "right" answer, but applicants' answers show whether they are ready to think critically, Batten explains.
Step 5: Stay fresh. You may have heard these questions 20 times, but you can't let it show, says Batten. Keep your energy and enthusiasm up, or at least fake it convincingly, by using your body language to convey attention. When you're temped to slump and withdraw, remember to sit up straight and keep an open posture-keep those arms and legs uncrossed. Remember to maintain eye contact, and most importantly, take a few deep breaths and relax.
Parts of this article were adapted from "Internships in Psychology: The APAGS Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Fit" (APA, 2007).
This article was updated in September 2012 to link to the most recent edition of "Internships in Psychology."
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