More than 3,000 psychology doctoral students will interview with internship training directors this month. With the intense competition of psychology's internship application process, these glimpses into students' personalities are critical for training directors who rank applicants in the APPIC Match.
To stand out in this highly qualified crowd, preparation is key. Here are four common questions that training directors ask-and how best to answer them:
Why is this site a good fit for you?
Questions about "fit" give students the opportunity to explain how their goals and interests mesh with training site's offerings, says Timothy Razza, PsyD, training director at the Institute for Child and Family Health Inc., a community mental health center in Miami. To answer this question, discuss your interest in the populations the site serves, the site's training rotations and how their philosophy fits with your theoretical orientation. Be sure to explain your goals, the reasons you want to work at the particular site and the experience you hope to gain there, training directors advise.
How has your past experience prepared you for this internship?
Answer this question by talking about your practicum experience, the therapy and services you've delivered and the tests and assessments you've used. All the while, relate your prior training and experience to the work done and the population served at a particular internship site, says Jason Williams, PsyD, training director at The Children's Hospital of Colorado.. Also, emphasize any nontraditional experiences you may have had, he says.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
If a training director asks you about your weaknesses, try not to talk about how you "overcommit yourself" or "take on too much work." Training directors can see through these cliché comments. Instead, share a deeper and more specific challenge you've faced as a graduate student. Christopher Hogan, PhD, training director for Appalachian State University's counseling center, says he wants to hear applicants discuss the specific ways they want to improve professionally.
When asked about your strengths, show that you have a sense of where you are developmentally, both in the broader sense of becoming a professional, and in the specific clinical skills that you employ, says Greg Keilin, PhD, the training director at the University of Texas at Austin's counseling center. Showing how your strengths are a good fit with the needs of the internship site is also a good move, he says.
How would you handle this case?
Many directors describe a hypothetical client and ask applicants how they'd proceed. Such questions "help us see how [applicants would] deal with what they'll be interacting with on a day-to-day basis here," Williams says. The best answers use the background presented, but also point out the additional information you'd want to know before determining a treatment plan. The point of the exercise isn't so much the final answer, but to showcase your thought process, says Williams. To that end, share the assessments you'd use and why, and explain how you would put together and implement a treatment plan, he says.