Internship Interview Day: Make it Count
By Meghan E. McGrady, Naomi E. Joffe, MA, Katherine Follansbee-Junger, and Christopher Cushing
By now you are probably entering into Waiting Phase I: the period after you have turned in your triple-checked application materials but before you have heard about interviews. Below are helpful tips on creating a system for scheduling and booking travel to reduce the time, cost, and anxiety of interview travel as well as guidance on preparing for and presenting well at interviews.
While many interview invitations will be sent via email, some training directors will call to personally extend an invitation. Be ready to respond in a prompt, professional, and enthusiastic manner. One way to ensure a prompt response is to create a calendar including an exhaustive list of potential interview dates across sites (this information can be found on site's web pages). Most programs will offer multiple dates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Occasionally, a site will assign applicants to a specific day. To reduce your response time, determine your ideal interview date prior to receiving an invitation. Many applicants select dates that allow them to group travel geographically, coordinate with classmates, or interview at preferred sites after gaining experience interviewing at other sites. Be sure to have easy access to this calendar. While a calendar can help optimize travel, keep in mind that you may not be given your preferred interview date or may be asked to hold multiple dates for a single interview.
Set aside time to plan your travel. Enrolling in hotel and airline rewards programs, using comparison shopping sites (e.g., kayak.com), traveling with other students in your cohort, and considering alternative travel options (e.g., taking a bus or train or booking a round-trip flight and using only the first leg) can reduce the cost associated with interviewing. Prior to embarking on your travels, try to complete all required coursework, dissertation, teaching, or practicum-related tasks so you are able to focus your limited time on the interview process.
Consult with other graduates from your program about their experiences at particular sites. While they will likely provide you with helpful information about the logistics of the interview process, be careful to not allow your attitude about the interview to be influenced by others' perception of the program. It may be helpful to create a folder for each program including information about the program (including faculty who may be interviewing you), copies of your CV, your itinerary for interview day, directions, hotel, flight, and public transit information, additional materials you need to provide at the interview (e.g., a color photo) and a copy of your cover letter and personal statement you sent to the program. Reread your essays and cover letter and review program information.
Remind yourself as to why you were excited to apply to the program and practice your responses to anticipated questions until you feel you can convey your enthusiasm and fit in a clear and concise manner. Mock interviews with other graduate students or faculty can be really helpful in finessing responses and learning to field unexpected questions.
Interview day is your last opportunity to communicate to a site why you are interested in their program as a next step in your training. Clearly describe how the training opportunities will allow you to utilize the skills gained in your previous experiences as well as develop new skills consistent with your long-term goals. Sites expect (and hope) that you will have holes in your training that you want to fill during the internship year. Be specific. How will the experiences offered help you reach your stated goals? Be prepared to speak confidently about any clinical, research, and teaching experiences listed on your vita or in your application materials. Also be prepared to answer questions about postinternship plans (e.g., do you intend to do a postdoc, what setting do you ultimately envision yourself working in, what is your ideal versus acceptable balance between research and clinical work). Remember, you have worked hard to get to this point and have had many valuable experiences.
While this summarizes helpful tips, consult mentors, previous graduates of your program, and publications such as the APAGS Internship Workbook (Williams-Nickelson, Prinstein, & Keilin, 2008). By devising a plan for scheduling/travel and being prepared, the interview process can be an enjoyable and exciting opportunity to meet professionals in the field and learn about other facilities.
Williams-Nickelson, C., Prinstein, M. J., & Keilin, W. G. (2008). Internships in psychology: The APAGS workbook for writing successful applications and finding the right fit, Second Edition. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.