Edition Focus: Navigating the Internship Process

What makes an applicant really stand out for you?

How to separate yourself from the pack.

By Kellye S. Carver

“Having them ‘come to life’ through essays, letters of reference, and letter of interest.”

Sarah E. Turley, PhD
Salt Lake City VA

“...Tailoring of the application to the proposed site — since this is a VA, I am definitely unimpressed by applications that never bother to mention any interest in treating veterans, or that do not give cogent reasons for such an interest. Some evidence of interest in public service is certainly a part of this. I am also unimpressed by applications that show no evidence that the applicant has read our brochure. If an application looks like one that could be mass-produced and sent to any internship, I am not impressed. This means that the essays matter. Another way they matter is how teachable the applicant sounds. This is a delicate balance — you want to impress us with what you’ve already learned, but we want to see some evidence from you that you realize that you are at only the beginning of what you need to know.”

Diana Sholtz, PhD
VA Maine Healthcare System

“The experiences that the applicant has had are very important. When I see that someone has more than the minimum number of evaluations and/or tests, this sets them apart. Having worked with, in our case, veterans also is distinguishing. Not all applicants have the opportunity to do a VA practicum so work with adults is critical. … Finally, should an applicant be invited to our open house, I think that being succinct in answers and having some questions themselves, relevant to our internship, helps set them apart.”

Jody A. Rubenstein, PhD
VA North Texas Health Care System

“... I always appreciate applicants who take advantage of the first essay on the AAPI to actually let their personalities and interests shine through. Everyone writes about why they love psychology and why they chose a clinical profession. As a DOT, it gets extremely dull reading that same essential statement again and again. I appreciate those who take a little (appropriate) risk and actually tell me who they are in a way that isn’t all about the profession but is all about the person.”

–Andrea B. Michels, PhD,
Atlanta VA Medical Center

“The interns that tend to flourish at our internship site are those that have intrinsic motivators for a public service internship, such as providing services for historically underserved populations, gaining experience with patients with both chronic and acute mental health conditions and wanting to train in a safety net hospital and level I trauma center.”

Daniel Hurley, PhD, LP
Hennepin County Medical Center Adult Psychiatry Clinic

“The one factor that clearly carries the most weight in our initial applicant ranking (i.e., when determining who to invite for interviews) is applicants’ letters of reference.”

John Wallace
VA Central Iowa Healthcare System

“As a generalist program, we like to see applicants who have a breadth of experience — clinical work in three or more settings, experience in group and/or couples therapy in addition to individual therapy, therapy with diverse patients, enough assessment experience to have 10 adult integrated assessment reports, at least one publication, and at least one honor or award on a CV. Finally, the match is very important. Does this person want to work within the Appalachian/rural culture, serving the needs of veterans? This person embodies the clinician, scholar, critical thinker and achiever we are looking for in our program.”

Myra Elder, PhD
James H. Quillen VAMC