Home » Internship » So You’re Preparing For Interviews, Part 1

So You’re Preparing For Interviews, Part 1

Hello readers! I apologize for missing last week’s post. I arrived at my new apartment, unloaded my belongings from the trailer (thank you UPack for servicing the Middle of Nowhere so that I didn’t have to drive the truck myself!), and learned that my shower was not working. My landlady worked with me and got it foxed promptly, and then a combination of thunder storms and bad wiring knocked my power out. I got lights back quickly, but my outlets were still down, so I couldn’t plug in my wifi router or charge my laptop. Fortunately I am back online, although I am still waiting for an electrician to re-wire a couple of my outlets so that I can get both AC units up and running again. Ah, the joys of relocating to a new town.

Anyway, as promised, I will be writing today about interviewing. Over the two years that I applied, I participated in in-person, skype, and phone interviews. I interviewed one-on-one, with a group of other applicants, and alone against a panel of clinicians at the site. It’s all terrifying, stress-inducing, and generally not very much fun. Below is a list of common internship interview questions. I was not asked all of these questions, but my research has shown me that these (or variations on them) are most likely what you will hear in interviews.

Professional Development

  • Tell us about your professional development – what brought you into this field and what has influenced you?
  • What assessment measures have you used?
  • What psychologist has influenced your development as a psychologist?
  • What is your theoretical orientation?
  • How many publications do you have?
  • What clients have you liked or not liked working with, and why?
  • What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses? What do you do to compensate for your shortcomings?
  • What are the qualities of a good psychologist?
  • What is the role of a psychologist in a multidisciplinary team?
  • Tell about an ethical dilemma you faced and how you handled it.
  • What is your opinion of psychologists having prescription rights?
  • What is your experience providing informal consultation?
  • How will you know when you are ready to complete your training?
  • What is your theory of change?

Treatment

  • Describe a difficult case and how you handled it.
  • How can you tell when a client is ready for termination?
  • Tell about a good experience you have had with a client.
  • How do you work with clients who present with many issues?
  • What further training experiences do you need?
  • What empirically validated treatments are you familiar with?
  • How do you work with and understand clients from different backgrounds?
  • How would you respond if a client came on to you sexually / how would you handle it if a client disclosed a previous sexual relationship with a therapist?

Personal

  • How do you handle change?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What sets you apart from other applicants?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What hobbies do you have? What do you do in your free time?
  • What would you do if you weren’t in psychology?
  • What would you like me to know about you that is not listed on your CV?
  • What articles have you read recently?

Graduate Program

  • Tell me about the most difficult thing you have experienced in graduate school.
  • Why did you choose your graduate program?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of your graduate program?
  • Tell me about your dissertation.
  • How to translate dissertation to other populations?

Supervision Style

  • What is your favorite form of supervision and why?
  • Tell about a good and bad experience you’ve had with a supervisor?

Assessment:

  • What is your opinion on projective tests?
  • What does ______ represent on the Rorschach?
  • Conceptualize a recent case (or conceptualize a case presented to you as a vignette).
  • What further assessment training do you need?

Site-Specific

  • Why us? What drew you to this site? / Why do you want this internship? / What do you want out of an internship experience?
  • What makes you a good fit for this program?
  • How do you feel about relocating to this area?
  • What questions do you have for us?

When I was waiting to hear back about interviews, I used the time to come up with general answers to most of these questions. Practice saying your answers out loud, to a mirror, to a classmate, to an adviser, to a web cam, over the phone. Try to keep your answers concise (interviewers hate rambling!) and get your responses down to under two minutes at most. Specific examples and stories make you more memorable, so try to come up with an anecdote rather than a more vague description. For example, if you are asked “How would you handle a client who…”, talk about a similar case you had.

You will most likely give similar responses to many of these questions across several interviews, so you do not need to know which sites will be interviewing you in order to come up with answers. (Your reasons for choosing your graduate program or your assessment experiences are not going to change at different interviews, for example.) I recommend having multiple examples of case conceptualizations to draw on, since some sites may ask for more than one. Also practice thinking on your feet with vignettes assigned to you. Have a friend or classmate present you with cases you have not personally seen, and practice coming up with treatment recommendations, conceptualizations, or assessments you might use on that case. Most sites will only ask for one or two conceptualizations, but I did have one interview in which I was asked to conceptualize two previous clients and FIVE vignettes (no that is not a typo). Be prepared to go with the flow.

Another thing to be prepared for is training directors who want to “test” you during your interview. I personally do not agree with this practice or the logic behind it, but it happens. Those who use this technique claim that they want to see how you handle pressure or difficult situations, possibly by contradicting everything you say or trying to twist your answers in ways you clearly did not mean. However, I maintain that the mere act of being at the interview shows how you handle pressure, and this kind of manipulation is more of a power trip than anything else. They know they can get away with this rude and frankly unprofessional behavior because, with the match crisis, most of us would rather take a less-preferred site than no site at all. When I was ranking sites, I still submitted a site that behaved this way as my last choice. Was I indicating that I would prefer not to go to that site? Absolutely, but I was also demonstrating that I was still willing to go to that site just to be done with the process.

I could write a novel on all the ways that this process, for lack of a better word, sucks. Only you can decide what would cause you to rule out a site altogether. In the four rank lists I submitted, there was one site where I interviewed but chose not to rank. As with everything else, it is a highly personal decision. I will discuss ranking in more detail at a later date. For now, I will point out that it is never too early to start thinking about your answers to the questions above (although maybe focus on getting your actual applications done first), and next week I will talk about the nuances of in-person, phone, and video interviews.

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