Interview Preparation Tips

question marks

Do your research (review again before interviews) –

  • Review internship site brochure again – be knowledgeable about the training offered; re-read your cover letter for each site
  • Review agency website – understand the setting and population, referral sources, clinical staff/supervisors
  • Talk with interns and students you know who have interviewed at the site
Logistics –
  • Confirm day/date and time of interview via email
  • Confirm you have the video link or phone number if the interview is virtual; address/location, including room and floor number (esp. if site may have multiple clinics or is on a large campus) 
  • For virtual video interviews –
    • find (or borrow) a comfortable, private space where you have reliable internet connection and can keep your device steady (i.e., not on your lap or in your hands)
    • make sure your device is charged or plugged into a power source. Have a backup plan if you have technical difficulties (e.g., hotspot on a smartphone)
    • use a headset with built-in microphone if you can; sound quality is better this way
    • dress professionally (at least from the waist up) and comfortably (these aren’t mutually exclusive!)
  • If the interview is in person, build in plenty of time for traffic, getting lost, finding (and paying for) parking, and walking to site once parked (same goes for public transportation)
  • Be courteous to every person at the site – staff, clients/patients, visitors, supervisors, training director, trainees, security guard, etc.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Practice Out Loud
  • Time2Track Sample Interview Questions – review and practice answering the possible interview questions you’d get; the section on questions for interns is also helpful. (I’d skip the middle section and come up with your own questions for the internship site since many of the questions listed are likely to be listed in their brochure or in a presentation on interview day.) Ask classmates who have already gone through the internship application process about their interview experience.
  • Prepare for interviews through mock interviews – with clinical supervisors, advanced trainees, faculty advisor, family, friends. Review interview questions and practice talking through case vignettes. I suggest going through a full mock interview to get into the flow and then debrief afterwards.
  • Practice with at least one person who knows you well and at least one who doesn’t know you very well (e.g., a supervisor or professor you haven’t worked with closely). The people who know you well can point out things you forget to highlight about yourself, and the people who don’t know you as well can give you more of the “first impressions” feedback that is more similar to how an interviewer would experience you.
Don’t be forgotten – practice talking about yourself and your professional experiences and goals
  • Students often ask, “how can I stand out in an interview?” Be yourself! Even if you’ve had similar experiences or backgrounds as other students, you still bring your own personality and perspective. For example, while many students have often told me their main clinical strength is establishing rapport, I find it interesting if they explain to me how they establish rapport – this looks different across different student therapists. Be sure to include examples or be descriptive in your comments during interviews (i.e., finish the thought!).
  • What’s your story (narrative) about your professional journey? Be authentic – you’ll be working full-time with them for a year, so you should show up as much as possible to help determine fit.
  • What’s your “hook”? What will make you memorable in a good way?
  • What do you want the site to know about you before you leave the interview? If they don’t ask a question related to this, figure out a way to weave this into your answers somehow.
  • What’s the theme/pattern in your life (as it relates to your professional interests and goals)?
  • Why are you interested in the site? What do you think you could learn from the site?
Prepare for technical questions –
  • Familiarize yourself with typical diagnoses in the site’s client/patient population
  • Review assessment tools and when you’d use them (especially for a neuropsychology or forensic site)
  • Be prepared to discuss risk assessments and ethical/legal issues
  • Be prepared to discuss a challenging supervision experience (and how you handled it)
  • Be prepared to talk through a vignette or case example they give you
  • Prepare different case examples and how you handled them or learned from them (keep it brief) – crisis situation, ethical issue, challenging case, and a rewarding case
What are you seeking for your internship training experience?
  • What are you looking for? Is the site overly probing? Overly technical? Intimidating? Etc.
  • Is the site organized? Thoughtful about and invested in training? Do they really offer the training opportunities listed in their brochure?
  • Prepare thoughtful questions for the site – what do you think you need to help you learn and grow?
  • Did you feel comfortable in the agency setting? With the interviewers? 

What is your greatest fear for interviews? How will you prepare for this?

Questions to ask the site –

Try not to ask questions that are likely answered in the internship brochure or on the agency website unless it’s a clarifying question for something you didn’t quite understand. 

What have interns said have been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of their internship experience here? 

What do you like most about the work you do here?

Personally, I don’t find it helpful to ask, “What’s a typical day like for an intern?” Usually each day is different, and you probably want the perspective of the interns more than the training staff’s. If the interview process doesn’t include the opportunity to talk to interns, you should reach out to the interns at a few of your top sites to learn about their experiences. You could then ask the interns what a typical week looks like.

Virtual Interview FAQs –

Q: How do you portray authenticity in a virtual format??

A: Prepare beforehand and consider – What do you want the site to know about you before you leave the interview? Because a virtual interview is likely to be shorter than an in-person internship interview, you’ll have to be strategic in figuring out how to share what you’d like to share with them. For example, I am pretty slow to warm in new situations, so I have had to push myself quite a bit in interviews to be more outgoing (less reserved) so they have a sense of who they’d really be working with. Interviewers understand there’s a baseline of anxiety, so don’t worry too much if your nervous energy shows up.

Q: How do you assess “fit” during virtual interviews?

A: Consider using your clinical skills of observation and intuition – not only are you listening for content, you should be paying attention to process and the vibe you feel when interacting with the interviewers. In terms of content, you want to track if the training opportunities you are most interested in (based on their website/brochure) are actually available (unfortunately sometimes it’s a situation of “you can make it happen if you really want this experience” instead of it being a set rotation). In terms of process, how interactive are they in the interview? How organized and considerate has the process been? (E.g., did they tell you you how many interviewers to expect and how long the interview would be?) How comfortable did you feel with the interviewers and interns?

Miscellaneous tips –

Whenever there is a question along the lines of, “is there anything else you want us to know about you?”, don’t say “no.” Even if you think they covered everything, you can highlight something(s) you want them to remember/know about you. I’ve found this quite helpful before as the interviewer – the applicant highlighted an important topic to them that I hadn’t really noted until that point.

Be prepared to talk about your dissertation – every year, students are surprised how much they ended up talking about their dissertations during the interviews.

Be prepared to talk about some personal interests – there often is a question about self-care or hobbies; the interviewers are trying to get to know you a little better. (Full disclosure – I felt like a very boring grad student as I had no hobbies by the time I applied for internship! I ended up saying spending time with family and friends because that was pretty much how I spent my free time. That and watching PBS because I had no cable. There was no such thing as streaming back then…)

It’s acceptable to take notes during the interview. Be sure to write down your impressions and gut feeling after each interview – things start blurring together if you don’t keep track as you go.

Send thank you emails to training directors after each interview – it’s okay to send one email to multiple interviewers. Keep it brief.

What is your greatest fear for interviews? How will you prepare for this? Identify what your fears are about interviews and make a plan for how to manage this anxiety.

Final Thoughts

Embrace the process! Every year, students share that after they got past their initial anxiety about interviews, they actually really enjoyed meeting and talking with internship training programs. Remember YOU are also deciding how good of a fit an internship program is for you!