September 15, 2013

Internship Interview Advice from Current Interns

Hi everyone,

Below is advice that some student members have passed along to us. We have written them up here, but they can also be downloaded. Many thanks to the students who shared their wisdom with us !

Advice from Student 1: 

How do you best prepare for the interviews? 
·  I found it helpful to have an answer prepared for all of the standard questions listed in the APAGS internship guide and then practice doing mock interviews with others who were going through the process.
·  I also printed out my first essay for each site so that I could review it before each interview and during breaks. It reminded me which rotations I was interested in and which experiences I had highlighted, since these varied slightly for each site.
·  If I knew who I was interviewing with, I tried to look them up ahead of time so I had at least a general idea of what they did clinically and research-wise.
·  I tried to have a short and a long answer to the two most typical questions: "Tell me about your dissertation" and "Tell me about your clinical experiences." That way I could give an overview and then go into detail if the interviewer seemed to be interested in specific areas. 
Things that surprised me
·  I was surprised by the relative lack of clinical questions I was asked. Granted I did interview at more research-oriented sites, but I was still surprised at the overwhelming focus on my research. 
·  I had entire interviews where I was not asked a single question, it was all me asking them questions about the program, so have tons prepared!
Questions I hadn't prepared for
·  Where do you see your research taking you in the future? If you were designing an R01 based on your dissertation, what would it look like?
·  When you look back on your career in 30 years, what do you wish to have accomplished?

Advice from Student 2: 

  •   I found it extremely helpful to prepare answers for the most common questions ahead of time. In addition to doing mock interviews with fellow students, it is great if you can find a postdoc or junior faculty member to help you practice as well. They have recently been through a similar process and are great mock interviewers!
  •  Since you may not know who you are interviewing with until the day of, it is good to have a print out of all faculty members with a brief description of their work. You can review the whole list the morning of the interview, and then refresh your memory on specific faculty members once you know who you are interviewing with.
  • Also, if there is a particular faculty member you are hoping to meet but aren't scheduled to interview with, you can request to meet with them briefly during an off period or via telephone at a later date.
  • I too got more questions about my research than my clinical work, but I also applied to more research focused sites. At the clinical sites I was surprised that I was asked a number of questions about supervision (positive vs. negative experiences; preferences for supervision style).
  • There is often plenty of time set aside for you to ask questions. Have a number of questions prepared, and feel free to ask the same question to multiple interviewers. It can be nice to get multiple perspectives!
  • Current interns are the best resource for getting the real scoop on a site. They are also often an integral part of the interview process, so always remain professional.
Advice from Student 3: 

I interviewed at a mix of research-oriented sites and sites that were more clinical. In contrast to some of the others' experiences, I was surprised to find that at all but one of the "research-oriented" sites (including some Academy sites), I was not asked any questions about my research aside of the status of my dissertation, and research was not required of the interns. In addition, there are sites that do not advertise themselves as research-oriented but have ample opportunities for clinical research involvement, or require interns to submit a manuscript for publication as part of training (like my residency).

One other piece of advice: remember that your interpersonal skills are being evaluated as well. Small talk, being nice and personable, and smiling and eye contact is important. After my interview questions were asked, I found it interesting to talk to the interviewers and interviewees about where they were from, what led them to their area of research or their particular position, where they went to college, the outcome of college basketball games, etc.

Advice from Student 4: 

Hi everyone, I'm currently on internship at a VA.  When I was interviewing a year ago (at VAs), I got a variation of this question a couple of times: "Tell me about a time you used an evidence-based treatment but came to the limit of that treatment, and what did you do?"

Some other questions that might be asked:

How did you get interested in X field?  (e.g., addictive behaviors)
Goals after internship? ("where do you see yourself in 5 years")
Talk about a case, how you conceptualized it, what was most effective.
Good and not-so-good supervision experiences.
Ethical problem and how you handled it.

I also had a few group interviews, in groups of 2-4.  I was initially anxious about this, but once I got into it I found it helpful to hear what others say. Sometimes we could play off of each other's comments and build a conversation.  As others have said, part of the interview process (most of it, I think) is about fit- to see if you're someone who is warm and personable and that they'd want to spend 1+ years with, and also for you to judge the same thing about them.  Definitely have some questions in mind that YOU can ask THEM.  (e.g., "where do interns typically go after finishing this internship?")

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