Book VI: Conducting Persuasive Internship Interviews


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Book VI helps you develop the skills to package and market your distinctive qualifications successfully and handle even the most challenging interview questions with finesse.

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Book VI: Conducting Persuasive Internship Interviews

  1. 1. Sharpening Your Competitive Edge: Dr. John T. Carlsen Your Internship CoachBook VI: Conducting Persuasive Internship Interviews
  2. 2. Why God Never Earned a Psy.D. by John T. Carlsen, Psy.D. (With apologies to for the sexist language necessary to keep from breaking the flow and appreciation to the unknown writer of “Why God Never Earned a Ph.D.”.) He finished only the first chapter of His dissertation. His research subject pool never stopped expanding long enough for Him to complete His clinical research project. He could never produce original sources for his work, aside from Himself. He never knew when Match Day would come (although whole groups dedicated themselves to predicting the exact date). He got in trouble when people misquoted by distorting his original research and He failed to stop them. He never developed concrete goals for his professional future leaving it to others to set them for Him. The Human Subjects Committee would not unanimously approve His dissertation proposal. (Some tried to decipher his rough drafts; others sat waiting for the final draft.) He never learned to write measurable treatment goals. Few people could understand His dissertation in its original form. When the subjects in His first case study failed to follow directions, He expelled them from His private office permanently. He failed to warn His research subjects of the risks they faced in participating in His research. No scientist has been able to replicate His initial experimental results successfully. He never completed an APA-accredited internship and had trouble documenting His experience adequately for state licensing committees. His clients were never given a direct line to reach Him and often had to go to a mountain top or the sea shore to find Him - either at sunrise or sunset. He failed his dissertation defense because He spoke only in a still small voice. He was never really sure whether His degree was as good as a Ph.D. His advisor and His supervisors crucified him three days before graduation.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005 by John T. Carlsen, Psy.D. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Duplication Prohibited.
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTSA PERSONAL NOTE TO INTERNSHIP APPLICANTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IIIWHY GOD NEVER EARNED A PSY . D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viCHAPTER I: DEVELOPING A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO INTERVIEWING Handling Interviews: The Art of Making a Good Impression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Overcome the Common Misconceptions about Interviewing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Define Your Core Professional Self . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Develop the Key Qualifications of Successful Interview Candidates . . . . . . . . . . 12 Determine What You Want to Say about Yourself . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Define a Wardrobe and Look that Conveys Your Professional Image . . . . . . . . . . 13CHAPTER II: PREPARING FOR EFFECTIVE INTERVIEWS Research Internship Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 20 Gather Information from Current and Past Interns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 21 Prepare the Focus of Each Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 24 Prepare for All Kinds of Interview Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 26 Create a Match between Your Training Goals and What the Site Offers . . . . . . 29 Package and Transfer Your Skills to Work with a New Population . . . . .. . . . . . 28 Prepare to Discuss a Clinical Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 30 Organize Yourself for Maximum Advantage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 33CHAPTER III: CONDUCTING SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEWS Manage the Entire Interview Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Coordinate a Professional, but Comfortable, Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Answer All Interview Questions Carefully . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Handle “Hot Seat” Interview Questions Strategically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Prepare for Follow-up After Each Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Evaluate Your Performance after Each Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 How to Ruin Your Interviews from the Beginning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50APPENDIX A: INTERNSHIP INTERVIEW PREPARATION SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54APPENDIX B: POST-INTERVIEW SUMMARY RECORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57APPENDIX C: STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE INTERNSHIP INTERVIEWS . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60APPENDIX D: COMMON INTERNSHIP INTERVIEW QUESTIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62APPENDIX E: INTERNSHIP APPLICANT FEEDBACK FORM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
  6. 6. 2 HAPTER I: DEVELOP A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO INTERVIEWINGC Handling Interviews: The Art of Making a Good ImpressionThe professional interview is an artificial, socially-constructed situation.Unlike most natural circumstances in which you simply interact with others,however, interviews require you to make specific im pressions on theother people. You want to come across as not only friendly, warm, andcaring - but also as competent, attentive, and reliable. Furthermore,because interviews are socially-constructed situations, they followestablished protocol. That is, everyone who participates in the interviewprocess- from the office receptionists to the interviewers - expectscandidates to follow certain unspoken rules in how they communicate, howthey dress, and how they behave.Briefly, you need to conveya professional image in Your Professional Image Mustfour areas: 1) on paper (in Come Across in These Four Areas:your AAPI, your essays,and your curriculum vitae), ! what you write on paper2) through what you ! what you communicate verballycommunicate about ! what you choose to wearyourself verbally in the ! what you express through yourinterview, 3) what you gestures, your body language, andchoose to wear for the your voiceinterview, and 4) in yourgestures, body language,and voice. Although you might feel tempted to emphasize one or two ofthese more than the others, no one of them is, ultimately, more importantthan the others.Each area plays a distinct, but equally important, role in persuading ainterviewers to consider your internship application seriously. Together,these elements must form a complete package that communicates acohesive, consistent, overall image of who you are as a professional intraining.Internship interviews provide an excellent opportunity to develop thisconsistent image and to practice communicating it to selection committeemembers. This is especially true if you entered graduate school soon aftercollege, and thus, have limited experience with interviewing for training oremployment. Applying for an internship might be the first time you havethought of yourself as a professional and formally conveyed this image toCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2009 by John T. Carlsen, Psy.D. All Rights Reserved
  7. 7. CHAPTER I: Develop a Strategic Approach to Interviewing 3others. I encourage you to make the most of this interviewing process asyou practice refining and presenting your emerging professional identity as anew psychologist. Remember that You are Applying for a Training Experience, Not for a JobMany students approach the internship application/interviewing process asthough they were looking for a full-time professional job. It is true that theselection process hasbecome more competitive during recent years, giving selection committeesmore power toeliminate candidates who do not meet their requirements and be moreselective about the qualities they expect from interns. Yet, not every siteexpects to treat interns as full-time staff. (In fact, ethically, they should nottreat interns as staff - because internship is a training experience, not achance to exploit poorly-paid individuals by giving them independentprofessional responsibilities.) Actually, most site staff still recognize theinternship as it was originally intended: the first of two full-time years ofsupervised clinical training. Thus, you should present yourself as a well-prepared trainee, ready to benefit from gradually-increasing autonomy whilestill under supervision.This perspective does not,however, imply that you “[T]he most effective image youshould down-play your can convey during an interview isexperiences or the level ofyour current competence. an honest one that is based uponRather, it suggests the who you are as an applicant, notopposite: You should spend who you wish you were by now.”less time worrying about whatvarious selection committeeswant in their interns and trying to construct an image of yourself that fitsthose requirements (by pretending you have more or different experiencethan you actually have).And, you should spend m ore time focusing on what you actually w ant fromyour training and have to offer as a trainee. In short, the most effectiveimage you can convey during an interview is an honest one that is basedupon who you are as an applicant, not who you w ish you w ere by now .Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  8. 8. 4 CHAPTER I: Develop a Strategic Approach to InterviewingEven if you could create an impression that convinced selection committeesthat you had exactly what they wanted, what would you do if they choseyou? Within the first few days of your training, they would discover the truthabout you - and your cover would be blown. Remember, these arepsychologists whose specialty is uncovering and accounting for discrepancies- and attending to latent information about people! They are not naive,unsuspecting newcomers to this field. It is their job to weed out unqualifiedand incompetent - as well as dishonest - candidates.If, by some stroke of luck, you were to succeed in pulling something over onthem, you would still have to spend an entire year trying to maintain thisfalse image of yourself - investing an incredible amount of energy andconstantly re-tracing your steps to make sure that you had never let themsee who you actually are. What a miserable existence!Who would choose to sacrifice an entire year of their lives - not to mentiontheir personal and professional integrity - trying to maintain such a falseimage? You would spend most of your time trying to discern what each sitevalues and attempt to adapt yourself to fit neatly into these preferences.Moreover, the fact is - even if you could maintain such a false image for anentire year - you could not possibly determine accurately ahead of time whatselection committees want in their ideal candidates. So, w hy spend theenergy?A far more reasonable approach includes three steps: First, determine whatyou have to offer. Second, present it as accurately and persuasively aspossible in your interviews. Thirdly, let the cards fall where they might inthe matching process - trusting that you will end up where you belong andhaving a Plan B in place in case you do not match this year. This attitudeensures that you center yourself in your core qualifications. It gives you theincreased sense of confidence that comes from telling the truth about yourexperience. And, it rescues you from feeling anxiety and guilt afterpresenting a false impression.Overcome the Common Misconceptions about InterviewingBecause interviewing is an unfamiliar - and unusual - interpersonalexperience, applicants often have three misunderstandings about it: 1) theinterview relationship is adversarial; 2) the primary burden is on you, theapplicant, to show how well you fit a selection committee’s expectations; andCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  9. 9. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 53) interviewers always know how to interview well. Let’s examine theincorrect assumptions underlying each of these misunderstandings.The firstmisunderstanding is Three Common Misconceptionsthat the interview about Interviewingrelationship is < Interviews are adversarial.adversarial. < Applicants, alone, must demonstrateApplicants with this goodness-of-fit between theirperception believe that, qualifications and what the site the interview, “it’s < Interviewers always know how tothem against me.” interview well.They approachinterviews as thoughthey were going off to war or facing their critical parents or other authorityfigures.As a result, they procrastinate when they need to prepare themselves forinterviews. Or, they overstate their previous experience or leave someimportant information out of the interview as a way to protect themselves.Or, they generate and maintain an attitude of defensiveness throughout theinterviewing process, refusing to answer questions honestly or completelyand raising their anxiety levels. In short, this misconception can influencetheir abilities to present their qualifications from the time they startpreparing to the time they actually interview in person.In reality, the purpose of the interview is to determine whether there is agood fit among the goals of the applicant, the requirements or preferencesof the staff, and the agency’s needs. Selection committee members need todetermine whether your training goals, your qualifications, and yourpersonality mesh with the experiences their internship offers and their needsas an agency.Similarly, as the applicant, you need to determine whether the trainingprogram will satisfy the requirements for your state licensor as apsychologist and help you develop the competencies you need for yourfuture work. Also, more pragmatically, all of you need to determine whetheryou would enjoy - or at least could tolerate - working together for an entireyear!In one sense, you could prepare for an interview much as you wouldCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  10. 10. 6 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewingapproach a blind date. Obviously, each of you would attempt make the bestpossible impression on the other. On one hand, a blind date provides eachof you with only limited opportunities to gather information about the other,derived primarily from the current situation.So, you awkwardly stumblethrough the process of getting All of you [participants in theacquainted - grasping for interview] need to determinequestions and responses that whether you would enjoy - or atwill fill the interminable least could tolerate - workingsilences - while doing your together for an entire year!best not to humiliateyourselves. Each of you prays that the other person will keep theconversation going. You think ahead to come up with new discussion topics.You try to avoid unnecessary eye contact. You do your best to cover upyour real feelings about this other person to avoid making a bad impression -while simultaneously keeping track of the most embarrassing moments toshare with your friends later.In an interview, however, you do not simply want to survive by filling thesilences - you want to thrive by impressing the interviewers so they will seeyour attractive qualities as a candidate and give you a high ranking in thematching process. Yet, unlike a blind date, you are not limited to theimmediate situation to learn about one another. Rather, each of you hasmany additional sources of information about the other. You can talk withcurrent and previous interns and read each site’s written materials to learnabout the staff and the training experience.Committee members can scrutinize your written applications and contactyour references to learn more about you. Thus, all of you can gather solidinformation about one another ahead of time that you can use in helping youprepare to make a good impression during the interview. This informationcan also help you greatly in reaching a good decision about your futurepotential for compatibility.Moreover, during the interview, you can greatly reduce any appearances ofan adversarial relationship by changing your attitude toward the selectioncommittee and making sure that you carry this attitude into your behavior.That is, you can envision and treat selection committee members as futurecolleagues rather than as authority figures.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  11. 11. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 7The secret to a successful interview begins with the following approach:Start from the assumption that you are the best fit for this site. Then,spend all of your interview time presenting evidence that dem onstratesw hy you believe this . . . and convinces them to agree w ith you. Thisperspective will keep your anxiety in check and enable you to present yourbest qualities . . . and reduce any hit of antagonism between you.The second common mis-conception about The Secret to ainterviewing is that the Successful Internship Interview:prim ary burden is onyou, alone, as the Start from the assumption that you are the bestapplicant to show how fit for this site. Then, spend all of yourw ell you fit a selection interview time presenting evidence thatcom m ittee’s demonstrates why you believe this . . . andex pectations. convinces your interviewers to agree with you.Similar to the first miscon-ception, some applicants believe that the interview relationship is one-way -that the only people doing any scrutiny or evaluation are the selectioncommittee members.These applicants imagine themselves standing in a lineup - as if they werecriminals - waiting to be selected by the victim of the crime. Or they seethemselves as shy wallflowers at the school dance, hoping that some cuteperson - or anyone, for that matter - will come up to them and ask them todance.In reality, you and the selection committee are look ing together at thegoodness-of-fit betw een you. After the interviews, they will have to wait tosee whether the best candidates chose their internship sites. In other words,in the matching process, they will be the ones lining the wall, waiting for aninvitation to dance and hoping they will not have to search through theclearinghouse for a dance partner.Remember, you have as much to learn about the agency staff prior to theinterview as they have to learn about you. This is your internship training.Dont settle for something you dont want. Learn everything about eachagency as you can before - as well as during - the interview. And,remember what you learn when you come to the point of submitting yourranking of sites to the matching service.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  12. 12. 8 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about InterviewingThe third misconception about interviewing is that interview ers alw aysk now how tointerview w ell.Despite your Your Unique Qualifications are Sometimes too Familiar to Seeexpectations to thecontrary, even some One applicant met with me for a coachingpsychologists make session to improve her written applications.terrible interviewers. She began our first session thinking that shePsychologists are had nothing distinctive to offer that would settrained to gather her apart from other applicants for internship.clinical informationand make diagnoses, As we talked further, she described hernot necessarily to interest in working with clients whose culturaldetermine how well background differed from hers. Shean applicant fits a spontaneously told me about how thistraining slot. interest and curiosity developed during her childhood, in which she had grown up as theBe sensitive to the only Caucasian person in her group offlow of the interview otherwise primarily African-American friends.and to your own Initially, she had viewed this experience asperceptions and unimportant.intuitions as youcomplete the As she reflected on her background, however, she came to realize the significantinterview. Use the influences this experience had created ininformation you pick developing her world view and herup to formulate your perspectives about life. Gradually, sheresponses. You must began to see how this experience of living inmake your own an ethnic minority community as a memberpresentation and of the majority racial group had provided hermake it easy for the with the skills and knowledge she needed forinterviewer(s) to find cross-cultural understanding.out about you andthe goodness of fit With guidance, she began to find ways toyou bring. Basically, apply these experiences to her clinical workthe interview is your and, eventually chose to use this perspectivesales presentation, as the core of both her internshipand you cant assume applications and her interviews.that the customernecessarily wants todig in order to find out what you have to offer. Rather, you carry theresponsibility for communicating what you want each selection committee toCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  13. 13. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 9know about you and for answering their questions as well as possible. Besure that the interview goes in the direction you want it to go. If necessary,pause and change the direction so it goes in the direction you want.Define Your Core Professional SelfThe key to overall success in any application/interview process lies inconveying a consistent and coherent impression on those making theselection decisions. This is especially true in the internship applicationprocess, in which all (or most) of the interviewers are psychologists.Because of their training, they will notice and remember any discrepanciesbetween your written presentation and your in-person presentation duringthe interview. Whether you are applying for an internship, a post-doctoralposition, or a full-time job, you need to define the image you want to conveyat the beginning of your preparation.You also need to check to ensure that you continue presenting this coreprofessional self throughout the process - from your written applications,through your telephone conversations with committee members, to yourinterview and follow-up meetings. None of these alone will ensure yourultimate success as an applicant. Your audience expects to encounter thesame applicant in person as they first met on paper or on the phone. Thisconsistency covers what you say and how you say it as well as how youdress and how you conduct yourself in professional situations.The process of defining your core professional identity takes some time andsome intentional reflection on the self you have developed and how yourpast training has shaped it. Thinking back over the various experiences thathave molded you and considering the in-born qualities you bring to yourprofessional training, try to identify the unique applicant you have become.Many students have difficulty identifying these characteristics. To illustratethe steps involved in this process, the two examples in boxes accompanyingthis text point out the kinds of qualities you might try to find. Perhaps youbelieve you do not have any distinctive personality qualities or lifeexperiences. You might be surprised. As you gather information fromtalking with your classmates, your colleagues, supervisors, and professors,you might find that you indeed have a perspective on life that will equallystrongly influence your work as a therapist, a diagnostician, and aconsultant.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  14. 14. 10 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about InterviewingTalk at length with these people to help clarify your unique qualities andmake them more concrete. Think of some specific examples that show youreffective use of these special gifts and talents. As you begin to consolidatethis self-understanding, you You Can Turn a Perceived Weakness into awill have greater Fundamental Strengthsuccess in using it todifferentiate yourself Another applicant who met with me for coachingfrom other sessions told me about his long-standing learningapplicants. disability. As we worked to identify his unique strengths and qualifications he told me that thisYou will also improve characteristic had significantly influenced all of hisyour ability to market impressions and experiences in life up to that point.your particular As we continued talking, he began to realize that -talents and areas of although he had suffered a great deal as a result ofcompetence. this disability - the experiences of trying to overcomeFurthermore, this his obstacles to learning had also helped him learn toability will continue to appreciate the difficulties other people face. Byserve you well, not generalizing his own experience to these other people,only in obtaining an he had increased his ability to develop and maintaininternship, but also in empathy with clients who experience oppression.the future as youseek a post-doctoral Gradually, he began to realize the importance ofjob in our talking about how these experiences had influenced his entire experience of graduate school andincreasingly practicum training. Eventually, he reached the pointcompetitive where he felt more comfortable acknowledging andprofession. Learn to talking more openly about his learning disability.value what sets youapart. And, he decided to frame all of his application essays and interviews in terms of how his experience ofThe first step in coping with the learning disability informed all of hisconstructing the work as a clinician. In this way, he was able to moveimage you want to from feelings of shame and embarrassment about thisconvey is defining individual difference to feelings of confidence aboutwho you are as a how it gave him a unique and valuable perspective on human growth and change to bring to his clinicalprofessional-in- Notice thatI did not say, “defineyourself as a ‘practicum student’ or an ‘intern-w annabee;’”. Rather Ireferred to you as a “professional-in-training.” Feel free to use this labelas you refer to yourself throughout the next few years until you haveCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  15. 15. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 11graduated and become licensed. (The ways that we refer to ourselves havea strong relationship to how others perceive us - and how we perceiveourselves.)You need to begin right nowdeveloping an attitude that you are One of the primarynearly a professional and determine sources of anxiety forthe core qualities that make this true.Even if you have not yet achieved the interviewees stems fromprofessional identity you want, you their efforts to construct,must spend time now developing your maintain, and present acurrent image, based upon yourexisting strengths and personality professional image that ischaracteristics. You are no longer not grounded in reality.someone who is thinking aboutbecoming a psychologist. Rather, youare well on the way to becom ing a psychologist. The time to start thinkingabout this professional image is before, not during, the interview. Theinterview is the time to practice conveying the image you have alreadydeveloped, not constructing it for the first time.If you followed the guidelines in Volume I of this series (and completed yourAAPI), you have identified your strengths and areas of growth as an internapplicant. You know, within the core of your being, who you are now as aclinician and how you can use that self to interact with and help other peopleas a clinician. In psychology, you must construct your professional self fromthe inside out if you want to gain credibility with others. Psychologists aretrained to see through outward appearances, so you will do yourself adisservice if you begin by creating your exterior.One of the primary sources of anxiety for interviewees stems from theirefforts to construct and present a professional image that is not grounded inreality. The interviewee becomes so focused on presenting the image he orshe believes the interviewers want - or changing it to fit each site’sexpectations - that he or she can never act from a secure sense of self. Asmentioned earlier, a professional image that is not grounded in who you arewill come across as false and superficial.Many internship applicants approach the application/ interviewing processwith the attitude that they must scope out each selection committee anddetermine what they are looking for in their ideal candidates. If you payCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  16. 16. 12 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewingattention to your fellow applicants (and even many professors and trainingdirectors), they all seem to believe they have found The secret of successfor obtaining an internship, and they want you to follow their advice.One says: “You have to spell out every one of your credentials and convince selection com m ittees that you are w ell-qualified. M ak e yourself look as good as you can, w hatever it tak es. Hide any discrepancies in your back ground. You don’t w ant to draw their attention to them .”Another says: “Don’t bother applying to a site that treats adults unless you have a lot ex perience w ith adults. I f you ex perience is prim arily w ith adolescents and children, stick w ith those kinds of sites.”A third artificially inflates the numbers of actual assessment batteries he hascompletedor the number and kinds of differentclients she has seen in therapy - orm isrepresents the level of clinical Remember . . .ex perience he or she has actuallyhad. I have actually heard of one No matter how you feel, youapplicant who decided to exaggerate his are applying for a trainingqualifications as a way to become more experience - not applying forcompetitive. Apparently, he claimed to a job.have administered, scored, interpreted,and written reports for 23 fullassessment batteries prior to internship, considering his partial batteries ascomplete ones.Unfortunately for applicants such as this one, however, committee memberswould immediately recognize the level of competence that someone wouldhave after administering this many batteries. And, contrary to theapplicants’ expectations, these committee members would probably grill himwith questions that would ultimately reveal his misrepresentation.In a very short time, his deception would become blatantly obvious. That is,they would quickly recognize his inability to present the level ofsophistication expected after such extensive experience. Most likely, thisCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  17. 17. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 13applicant was eliminated from further consideration at internship siteswithout knowing the reason. That is, if he were luck y enough to avoidbeing reported for violating APPIC guidelines - and losing the opportunity tocomplete his graduate education or enter this profession.Of course, preoccupation with the increased competition for internshipsraises every applicant’s anxiety. However, the problem with each of theseapproaches is that they undermine the applicant’s ability to present his orher experiences truthfully and to spell out his or her internship goals.Clearly, you need to present all of your credentials fully and honestly -including the names and places of your training and the level of expertiseyou have gained.But, you do not have to (and would be very wise not to) fabricate any ofyour experiences or even potentially misrepresent yourself. Aside frombeing unethical, this approach is also unwise. As stated earlier, you can hideinaccuracies from an intern selection or training committee only so longbefore someone calls your bluff. And, then, how would you explain yourselfand your behavior? More importantly, how would you recover aftercompromising your personal and professional integrity?Finally, remember that internship is a training experience. What better timeis there to gain experience with different kinds of clients than during yourinternship - when you can learn from experienced clinicians and rely on yoursupervisor to help you learn the basics of working with a new population?Do you think you will have an easier time gaining exposure to these otherpopulations after you are more advanced in your career? At that point, youwill probably have to take extra time to develop your skill and knowledgebase by taking course work or attending workshops - and pay extra for thisnew learning. During your internship, you are paid (albeit minimally!) togain experience rather than having to pay for it. Since you are paid at such alow rate, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to learneverything you can about different areas of the field.Of course, you cannot assume that selection committees will automaticallyjudge you as equally-qualified compared applicants who have some basicexperience with this new population. You will have to help them see howyou could transfer your existing skills to work with this new population. And,you will have to define specifically how you would apply your existingCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  18. 18. 14 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewingknowledge to client problems. But, to assume that you have locked-in youroptions because of yourprevious experiences and The Steps to Defining and Presentinghave no possibility to Your Core Professional Selfchange during internship isabsurd! If you want this < Define who you are as a “clinician-in-new experience badly training”. Consider both your innate talentsenough, you will spend the and gifts and the com petencies you haveinterview time persuading developed so far in your training.the selection committee < Identify your core values and philosophy as athat you can adapt to the professional helper/healer. Ask yourself whynew population and learn you chose - and com m itted yourself to pursue - this profession.quickly. In summary, youstand the best chance of < Acknowledge the ways your life experiencessuccess in obtaining an have influenced your world view and yourinternship if you present beliefs about life and helping.your qualifications clearly < Talk at length with your supervisors,and honestly, taking professors, advisors, and classm ates toownership of your current clarify your unique qualities and m ake themlevel of competence and m ore concrete.pointing out specifically < Think about how your unique knowledge andhow each site’s program experience would com plem ent your chosencould help you fill in the internship sites.existing gaps in your < Com e up with som e specific exam ples thatexperience. show your effective use of your talents, skills, and knowledge in working with clients.Develop the KeyQualifications ofSuccessful Interview CandidatesAs you prepare your mind set for interviewing, identify your personal andinterpersonal qualities as an applicant. In their minds, interviewers willassess your qualifications in each of the four categories listed in the box onthis page. For training clinicians, each of these areas of personalqualification not only reveals how others would perceive you as a superviseeand co-worker but also gives interviewers a clear idea of how you wouldwork with therapy clients and with other staff members.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  19. 19. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 15In preparing your professional image, think of examples from your trainingand work experiences that illustrate your strengths in each of these areas.Along with expecting you to talk concisely about your areas of clinicaltraining and experience, interviewers will probably ask you to illustrate eachof these more personal qualifications.Thus, as with any interview question, you must prepare yourself ahead oftime with specific examples drawn from your experiences. As you focus ondescribing verbally how your training experiences reveal your qualificationsin each of these four realms, therefore, you must also behave during theinterview in ways that show how you possess each of the qualities.Determine What You Want to Say about YourselfAfter you have identified and consolidated your core self as a professional,you need to decidewhat you want to sayabout yourself to Key Qualifications ofselection committees. Successful Interview CandidatesThat is, you need tochoose which aspects Category One: mental alertnessof your background includes: self-expressiveness, judgement,and your experience creativity, aptitudes, and highlight in eachinterview. Review Category Two: motivational qualitieswhat you said about includes: initiative, drive, enthusiasm,yourself in your perseverance, and energyAPPIC Application forPsychology Category Three: emotional qualitiesInternship, includes: emotional stability, emotionalsummarizing yourstrengths and areasof competence, yourgrowth areas, and your qualifications as an intern applicant.Having clarified your basic competencies as an applicant, you can read eachsite’s written materials once again to determine the type of candidate theyseek. Then, you can find ways to link your interests directly with what theyoffer in their training to show what a good match you would be if theyselected you as an intern. By starting with who you are and what you bringto the internship, you avoid the common practice among interns of startingCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  20. 20. 16 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewingwith what you believe they want in an ideal applicant and trying to shapeyourself to fit that concept. This latter practice would leave you frustrated asyou realized the impossibility of determining what each selection committeeseeks and half-heartedly attempted to mold yourself to fit it.Remember that selection committees are evaluating you in several roles:trainee, therapist, intern group member, supervisee, colleague,representative of their agency (if you are selected and complete theirinternship training). As you describe yourself during interviews, keep eachof these roles in mind. When possible, adapt your answers to present howwell you would fulfill each of these roles if selected for each particular site.In short, maintain a strategic mind set throughout your interviews.Define a Wardrobe and Look that Conveys Your Professional ImageWhat you wear to your interview communicates a great message about howseriously you view yourself, the intern selection process, and the membersof the selection committee. Having defined who you are as an emergingprofessional, you are ready to package that identity in a wardrobe thatsupports your verbal message.As stated previously, although interviews are somewhat artificial situations,they nevertheless follow established protocol, similar to that of weddings,graduations, formaldinners, and other socialrituals. That is, everyone Dress for your internship interviewsinvolved in the interview as if you were seeking a professionalprocess has certain job. You will have plenty ofexpectations of howeveryone else will dress opportunity to modify your clothingand behave. Anyone once you have accepted a positionwho veers too far from and know how other staff dress.these unspokenexpectations will drawunnecessary and, potentially embarrassing, attention to themselves.You would not, I am sure, show up at a wedding or formal dinner partydressed in cut-off shorts and a t-shirt or halter top (unless it were clearly avery informal group of people who intended to break with traditions).Similarly, you would not show up for a back-yard barbeque dressed in atuxedo or ball gown (unless the event were a costume party). Yet, someCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  21. 21. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 17applicants consider showing up for internship interviews dressed as thoughthey were attending classes at school. You have spent upwards of $80,000to $100,000 for your graduate education and will earn the title of “doctor” injust under a year. I sn’t it w orth spending an ex tra few hundreddollars on the appropriate suit that m ak es the im pression you w antas an em erging professional - instead of a student?You probably have a credit card with a enough left on the spending limit toinvest in an appropriate suit, shoes, and accessories. Besides, you will needto have an interview suit to wear when you search for jobs after graduationand, even, to attend graduation. So, you might as well make the investmentright now. In short, there is no better time than internship to start dressingas a professional. After all, this is the time when you begin seriously to buildthe foundation for your entire professional career. You might as well startby developing coherence between your internal sense of yourself and theexternal image you present to the world.On the other hand, whenplanning your style of dressing Other people form strong andfor interviews, avoid the long-lasting first impressionstendency to go overboard and of you within the first thirtydress too formally. If youinterview at a community mental seconds after meeting center in an expensivedesigner suit, you will certainly These initial impressions areconvey an incongruous very difficult to change.impression to interviewers if yousay you want to work withclients from lower socioeconomic classes!Dress for your interview as if you were being interviewed for a professionaljob. Your clothes should present you conservatively and professionally,according to the environment in which you will work. You should convey theimpression of authority and formality, not casualness or familiarity. You willhave plenty of opportunity to modify your clothing once you have accepted aposition and know how other staff dress.Psychological research has documented what most people have knownintuitively for along time: Others form strong and long-lasting impressions of us within thefirst thirty seconds when meeting us for the first time. And, these initialCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  22. 22. 18 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewingimpressions are very difficult to change. Remember those two conceptsfrom Psychology 101, the “prim acy effect” and the “recency effect”?You can be sure that these effects will come into play during your internshipinterviews. After meeting and talking with so many applicants, the selectioncommittee will likely remember best the first and last impressions you madeon them. If you are fortunate, they will remember some of what you saidbetween these impressions.Generally, people rememberthe m ost about what they see THE HAZARDS OF CHOOSINGand the least about what they THE WRONG ACCESSORIEShear. So, if interviewers A particular female applicant chose to wearencounter something visually her favorite pair of earrings to an internshipdistracting about a candidate, interview for good luck - little jet airliners.this distraction will very likely Her interviewers - exhausted and punchydraw their attention and focus. from the previous 99 interviews - said theyIn short, assume that you would always remember her. They said thatmust make strong efforts to every time she answered a question, she hadovercome your audiences’ a habit of shaking her head from side to side,distractions. (See “The making the jets take off in flight.Hazards of Choosing theWrong Accessories”.) Unfortunately for her, they had no memories of how she had responded to any specific question.Does this mean you have todazzle the committee with an N eed I say m ore?expensive shirt or a finely-polished professional manner?Not necessarily. Both yourwardrobe and your ways of conducting yourself should reflect an integratedpresentation of who you are internally and at this point in your professionaldevelopment.Remember that they are selecting candidates for a clinical training program,not a job at a Fortune 500 company. On the other hand, they are also notinterviewing you for a factory or warehouse job. Think about theenvironment you will work in - and dress toward the high end of it. You canalways dress down, but you cannot dress up once you have made yourimpression.Remember also that the committee might make interpretations of yourclothing if it veers too far from the personal image or values you present.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  23. 23. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 19Your interviewers are mental health professionals, after all! For example, ifyou are a low-key, casual person - and you are wearing an expensivedesigner suit - or if you interview at a site that serves economically-disadvantaged clients and you wear expensive jewelry, your dress willdirectly conflict with what you say about your professional aspirations.That is, throughout your interview, selection committee members’ thoughtsmight return frequently to wondering about why you chose to wear thatparticular outfit - and miss what you say to them. For a dramatic illustrationof the possible implications of failing to coordinate what you wear with whatyou intend to say and the image you intend to project, remember thoseairplane earrings!The Look for MenMen should wear a dark- or neutrally-colored, well-tailored suit, a white orsubtly-colored shirt, and an understated, conservative tie. You always wantyour clothing tomake a solid impression that is secondary to, but supports, the verbal andpersonal impression you make. The basic principle is this: Never let your tie enter the room before you do!Sport coats are generally inappropriate for interviews because they conveytoo casual an impression. Avoid them unless you simply have no choicefinancially. It is much better to convey a casual attitude wearing slightlymore formal clothing than to attempt a formal attitude when you are dressedcasually.Also, wear sharp, neatly-polishedshoes with new heels and soles. If You can always dress down,your best dress shoes have wornsignificantly, and you cannot afford but you cannot dress up,a new pair, have the soles and once you have made yourheels replaced. You can generally first this for less than one-half thecost of new shoes. And, you will bevery embarrassed if you cross your legs to reveal old, scuffed shoes beneathyour sharply tailored suit. If you cannot keep your shoes polished and ingood condition and your shirts neatly ironed, how will the committee believethat you would tend to the little things your clients need?Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  24. 24. 20 CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about InterviewingThe Look for WomenYou should, similarly, wear a dress suit or conservative dress in a dark orsubtle color. Avoid distracting scarves or accessories. You, too, should wearclothing that supports your verbal and professional impression, not viceversa. Your basic principle is this: The interview is a place to present your qualifications, not to show off your fashion sense!Wear sharp-looking, but conservative, shoes - with low heels. You areconveying an image as a professional-in-training, not trying to drawattention to your body. Dress slacks with a jacket are certainly appropriate,but remember that this is a professional interview, so make sure they aremade of good fabric and are finished with good tailoring.Both female and male applicants should avoid accessories that might distractyour interviewers’ attention from what you are saying. Limit the amount ofjewelry you choose to wear. Generally, neither males nor females shouldwear more jewelry than a wedding ring, simple earrings, and a watch.(Remember those airplane earrings!) If you have piercings, considerremoving the non-traditional ones for the interview. If you have piercingsthat others will see but that are unusual, recognize that you might convey animpression that you do not wish to make. This is a conservative profession -and many internships sites are located in very traditional settings - so besure to balance your need for personal self-expression with the need to fit inenough to complete your training and get a job!Have your hair cut and styled at least a few days before your first interviewso it has time to grow out a bit and look more natural. Moreover, do notmake any major changes in your appearance during the interview period.Men, do not shave off facial hair that you have worn for a long time.Women, do not change your hairstyle drastically. You do not need the addeddiscomfort of a major body change that will distract your attention and makeyou self conscious during your interviews.Avoid eating powerful-smelling foods such as garlic and avoid smoking justbefore an interview. If you must eat or drink just before your interview, besure to brush your teeth and always have breath mints available. You neverknow how closely you might sit to your interviewer(s), and bad breath is notone of the impressions you want to leave with your committee. Many peopleare extremely sensitive to odors, and you don’t want to leave an interviewerCopyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  25. 25. CHAPTER I: Developing a Strategic Mind Set about Interviewing 21with an unpleasant impression of your hygiene.At the same time, do not wear perfume, cologne, or aftershave. You neverknow who may have particular sensitivity or allergies to scents and you maymake breathing difficult for your interviewer. Besides, you don’t want peoplewondering what you are trying to hide under that powerful scent! If youdrink coffee or caffeinated soda, don’t try to stop until after you havecompleted your interviews (or, better yet, until after the matching processends!). You need all the secure and familiar qualities you can keep duringthis very stressful time.In summary, take enough time to prepare yourself internally before yourinterviews. Think about the personality qualities you want to show. Developa positive and friendly demeanor and convey an attitude of genuineness.After settling on the internal image you want to project, plan your interviewclothing to convey this image effectively. Choose the best, mostprofessional image you can present that allows your strongest qualities toshine through. Remember how much people base their impressions on howwe look and how we conduct ourselves and plan your presentationaccordingly.Copyright © 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 by Dr. John T. Carlsen All Rights Reserved.
  26. 26. Sharpening Your Competitive Edge: Get the full book (or the entire set) at: Strategies for Getting the Internship The You Want: Internship Resource Center Store Dr. John T. Carlsen Your Internship Coach Book VI: How Do I Conduct Persuasive Interviews?About the bookFinally, for a generation of doctoral students who are dedicated to becoming highly-competent psychologists but facing unprecedented competition for internship positionscomes Sharpening Your Competitive Edge, Dr. John T. Carlsen’s proven approach todistinguishing yourself from your fellow applicants during your interviews. A completelypractical approach to preparing for even the most difficult interview questions that notonly tells you what to do, but also shows you how to do it.