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[00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

This podcast is brought to you by PAR.

Conduct a broad-based assessment of personality and psychopathology with the Gold Standard Personality Assessment Inventory or PAI. The New PAI Spanish Revised translation retains semantic equivalence while using clearer and more inclusive language. Learn more at parinc.com/pai.

Hello everyone and welcome back. Y’all know what time it is. It is interview season.

Interview season starts in December. Well, the application review side starts in December, continues through January, and finally wraps up in early February. For the [00:01:00] applicants though, the intern applicants out there, this starts, gosh, I don’t even know when, maybe last spring and then really ramps up over the fall while folks are applying and submitting applications, and then waiting for interviews and then doing interviews. And then the torturous two-week wait for match day.

Today I’m talking about interview tips for interns primarily. I think postdocs will get a lot out of it as well. And even those of you on the side of the interviewer might take some things away from this as well because, through the conversation, I’ll share quite a bit about what I consider important in an applicant and how we approach interviews. So, such an exciting and nerve-wracking time for everyone.

We will talk through lots of different things just drawn from my experience over the years. I’ve interviewed probably over 100 candidates for various [00:02:00] positions within our practice, including interns and postdocs and so forth. So if you are about to go through a bunch of interviews, stay tuned.

All right. Let’s chat about some interview tips.

Like I said, I have interviewed myself for several positions, of course, including internship and postdoc, and faculty positions, if you can believe that. Don’t know if I’ve told that story here on the podcast, but I’ve interviewed for faculty positions in the past. And then, being on the side of the interviewer, I know there are tons of different ways to approach this whole process. These are just a few qualities that I’ve picked up on over the years [00:03:00] that help me to connect with someone and thereby increase the likelihood that I might want to hire or match with that individual.

First things first. Breathe and know that you are good enough no matter what happens through this interview process. An interview is a very specific form of evaluation that does not do justice to many of us who maybe aren’t good interviewees, especially in these rapid-fire one-time interview situations like most internship interviews are, it can be tough to really shine and your skillset might lie elsewhere.

I totally recognize that in-person verbal interviews are only measuring a certain set of skills that only translate to part of the work we do. In fact, I’ve done an episode on that very phenomenon, on how interviews are not that informative [00:04:00] for most of the work a testing psychologist might do. They are informative to help you understand how someone connects in a novel social situation, but not very much else. So I just want to acknowledge that, for those of you who have a hard time with interviews, whatever happens, it is okay. You are okay. You’re a fantastic person and clinician. And if interviews are hard, you’re not alone.

That said, this is how we do it for better or worse. These are just a few things that may help in this process in no particular order.

The first thing I want to talk about is the idea of being willing to go off-script during the interview. For me, this is a given. A rote interview is a boring interview. [00:05:00] Yes, there are predictable questions and you want to be professional, of course.

For me, having someone who can riff a little bit with me, because I am going to go off script when I’m asking questions, that’s just going to happen. So, someone who can roll with that, open up a little bit, and have that conversation that breaks through the boundaries of the typical interview, lets me know that you can be flexible and roll with it if clients veer off course.

So that’s the first thing. Be willing to go off-script a little bit. Of course, follow the interviewer’s lead. Some interviewers may not want to do that and they might stick to a pretty rote interview. That sounds boring to me, but I’m sure that’s how it happens in some places. So be willing to go off script if the interviewer gives you the okay to do so.

[00:06:00] The second thing is to give examples. I think this is a good tip for really any question, whether it’s during an interview or in an essay, or in our reports, instead of staying general with your answers, give me a really good example that helps make your point. This might be a case, it might be a conversation with a previous supervisor or a coworker. I mean, anything to bring your point to life. Theoretical knowledge is fine, but examples are great, so give examples whenever you can.

The third point that I want to come up with is to do your research. You have to demonstrate to me that you know the site you’re applying to. [00:07:00] Nothing is more of a turnoff than asking about experiences that we don’t offer or voicing goals that don’t align with our mission. Now, I know there are tons of sites to research, but if you really want to be here, and that’s what we’re looking for, we want someone who really wants to be here, not just someone who is trying to check a box or get a clinical experience. If you really want to be here, show us that you want to be here by knowing some details about our site.

For instance, we do a ton of assessment and our site is clearly assessment heavy, and if you come to the interview asking about training and say, play therapy, it’s just not going to land very well because that’s so far away from what we actually do. So do your research and be able to demonstrate that you know some things about the site specifically.

Related to that, my fourth [00:08:00] point is to come up with questions. I really can’t emphasize this enough. It is so heartbreaking to get to the part of the interview when we turn it over to you to ask whatever questions you want to ask, and someone says, eh, I don’t really have any questions. I think I got all the information I need. Even if that is true, make something up, because having questions is a little bit of a proxy for my previous point about wanting to be here. When you come up with questions, that shows us that you have done some research, that you’re thinking about this a little more deeply, and that you are invested in making this a good experience for yourself. So, specific questions are great.

Some examples might include, and these are real examples that I have heard over the years that, yeah, they go a long way. What would you consider the [00:09:00] best part of this internship? What makes a successful intern here? How did you decide on your site’s values and mission? I love that one.

This is one of the best as well. If things go well, what are the opportunities for postdoc and employment? Don’t be afraid to ask that. I love the preface of if things go well, then it’s not like an assumption that you would stay here, but if things go well, what are the opportunities for postdoc and employment? I love to hear that as a growing practice because that tells me, okay, we’re going to invest in you as an intern and then you are interested in sticking around and being employed, and that’s great.

What do you like most about living in your town, neighborhood, city, et cetera? And the last example, this is not exhaustive, obviously, is what is the hardest part about this internship? So just a few examples, but either way, come with some questions.

Let’s take a break to hear from our [00:10:00] featured partner.

Conduct a broad-based assessment of personality and psychopathology with the gold standard Personality Assessment Inventory or PAI. 22 non-overlapping scales cover a full range of clinical constructs, so you’ll get the information you need to make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan. Plus for your clients who speak Spanish, the new PAI Spanish revised translation retains semantic equivalence while updating language to be clearer and more inclusive. Learn more at parinc.com\pai.

All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

My fifth strategy is to have some strategy for curveball questions. You can almost guarantee that the interviewer is going to ask at least one question that honestly doesn’t have any real answer or a right answer just to see how you handle it. So the best answers to [00:11:00] me for questions like this always start with some amount of transparency, like, wow, that’s a wild question that I’ve never heard before. Because then it’s just being transparent. You’re just being honest and that is real, and I connect very well with that sort of thing.

So then folks might say something like, you know, I have never thought about that, but here is my best guess, or here’s how I would think through that, or here’s how I would solve that problem or get the information I need, or something along those lines.

I think the key here is that you are able to show some amount of problem-solving and how you might reason through the question, even if it’s totally off the wall. So it’s a great situation where it is not about the right answer, it’s more about how you answer.

This sticks with me because I totally bombed this [00:12:00] question in grad school, and it wasn’t even that curve ball of a question, it was just a question I had never, ever thought about before. 

I’m in my grad school interviews. I remember I was at the University of Southern Mississippi and it was a group interview which is a whole other topic in and of itself, but group interview, I don’t even know, this is maybe an hour into it at this point, and they ask, mind you, this is for a grad school. This is not an internship or postdoc, so zero clinical training at this point. And one of the questions was, tell us about your theoretical orientation. I had no idea what a theoretical orientation was at that point. Literally no idea.

Now, the other two interviewees went before me luckily, so I wasn’t put in this position of just saying, [00:13:00] I have no idea, but I did the next worst thing, which is I basically just said yeah, what she said to the person that I followed in that interview. I had nothing original. I didn’t say I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was not transparent. I just said, yeah, it’s the same as hers. And here’s why. And then just repeated what she said and tried to fake it, and it was so, so bad. So, that’s where I’m coming from. It happens to everybody.

So if you get a curveball question, it’s totally okay to acknowledge, wow, that’s a wild question, and then talk about how you might reason through it even if you don’t know the answer.

The last thing I am going to talk about is maybe a no-brainer and a little bit cliche, but it’s so true [00:14:00] and this is the point of just trying to be real. I know this is hard for those of us with a little bit of social anxiety or a lot of social anxiety, that voice saying, oh, I sound dumb. They’re going to judge me. I have to be professional. I can’t be myself. Any number of other things is going to be very loud during these interviews, but trust me, at least at our site, if we give you the opportunity to speak more candidly, which we will, please do so.

Examples of this, at least at our site, we always ask actually about what you’re interested in, listening to reading, et cetera. So please don’t choose something professional for us. We want to hear about that True Crime podcast that you love, or that new type of bread that you learned to bake, or the marathon you just signed up for. [00:15:00] So personal, trumps professional for me in those situations. If you’re given the opportunity, it’s totally okay to be real.

And then that flows into one of the first few points, which is, then you get the opportunity to riff because whatever you say, I am almost always going to ask follow-up questions like, oh my gosh, that sounds great. How’d you get into that? Or why do you care about that? Or did that happen in your family? Or whatever it might be. And then we’re off to the races for some off-script conversation which touches on a side point that runs parallel to this whole conversation.

Just to know from an interviewer’s perspective or from the perspective of someone who reviews these applications, man, I feel bad saying this, but I’m going to keep it real, that’s one of our values, that we review so many [00:16:00] applications and 99.8% of them sound exactly the same, so, when we are coming into these interviews, and most interviews actually go very similarly as well. They all end up sounding the same.

So, any of these moments where you have the opportunity to bring your personality into it, be more candid, share some personal stuff, those are the moments that really stand out. That’s what helps us distinguish one person from another.

All that said, it is a fine line. I’m going to close with another terrible story and mistake that I made during my grad school interviews again at Southern Mississippi. If you’re starting to get the picture, this is completely terrible interview experience and I did not end up going [00:17:00] there for grad school. But it is a fine line.

When I was in this group interview for Southern Mississippi, one of the questions was, how did we all get such good grades? Why were our transcripts so strong? And I opted for way too much honesty. That was supposed to be more of a joke, but it didn’t land that way. And I said it’s because I took all my hard classes before I turned 21 and could go out to the bars.

Oh my gosh, y’all, even sharing that on such a public forum, I feel so ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking, but crazy face-palm moment. It’s a wonder that I’m even here right now in this field with this degree, with those kinds of answers. So it happens, but don’t overshare, try to be a little discerning. Maybe don’t talk about drug and [00:18:00] alcohol use on these interviews. But those are just a few points that you might take away and put into play as you are going through this interview process. And as always, I hope it’s helpful, and best of luck through this process.

All right, y’all, thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out.

If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast.

And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we [00:19:00] have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you.

Thanks so much.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis [00:20:00], or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.

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