Behind every great applicant there are two main things: the paper and the person. The paper consists of the CV you’ve fine-tuned, the cover letters you’ve toiled over, the essays you’ve edited and re-edited, and anything else that a reviewer is receiving by e-mail or snail mail. You get a lot of time to perfect your materials and you wait for that exciting moment when you receive the invitation to interview.

Now it’s time for the person to shine.

The person is who walks into a room, sits with an interviewer, and demonstrates the personality, professionalism, and performance that is compatible with the site and with the supervisor. This can feel like a scary moment. After all, you don’t get to spend hours pondering and revising your responses to the questions that come your way.

The interview requires you to be quick on your feet and personable so that you get the right information across to an interviewer who ultimately decides if he or she wants to work with you.

It seems like a lot to handle, but if you go in prepared you will be able to have the confidence and the responses that can earn you the placement, whether it’s for an internship, practicum, or job. The following are tips to help you prepare for the big interview and help present yourself as the desirable candidate that you are.

1. Develop Your “Elevator Pitch”

This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself to prepare for an interview. Yet, it is more commonly used in the business world than the psychology world.

Imagine the interview is a business transaction. You are a valuable commodity and you need to market yourself to your interviewer.

So what is the elevator pitch? It is a short (think a couple minutes) biographical sketch of you. Pretend that you are answering the question, “Tell us about yourself.” This question is often dreaded because it is so vague as to leave the speaker tongue-tied in silent confusion about where to start or lost in the myriad details that are all easily located in a CV.

Don’t let this be you.

Instead, make a bulleted list of key experiences or information that you want to share. Then, connect the dots:

  • How did one thing lead into the other?
  • What made you think to take the step to your next experience?
  • How does it all connect to lead up to where you are right now — sitting in front of the interviewer?

Knowing your own main selling points and connecting them as logical steps leading up to the current placement you are seeking will help you present yourself in a well-composed and rational manner.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

Whether it’s to your significant other, in front of a mirror, or to your cat, rehearse your elevator pitch over and over again until it feels effortless. You may not end up reciting the whole spiel in front of an interviewer, but the pieces of your story will find their way into interview questions.

If you have practiced speaking the details of your story over and over again, they will flow easily in conversation and you won’t stumble over yourself. And practicing doesn’t mean that you deliver your speech like a robot. If you practice, practice, and practice, you will sound lively and conversational, engaging your listeners rather than losing their interest.

3. Know Your CV

All of your life’s personal and professional accomplishments are not going to fit into one, short bio. The elevator pitch is about picking the main takeaways.

The CV, on the other hand, is where the rest of your activities and achievements live. Just because you don’t connect them all in a quick speech doesn’t mean they won’t come up in an interview.

The best way to be prepared is to know your CV, forward and backward. Review it the night before an interview and if you have different versions of your CV for different positions and purposes, make sure you are looking at the version that you submitted in your application. You don’t want to be caught off guard by your own materials, and you never know what an interviewer may find interesting.

4. Be an Informed Applicant

Knowing yourself is the most important thing for an informative, smooth, and confident delivery during the interview. But, knowing something about the site and the supervisor(s) or interviewer(s), if possible, is also an important asset in the interview process.

Before showing up to your appointment, research the site online. Highlight some important attributes, know the population being served, and read the “About Us” section or news items about your desired placement.

If you know the supervisor or interviewer ahead of time, look up their bio, research, or work that may be displayed on the site’s website. Whether it’s a hospital, private practice, school, clinic, or other type of intervention site, these institutions build websites to share their information – so use them. You may be able to weave information you gleaned from the Web into your interview, making you come across as informed and interested.

Additionally, when it’s your turn to ask questions, you don’t want to ask something that was readily shared on their website.

5. Stay Calm

Whether you are an at-ease orator or a timid talker, interview day can be stressful.

If you have put in the time and work, however, you can walk in with a firm foundation of preparedness which will carry you through the interview.

Remind yourself that you are the expert of you, and remain confident in your preparation and your skills. Take a deep breath and show them what you’ve got.

This article was originally published on September 7, 2015. 

Interested in reading more from Erin Fults, PsyD? Check out her post on Finding a Mentor as a Behavioral Health Trainee

Erin Fults, PsyD
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