Congratulations! You have successfully made the “cut” and are among the select few doctor of psychology (PsyD) applicants who are in serious consideration for acceptance. In fact, your odds for acceptance have increased.
This is NOT, however, the time to sit back and relax. Now, more than ever, you need to stand out, and you’ll do that through your interview. As you prepare, asking yourself the right questions is a good start. Begin with the following:
- How do I prepare?
- How do I handle interview questions?
- Which of my experiences should I mention?
- How do I highlight my strengths?
- What questions, if any, should I ask?
- And (maybe most important) how do I manage my nervousness when so much is “on the line”?
None of these questions are new to me. As a consultant, I regularly provide interview guidance to my clients and have, over the years, developed an action plan that has helped many of my PsyD clients ace their interviews. I refer to it as the 3-P Plan: Purpose, Preparation, Performance. Let’s begin with Purpose.
Step 1: Purpose
Admissions interviews serve a specific purpose for the interviewer(s). They help the admissions board do the following:
- Learn more about the applicant’s academic, research, and clinical background
- Determine whether the applicant’s disposition, personality, and social skills are conducive to a career in professional psychology
- Consider whether the candidate is a good “fit” with the PsyD program, faculty, and cohort of students
- Assess the likelihood that the applicant will successfully complete the PsyD program
- Match the applicant’s research interests with available faculty mentors
Admissions interviews also serve a specific purpose for you, the interviewee. They help you do the following:
- Learn more about the curriculum and faculty
- Assess the academic, clinical, and professional learning environment
- Consider whether the PsyD program, faculty, and cohort of students are a good “fit” for you
- Determine whether the program has faculty members with research interests that match yours
In other words, as the interviewee, your purpose is to and whether the program is a good fit for you. Think of your interview as a fact-finding mission to determine the “fit factor.”
Step 2: Preparation
Next, you need to start prepping for the big day. Add the following items to your interview prep to-do list:
- Research all the websites, faculty profiles, and available print materials related to the university, school, and PsyD program because you need to be prepared to make reference during the interview to your knowledge of any special features offered. This might include interdisciplinary opportunities, TA offerings, faculty research, scholarly conferences, clinical internships, and community outreach programs. Remember, you should avoid asking any questions that might reveal to the interview committee that you did not do your “homework” by devoting appropriate time and effort to researching the available materials.
- Compile a script/list of questions that you believe might be asked during your PsyD interview and create a list of talking points for possible answers. However, do not write your answers out word for word because you want to sound spontaneous and natural rather than scripted and memorized. Questions that PsyD programs ask will relate to the following categories: personal/professional info, research interests and clinical relevance, assessment instruments (objective/projective testing), therapy, diversity, and interest/fit.
- Carefully consider what you will wear to the interview. How we package ourselves influences how others perceive us and affects how we feel about ourselves. Choose attire that is comfortable and that empowers and emphasizes your professionalism, confidence, and credibility. If you will be interviewing on Zoom, make sure that you take the time to test the lighting and audio and to create a background that is conducive to an interview setting. Dress for the interview, record a sample, and play it back to assess how it might be perceived by the interviewer(s). Eliminate anything that is obtrusive, inappropriate, and/or detracts from a professional setting. What appears suitable in your mirror might not come across as such on the recording.
- Review your statement of purpose and any other material (e.g., research paper, article) that you submitted with your application in case you are questioned on part(s) of it by your interviewer(s).
- Make sure that you approach this experience as a wonderful opportunity to present yourself rather than as an obstacle, test, or challenge.
- Practice some cognitive restructuring (positive self-talk, visualization, and modeling) as well as relaxation techniques to use before the start of your interview.
Step 3: Performance
Finally, follow these tips for optimal PsyD interview performance:
- Keep in mind that the evaluation of you as a candidate includes all interactions with program faculty, staff, students, and fellow applicants. You would be surprised how often I have heard members of the academic committee question the department secretary, receptionist, and/or students to get a different perspective of a particular candidate.
- Before your PsyD interview, use some power-inducing nonverbal gestures to increase your confidence level. I suggest that you and the concept of “fake it till you make it” in Ted Talks.
- Listen carefully and take in all the information offered so that you can learn as much as possible about the school’s culture and resources.
- Avoid one-word answers, even if the interviewer asks a close-ended question. Take advantage of the techniques of behavioral interviewing by providing specific examples or short anecdotes to exhibit your strengths and/or experiences. For example, if you are asked, “Do you consider yourself a thorough researcher?” don’t just say, “Yes I do” but refer to what you have accomplished that clearly exhibits how thorough you are as a researcher.
- Effective eye contact is critical in interviewing. Make eye contact with each and every committee member and with fellow applicants if you are engaged in a group interview. This will reinforce your passion, sincerity, and willingness to engage in academic discourse. As a side note, if it is a Zoom interview, practice looking into the camera rather than at the interviewer. Practice eye positioning when you review your sample Zoom recording. Look right into the camera rather than at the visual image of the interviewer on the screen. Practice with a friend or take advantage of Accepted’s Mock Interview services to optimize your body and eye positioning.
- Monitor your posture and movement. Sit up straight and lean in ever so slightly. Doing so is an indicator that you are fully engaged and deeply interested in the interview.
- Speak at a moderate rate and volume. The last thing you want is to make the interviewer uncomfortable with a “too loud” voice, “whisper soft” voice, or “rapid fire” rate of speech. Make sure to minimize anything that might disturb or distort your message.
- Share your passion for the field of study and smile when appropriate. A pleasant manner and an engaging personality will also make you memorable.
- Ask thought-provoking questions on the academic and/or clinical curriculum and research opportunities. Never ask a question for which the answer is readily available online.
- Speak in your own voice, from your heart – your sincerity, honesty, and authenticity will shine through.
What to do after your PsyD interview
And here’s a final, bonus “P”: Post interview.
Just because you’re done interviewing doesn’t mean you’re done with the admissions process! Take note:
- Make sure that you write down the names and contact information for each of your interviewers for follow-up thank you notes.
- Personalize each note so that it is clear that you really remember the interviewer by referencing something specific from the PsyD interview. Interviewers often compare notes, so don’t write the same thing to each interviewer. Make your message personal. For example, “I really enjoyed our conversation about ______.”
- It might be helpful to do a quick self-assessment of your performance. Be honest, but don’t beat yourself up for any missteps you might have made. Learn from the experience.
We can help you prep for your PsyD interview or with any other element of the PsyD admissions process. Sign up for a free consultation and be sure to check out our PhD Consulting & Editing Services and our targeted mock interview packages for more information on how we can help you GET ACCEPTED.