Internship applicants have it rough. You are one of a faceless horde trying to get the best position. Your letter of intent and CV help, and your letters of recommendation are crucial. Some programs may require an interview, some may allow for one, and others are only irritated if you try to “interview.” In addition to basic interview etiquette, let’s unpack the internship interview.
Scenario 1) They don’t want you to interview. Many programs receive so many applications that they really don’t want the hassle of trying to interview any of them. These programs may allow visitation days, but make no mistake- those days are opportunities for you to see if the program is a good fit for you, not for the program to determine if you are a good candidate. Programs like this want to evaluate every applicant de novo. Spending time at these institutions only helps you know what you are getting in to, it does not help your candidacy.
How do you know if a program doesn’t want you to interview? You can always ask something like, “Does an externship at your facility factor into your internship selection?” If doing an externship does not affect their decision-making, an interview certainly won’t. If they do an intern visitation day, you can ask how important that is for their selection process. Many academic internships do not consider your presence on their campus in any way. At one institution where I worked, we actively discouraged intern applicants from coming to visit- otherwise we would have been overrun and expended a huge amount of time for little benefit.
Scenario 2) You may interview, but it is not required. This probably includes many private practice programs and some academic ones. The smaller the program, the more important an interview is in their decision making. If you do an externship or visit and spend time with the program directors, it may positively influence your application. If this is the case, follow the guidelines on how to act on an externship.
Scenario 3) Formal interview. Many private practices will do a phone or video interview as a standard part of the intern selection process. These range from highly technical- “you are presented with an ADR 12-year-old GSD with anemia”- to more behavioral- “describe a situation when you had to demonstrate leadership.” If possible, establish how long the interview is scheduled for and what you should prepare ahead of time. Follow the suggestions for in-person, video, or phone interview as appropriate.
Internships interviews are rarely a make-or-break step. Those programs that do interviews obviously factor them into the decision making. Don’t worry if they don’t do an interview and don’t spend too much of your valuable senior year clinic time trying to do externships at places to impress them. Particularly for academic internships, they probably won’t look at you any differently than other applicants. Use your time wisely.