How to Be a Top-Notch Interviewee

by Kimberly on March 4, 2010 · 4 comments

One of my readers, Amy, contacted me last week and asked:

I wanted to send you a quick update on my internship application process! I have scheduled two interviews for mid-March, one in Denver and one in Boston. I thought you might be a great resource to ask for some general interview advice. Do you have any blog posts or resource websites that have some tips for interviewing well in the field of music therapy?

The internship application process can be daunting and scary. It generally starts about a year in advance, there are hundreds of clinical sites to choose from, and the top ones can be highly competitive.

But there are some basic tips you can do to help give you an edge. All it takes is a little time and thoughtfulness on your part.

  • Read Up On The Site. This may be common sense, but research the site shows you’ve done your homework, you’re serious about the internship, and you care about the process. Google is a great resource. Look at the site’s website, blog, or Facebook fan page. Come to the interview knowing the basics of that site: where they work, who they serve, the services they offer.
  • Come Prepared With Questions. The interview is not just a time for the clinical director to choose the right candidate–it’s also an opportunity for you decide if the site will be a good fit for YOU. Come prepared with questions to ask the clinical director. The type of question will depend on what you’re looking for. Examples include: What’s your treatment philosophy? What do you like about being a music therapist? Why did you start this internship program?  Bonus Tip: The questions you ask should go beyond what you can find out on your own ahead of time. Don’t ask questions like “What type of population do you work with?” You should already know that from doing your research before the interview.
  • Practice with Others. As musicians, we practice before a performance. Your interview is a big “performance” day, so shouldn’t you do the same? Enlist the help of family and/or friends to be “mock” interviewers for you. Google “sample interview questions”, hand the list to your “interviewer,” and go! Bonus Tip: Record the mock interview. Listen to it. Analyze it. Take note of the things you did well and be willing to change the things that don’t sound good. I was reminded recently (when listening to myself on the first Music Therapy Round Table podcast) of how powerful it can be to listen to yourself speak and work to make it better.
  • Eye Contact and Body Language. Use appropriate eye contact with your future clinical director. Eye contact can be very powerful. It shows someone you’re listening and it shows them you care. Same with body language. Aim for a relaxed, professional, open body position. Don’t cross your arms, sit up straight, and let your body convey confidence and relaxation (even if your head is going a million miles a minute. Musicians are performers, right?)
  • Find Ways to Relate. Do you know one of the easiest ways to get someone to remember you? Tap into their emotions. It’s true. Emotions (and remember this when you’re a clinician), emotions send our memory network into hyperdrive. Emotions “tag” memories, making them easier to encode and easier to recall. (Which is one of the reasons why music is such a powerful memory trigger–it connects closely with our emotions). Find ways to relate and connect with your interviewer. This is mostly done through the “small talk” (an often-overlooked aspect, but very important), but can also be done by asking the interviewer questions, and through sharing stories.
  • Be Yourself. This is the most important. Go into the interview and act naturally. Let your most professional self shine through. Laugh, smile, be funny–be yourself.

If you have any other interview tips, please share them with others by leaving a comment in the fields below.

Good luck, Amy!


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Barbano March 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm

How about sending a great thank you letter after the interview? I use to be a “coach” for job interviews, phone work , etc.. and by far what any employer will remember is how you followed up! That thank you note will reap rewards for you as a person of integrity and a good feeling to the prospective employer. Don’t overlook this communication. Besides you are really a nice person and it will make YOU feel good! Take care and see you on TWITTER!


Seattle Interview Coach March 6, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Great post. Body language is definitely key. I wrote a post, “Interview Body Language – Secrets to Conquering the Nonverbal Part of the Job Interview.” Check it out:

Kimberly March 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I just read your post–lots of great ideas! Thank you for sharing it. ~Kimberly

Kimberly March 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

What a great point, Anne–thank you so much! I’ve talked about follow-up before regarding client contact, but neglected to mention it here. I would also suggest mailing a handwritten thank you note. Although email thank yous are becoming more professionally accepted, a handwritten thank you note provides a more personal touch. ~Kimberly

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