Job Interview Questions and Answers for Psychologists

Unlike most career paths that offer several points of entry, psychology has just one. If you want to practice psychology in a clinical setting, teach at a university, or conduct research, you have to complete a doctoral degree in psychology. Despite a similar educational path, some psychologists are better suited for certain positions and career paths than others. The career path a psychologist pursues is often determined by personality type or simply by preferred area of practice. Psychology graduates seeking job opportunities should expect, and be prepared to answer, a wide variety of interview questions relating to their specific strengths, areas of expertise and career aspirations.

The following are common interview questions you can expect to get when interviewing for clinical psychology and related positions. Below each question you'll find tips for answering the question, along with a sample answer. Considering each question carefully, and then creating your own response, will help you prepare for your next job interview.

Why did you choose this career path?
Even though psychologists pursue a somewhat similiar education path, they each enter the field of psychology for their own reasons. Some decide to pursue a career in psychology because they've seen first hand the positive effect that therapy and psychological intervention can have on the life of someone struggling with behavioral disorders or mental health conditions. Others are simply facinated with the inner workings of the mind or want to better understand human behavior. When answering this question, be honest and direct. Your answer will provide the interviewer insight into your background, personality, explain why you chose your particular specialty, and provide an idea of what your strengths are.

Sample answer:
I had a very positive experience with a therapist during my youth. My father suffered from post- trammatic stress syndrome from the war and from being discharged from the army. He was unable to cope with civilian life. As a result, our entire family struggled--especially my mom. It wasn't until we received ongoing couseling from a caring and qualified psychologist, when I was about 10 years old, that things started to get better. Without that help, I don't think we would have made it. I owe a lot to this professional. More importantly, I've seen the powerful effect therapy and psychological interventions can have on individuals, families and society as a whole. I decided to specialize my studies in Child Psychology simply because I hate to see kids struggle. Additionally, I feel that helping our kids to lead healthing and productive childhoods is the first step to eliminating mental health issues in adulthood.



What are your weaknesses?
This is a question any job-seeker should expect, but it's a particular common--and important question--if you're interviewing for a position as a therapist or psychologist. You need to provide a "balanced" answer to this question. You don't want raise any red flags by bringing up issues that could jeopardize your chances of getting the job, but you also don't want to provide an answer that is disingenuous or comes off as arrogant. When answering this question, The American Psychological Association recommends talking about a benign area where you feel you still have space to learn and grow. For example, if you're area of specialization is child psychology but you want to move toward a career in abnormal psychology, you might share that you're working to to improve your knowledge and understanding of abnormal psychology. You want to show the interviewer what you're doing to overcome your weakness and how it is becoming a strength.

Sample answer:
For the past three years I've worked as a therapist at the St. Luke's Catholic School for Children. While I've found the work fulfilling, recently I've had a strong desire to transition into a clincial setting where I'm assisting clientele with serious emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. I'm finding that my knowledge and skill set are not where they need to be in order to be effective in this capacity of clinical psychology so I've been attending post-graduate courses in abnormal psychology at the University of Chicago in the evenings to become more versed in the treatments and therapies that are most effective for treating individuals with these conditions.

What is your greatest strength as a therapist?
There are many areas of specialization within the field of psychology. Depending on your educational path and professional background, you may excel at assessment, group therapy, psychoanalysis, child development, cognitive psychology, etc. When answering this question you want to communicate to the interviewer that you're skilled in various areas of psychology and therapy, but they you also have some unique strengths and abilities. You also want to make sure you highlight strengths, skills and previous experience that are relevant to the position you're pursuing. This question is straightford and designed to see what you can do and if you're a good fit for the desired position.

Sample answer:
When I studied clinical psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology I focused my studies on early childhood behavioral development and cognition. For the last year I've worked as a school psychologist with a local district helping kids address negative emotional and behavioral issues affecting their ability to interact socially and progress academically. As a byproduct of my interaction with children, teachers, parents and other administors, I've found that I'm very effective at conducting family and group therapies--and that I thoroughly enjoy the work. That's one of the reasons I'm so interested in your organization and position you have available.

Do you have any questions for me?

It's a simple question, but don't underestimate it's value. Many job candidates fumble for a good response when they receive this question at the end an interview. Take this opportunity to learn more about the position you're interviewing for. The interviewer is trying to figure out if you're a good fit for the position, and you should being trying to figure out if the position is good fit for you. More importantly, answering this question affirmatively shows that you're truly interested in the company and position. Don't provide a simple "No" response to this question. This shows a lack of interest or preparation on your part.

Sample answer:
Yes. In fact, I would like to know a little more about the scope of services you offer...

What are your career goals?
This question is designed to test your ability and ambition to continue growing and developing professionally within the field of psychology. It's also used to find out about your ability to plan for the future and to determine if you're career goals are in line with those of the company. If you have concrete long-term career goals then share those with the interviewer. If you're long-term goals aren't necessarily in line with the goals of the company, you may consider sharing some shorter term career goals that support the position you're seeking. Try and focus on the needs of the employer even though the question is about you.

Sample answer:
In the near-term I'm looking for a position in clinical psychology where I can really provide a positive influence in the lives of people struggling with psychosomatic disorders. As I just graduated from college, my long-term career goals are not as concrete yet, but I see myself working in a similar capacity with a competent organization that is dedicated to helping people improve their lives.

Other Clinical Psychology Interview Questions
Below are additional interview questions for psychology and therapist positions. Prepare for your next psychology job interview by taking some time to prepare effective responses for each question. Does your answer to each question demonstrate you're a qualified candidate? Does communicate that you're a good fit for the position? Does it focus on the needs of the employer?

Personal/Professional

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
2. When did you first become interested in a career in psychology? How did you become interested in (specific interest area)?
3. What are some of your personal strengths and weaknesses? What have you done to address your weaknesses?
4. What are your long term career goals? 5 years? 10 years?
5. Why should I hire you?
6. What can you contribut to our organization?
7. Why did you choose this career Path?

Therapy

1. What aspects of clinical work do you least enjoy?
2. What is your greatest strength as a therapist?
3. What challenges do you thing you'll confront a therapist?
4. What areas of clinical work to you enjoy most?
5. What type of experience do you have with inpatient/group/family/individual/etc. treatment?
6. What theoretical orientations do you have? What do you think of the _____ approach?

Assessment

1. Which assessment instrument do you feel competent with?
2. What is your opinion of projective testing (e.g., Rorschach)
3. What is your opinion of objective testing (e.g., MMPI-2)
4. What additional assessment training or experiences do you want or feel you need?

Research

1. What aspects of research are you most interested in and why?
2. What clinical relevant does your research have?
3. Describe some of the research projects you've been involved with?

Diversity

1. What type of experience do you have working with diverse or multicultural populations?
2. What are your strengths and weakness in working with minorities?
3. What reading/didactic experiences have influence the way you think about diverse populations?
4. Do you have any specific concerns about working with a particular population of people?



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