Interviews for Assistant Psychologist posts

Read tips here about about how to apply for posts and courses, what to expect in inteviews, in how short-listing is done
Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 7790
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:20 pm
Location: Bucks

Interviews for Assistant Psychologist posts

Post by miriam » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:25 am

First I suppose I can tell you the format we used and the general gist of the questions...

We set a half hour task, followed by a half hour interview. The task was in two parts. Firstly an example research question, where the candidate was asked to show what research design they would use, what sample size and what statistics. Then they were asked 5 short stats questions about a data file on a laptop computer.

At the interview there were two clinical psychologists (me and our head of department) and a social work team leader (as the post involves evaluating and developing the service I provide into a social services team) making up the panel. We asked about 7 questions, which were the same for all candidates, before letting the candidate ask us anything they wanted to know. We wanted to know why each candidate wanted this post in particular, what experience, models and ideas they had that were relevant, how they understood the effect of the care system on a child, and how they thought they would fit into the service, how they would manage the demands and stresses of the job... the usual kind of things.

From the process of interviewing for the first time I was really struck by how people in person were very different to how they looked on paper. In fact I'd not have predicted how we ended up ranking the candidates at all! However the three of us came to very similar conclusions about the candidates and a universal agreement about who to offer the post to.

So, what tips can I offer?


Show your enthusiasm
Show a sense of humour
Research the department, supervisor and topic (eg search on google, psychinfo and BPS website)
Show that you have found out about the post (and like what you have found out)
Show you have read a couple of relevant papers
Practise as much as you can beforehand
If you get really anxious, find strategies to manage your nerves
Reflect on anything you have done that is relevant
Show you know the limits to your own competency
Show you want to learn and grow in the post
Dress in a way that is smart but down to earth (shirt and tie for men, something smart but not too sexy for women)
Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet (even the receptionist who shows you in)
Have some relevant questions to ask, to show you have thought about the post


Be late (allow time to find the place, to park, etc)
Be so over-confident you seem cocky or on the other hand be so self-effacing you sell yourself short
Be afraid to clarify the question you have been asked if you don't understand what is wanted
Think too much about the details - its better to be natural (eg. try not to get self-conscious about how much eye-contact you make or how you are sitting)
Feel over-awed by the idea that other candidates might have more experience or better qualifications, as interviewers want someone who will fit into the service and be enjoyable to work with, not just someone who can do the job.
Apply for jobs you don't feel enthusiastic about - it shows!
And finally, don’t forget that an interview is a two-way process, it is also your chance to get to know the people and see whether you want to work there.

Anyway, I guess each interviewer looks for different things, so these are just some of my ideas rather than hard and fast rules. Obviously, I'm not able to be too specific, but I hope that what I have written might be of use to those of you approaching future interviews.

Note: If you have a suggestion about how to improve or add to this wiki please post it here. If you want to discuss this post please post a new thread in the forum. There is information about the structure, rules and copyright of the wiki here.

Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on DATE
Last modified on DATE

See my blog at

Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:22 am

assistant interviews

Post by Mandy » Sun Dec 16, 2007 12:21 pm

It is worth remembering that the people shortlisting may have 100 application forms to look through. Make it easy for them to see you have read the job description and person spec. If it says that something is essential, make sure you state this explicitly in your application.

At interview, you need to show that you can work with others, that you are able to get on with your own work, but will ask when you need further guidance. It is possible to demonstrate this in the interview; ask if you don't understand the question and don't blag if you don't know the answer.

We are aware that we are also selecting people into the profession.

User avatar
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:07 pm

Re: Interviews for Assistant Psychologist posts

Post by Ducky » Fri Sep 16, 2011 12:22 pm

Having been on the interview side for an AP role recently, here are my tips:

- a question is an opportunity to sell yourself. Our interview schedule was quite short (deliberately), and those candidates who answered briefly finished their interviews very quickly indeed! What stood out with the better candidates is that they were able to answer the question in a way that brought out their knowledge and experience, not just giving us a checklist of answers. For example, in a clinical question which asked what you might expect to see in a client with diagnosis X, instead of reciting the DSM the better candidates reflected on experiences they had with similar patients, and also began to talk about how they might have managed the more challenging aspects of them. Also try to consider questions from multiple angles and flesh out your answer.
- never be afraid to clarify a question, or take time to formulate your answer. This is the sign of a careful and thoughtful candidate, for the most part.
- be on time! Lateness makes a terrible impression.
- be aware of how you ask questions of the interviewers at the end. Some of our candidates came across as very demanding, as opposed to curious.
- if you've prepared a vignette on paper and are delivering it orally, take your time in re-reading your notes to make sure you've covered everything. One of our candidates gave a fairly good answer, but as I was sorting through our paperwork I found the notes the candidates had made for the task (as we do not allow candidates to keep the vignette) and the notes were fantastic. I'm not sure what happened between planning and presentation (probably nerves) but it was a shame.
- Especially for AP roles, if you don't know something/don't have experience in something, please say so and express willingness and enthusiasm to learn. The last thing I need as a busy supervisor is someone who won't tell me when they're struggling with a task, only to cause problems down the line.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests