How to Rock Your Dietetic Internship Interview
Nervous about your dietetic internship interview? Don't be! These five steps will help prepare you to rock your interview and get you matched.
UPDATE: This article was originally posted in September 2018 and updated in January 2021 with new information.
Your personal statement is done, your resume is perfect, and you've finally submitted your DICAS application. You've been freaking out about your dietetic internship application for so long that you don't know what to do with yourself — what can you freak out about now?!
Never fear, if you've applied to programs that conduct interviews — and most of them do — then the interview invitation emails will be rolling in shortly (cue rumbling stomach and sweaty palms).
While not all dietetic internship programs conduct interviews, the majority of programs do. And the benefit of applying to programs that do conduct interviews is if you receive an interview, you know if you're being considered for a spot in the program.
How can you prepare for dietetic internship interviews? Below are five ways tips to rock your dietetic internship interviews and be confident you'll be placed in a program on match day.
👩💻 1. Do your research about the program
I'm assuming if you're reading this that you stumbled upon it while searching everything the internet has to offer on dietetic internship interviews. Good, you're on the right track.
You wouldn't believe the amount of students I've come across that went through 3+ years of schooling to become a dietitian and didn't realize they also had to do an internship after graduating.
Don't be that person. Research everything you can as early as possible.
Your research should be focused on what to expect from the interview at each program. Here's are three ways to get more information:
- Reach out to current or former interns.
- Reach out to other applicants who have interviewed with that program before.
- Reach out to anyone that knows an iota about the internship in general.
The point is to collect as much information as you can about what to expect: the questions, the vibe, the director, etc.
Don't be afraid to cold call (well, cold email) current or past interns — I did and I was given some great tips.
However, keep in mind that interns are generally not allowed to tell you what questions were asked (some might, but most programs insist you keep tight so everyone has a fair chance).
👉 My experience reaching out to current and former interns
A former intern gave me great advice about my internship's general interview style and it was a tremendous help when I was faced with a panel of interviewers.
If I hadn't asked then my anxiety would have skyrocketed when I answered the phone and was surprised to be talking to three interviewers instead of just the director.
But I knew the MO going in, which helped to alleviate nerves (a little).
🗣 2. Compile a list of questions and practice, practice, practice
Probably the most important thing you can do while you're waiting for interviews is to practice answering interview questions.
Yes, you won't know exactly what you'll be asked, but if you practice answering questions before your actual interview then you'll be more likely to form a coherent and complete answer on interview day.
👉 Here's how I practiced answering dietetic internship interview questions:
- Compile 20-30 interview questions. A simple search will bring up loads of potential internship interview questions online, and you can also search the many YouTube videos and blog posts for other interns' tips (see below for some example question styles to include).
- List or type out interview questions on paper and add a few bullets under each question with your answer. Using bullets (instead of writing out complete answers) will help you to practice forming complete answers based on a few main points.
- Practice them over and over (and over). Practice your answers out loud as much as possible. Practice while driving, your friends and family throw you random questions, and get a group of other interns together to practice as a group (scary, but will help if you have a panel interview).
While you can't know exactly what questions will be answered, here are a few general styles of dietetic internship practice questions that I've encountered to include on your practice list:
- Personal Questions: “Tell me about yourself…,” “Why do you want to be a RD?,” “Why do you want to be an intern at XXX?,” “What are your future goals as a RD?” Not all programs will ask you these questions, but prepared for them anyway.
- Situational questions: “What would you do if…,” “How would you handle a situation in which…,” “If x, y, and z happened, how would you respond?” These questions are asked to see how you would handle stressful situations…because there will be many in an internship.
- Medical Nutrition Therapy Questions: Most likely these will be pretty general, such as diabetes recommendations or dysphagia diets. However, I have heard of some programs asking you to calculate TPN or enteral formulas. Don't let this scare, if you do your research about the types of questions asked, then you should be prepared for any curveballs.
If you're not sure how to answer a question, then practice forming your answer from this general format, by All Access Dietetics:
- Restate the question and give answer
- Give an example of a situation
- Analyze the solution relating to the question asked
- Wrap up by addressing the question again
❓ What if you don't know the answer to an interview question? If you don't know an answer, say so. It's better to say, “I'm not sure of the answer to that question, but to find out I would….” than to say, “I'm not sure, hehe.” Show a bit of your personality and why you would be a great addition to their next intern class.
👩⚕️ 3. Know your interview day game plan
When the interview requests start rolling in, it's important to have a plan for where and how you will conduct the interview. Below are tips based on type of interview (in no particular order), based on my experience and the experiences of my fellow nutrition students when we were applying.
⭐️ Tips for Phone Interviews
- Schedule to have an empty house or reserve a room at your university's library to ensure you'll have a quiet space, but make sure there is good phone reception.
- A lot of people suggest getting ready and dressed as if you were doing an in-person interview so you feel more professional, but this is up to you (I did mine in my kitchen in my pajamas).
- Print out answers to the most common questions and tape them to the walls or spread them in front of you for easy viewing. I was too nervous to sit, so I taped my answers to my kitchen cabinets while I paced around, had my computer open to Google just in case,.
- Have a glass of water ready in case your voice decides to give out on you (nerves will do crazy things to your body).
⭐️ Tips for Video Call Interviews
- First and foremost, make sure you have a quiet space because loud noises or random pets will be distracting and unprofessional.
- Practice setting up your Skype/Hangouts calls beforehand with a friend so you don't have technical difficulties when it's interview time.
- Practicing by recording yourself on webcam can also clue you in on any distracting habits and will get you comfortable seeing yourself on camera.
- Make sure to face your computer toward a blank wall, or a clean space — no one wants to look at your Bob Marley poster and the fact your laundry is all over the floor.
- Look presentable and wear a nice shirt as if this was an in-person interview.
- Smart tip: A friend of mine set her computer up against a wall and taped her answers to questions around the computer for easy reference in case she got stumped.
⭐️ Tips for In-Person Interviews
- Know where you're going, don't allow any possibility of being late.
- Dress professionally and make sure to have good eye contact with your interviewers.
- You won't have the luxury of having your answers available to you, but if you've done your research and practiced your general answers then you should feel comfortable coming up with a solid response on the spot.
- DON'T BRING ANYONE WITH YOU TO THE INTERVIEW. This seems obvious, but you wouldn't believe that people do bring tag alongs with them to interviews. I heard of one intern that brought her boyfriend to the hospital interview and the staff had to find somewhere for him to sit and wait. And another friend was waiting for an interview and another interviewee BROUGHT HER MOTHER (yes, that really happened). Be a mature adult and go to the interview alone.
🧘♀️ 4. Don't let nerves get the best of you
You've done your research, practiced your questions, and prepared as much as possible for the interview. The final thing to remember on game day is the most cliche, but possibly the most important part: be yourself.
That may sound cliche, but it's true — just be genuine. You will be nervous, but letting interview anxiety get the best of you will do you no favors.
You are qualified and directors are interested in you; if they weren't, you wouldn't be doing this interview.
The hard work in your classes, work experience, and volunteering is behind you and this is your chance to show your personality and professionalism. State your answers with confidence, don't ramble, and end decisively.
If you are genuine and completely yourself then you’ll know you did your best.
📝 5. Follow up with a thank you card
When the interviews are all complete, it's time to site back and relax right? Yes… but not before you send follow-up thank you cards.
A handwritten thank you card shows you are professional and is a nice reminder for the director of how you rocked your interview.
What should you write in your thank you card? Here is my 3-part thank you card strategy:
- Thank the director for the opportunity to interview.
- Mention something specific that was discussed in the interview.
- Close with how you believe the program is the perfect fit for you.
👉 My experience: For instance, in one of my interviews the director told me that she believed dietitians are the key to elevating the profession and that they are responsible for other medical professionals like doctors and nurses respecting their work.
In my thank you card I mentioned that I appreciated her thoughts and will keep them in mind during my internship rotations, as interns are the future of the profession.
The bottomline for thank you cards: Make it personal, but keep it professional.
💡 More resources for applying to dietetic internships
- The 4 things you should do before applying to internships
- The exact steps to take to become a registered dietitian nutritionist
- What you need to know about the DICAS application
- The 5 mistakes you shouldn't make on your personal statement
- The 5 things you should know about the RD exam
Have questions or tips for the dietetic internship interview? Leave a comment below or reach out to me, I love helping future registered dietitian nutritionists set themselves up for success!