In the pursuit of your dietetics degree, you worked hard. Really hard. You earned good grades, volunteered, shadowed Registered Dietitian Nutritionists - checked every extra curricular and academic box to better your chances of matching to a dietetic internship. Then, after submitting your DICAS application, you find out you made it to the next round. You got a dietetic internship interview! The emotions you are feeling are equally exciting and terrifying (or at least it was for me).
Now you have the daunting task of preparing for the unknown - what are they going to ask, what do I wear, is there anything I can do now to be a stronger candidate? Go into your dietetic internship interview with a strategic plan! This post includes 10 tips for before, during, and after your dietetic internship interview. Every internship is different and no two interviews are alike. But I know these dietetic interview tips and strategies will help you be an outstanding candidate and increase your chances of matching to a dietetic internship! Just keep your eye on the RDN prize and check out my tips below.
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10 Tips for Your Dietetic Internship Interview
- Before your Dietetic Internship Interview -
1. Come up with situations that highlight your skills.
Think of a few, stellar situations that highlight your best qualities and can be applied to many interview questions. On note cards, write down a few situations where you resolved a conflict, showed leadership, was given responsibility, a weakness you are working on, practiced time management/met a deadline, worked with a patient or community program, and successfully worked in a team. For each of these situations, use the STAR method to outline the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Having a few practiced situations, on hand and memorized covering a wide range of interview questions will help you think less on the fly and be more prepared.
They might ask for a weakness of yours, and although it might be tempting to say, 'nothing, i'm perfect' or 'I study too hard', try to really come up with something that you can turn into a positive. This could be a good time to address something that is lacking on your resume. Maybe you could say "I regret not being more involved in my undergrad and I plan to be more active with the local dietetic association in the future", or "A weakness is that I don't have a lot of patient experience on my resume, but I really enjoyed my medical nutrition therapy classes. I also tutored high school students a few times a month and I feel like that communication skill could help me when explaining food and nutrient medication interactions to a patient." Weakness don't have to be bad! Try to steer the conversation into a learning situation from which you wish to grow.
2. Practice your elevator pitch every morning in the mirror.
The dreaded first interview question can been the scariest and most unnerving. It's your first interaction with the dietetic internship program director and is the first ice breaker. The first question will most likely be something very open ended and vague, like "Tell me a little about yourself". Practicing your 'about me' 30 second pitch will prevent you from fumbling your words, help you hone in on your message, and provide a polished answer. And say it out loud! It's one thing to think through the words than it is to actually verbalize them. The first few times you practice out loud in the mirror will be awkward but it will build confidence, reduce the 'likes, ums, and hums', and give you time to work on your perfect opening statement.
3. Research key words and practice using them.
Find a few general words and phrases that will help you not only 'walk the walk' but 'talk the RDN talk'. Write down a few terms, like evidenced based practice, dietary guidelines, research, etc. and make sure you understand the meaning and how/when to use the term. During the interview, try to incorporate those key words into your interview responses. Instead of saying "I have read what works for people .." you could phrase it with "Research shows patients/populations respond positively to ..". Nailing down the vocabulary and using it fluidly in the correct way will help the internship program director see you as a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, just by tweaking your vocabulary.
Also, if the internship is focused on wellness, research, or food service, incorporate that vocabulary into your answers! It will show them that you not only researched their program (something you should always do) but you also are comfortable and interested in their terminology. Using their common terms and specialty vocabulary will help the dietetic internship see you in their program, all because you verbalized your interests to match their program's emphasis.
- During your Dietetic Internship Interview -
During the interview, the dietetic internship program director will be assessing your professionalism, independence, and ability to think critically. The dietetic internship is structured in a way that requires interns to be out in the field, sometimes totally on their own. They want to be confident that an intern representing their program is a self-starter, respectful, and not someone who needs their hand held through every rotation. When answering your dietetic internship interview questions, keep those characteristics in mind.
4. Be Aware of your Body Language and Interactions.
Be sure to shake the interviewers hand before and after the interview. Sit up straight in your chair with your shoulders back, keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, and try to keep from shaking your leg or tapping your foot. When speaking to the interviewer, project your words, make eye contact, and be confident in your answers! You want your body language to look like you are self-confident and assertive, not unsure and hunched over. Your body language will make a huge difference in how your answers are presented and received.
5. Don't be Afraid of a Pause.
Take your time answering each question. A long pause might feel really awkward but to the interviewer, it's not weird at all. Take the time to collect your thoughts, then speak slowly and clearly when you are ready to answer. No need to rush it! This is your one-on-one time to ace the dietetic internship interview.
6. Be Aware of Repeat Filler Words.
Be conscious of filler words you might be overly using. I remember the first few sentences I said during my dietetic internship interview were full with fillers such as 'like' and 'of course'. This was before they even asked a single question! I blame my nerves but I immediately realized what I was doing and was able to quickly change up my wording. Be aware of the nervous words you might be repeating. Just take a deep breath, pause, collect your thoughts, and leave the filler words at the door.
7. Ask 1-2 Questions at the End of the Interview.
Have a few questions prepared going into the dietetic internship interview that you can't find by going directly to the internship website. Try to find questions that might also accompany the skills you highlighted during the interview. Maybe your background is research and you know this particular program has a few research studies going. You could ask if interns get to participate in the research process during an enrichment week or can assist their research in other ways. But really make sure your questions can't be found on their website! There is nothing worse than showing the dietetic internship you didn't do your homework on their program. But a good question can pay off and if you choose the right questions to ask, the answers they give you could further emphasize why you are a good match to their dietetic internship (like in the research example above).
8. Wear Something That isn't Distracting or Poorly Fitting.
If you don't feel comfortable in your clothes, you won't look comfortable. Your dietetic internship interview is not the time to wear a fashion statement shirt or try walking in heels for the first time. Wear something professional and neutral. The last thing you want to worry about during the interview is how tight your waste band is or that your shoes don't fit. Below are a few outfit options I wore during a my dietetic internship rotations that could provide some inspiration.
- After your Dietetic Internship Interview -
9. Write a Hand Written Thank You Card.
Bring a blank thank you card and envelope with you to your dietetic internship interview. After the interview, include the interviewer's name and a personalized message inside thanking them for taking the time to consider you as a candidate for their dietetic internship. Writing the thank you message after your interview helps you include specific moments or details about the interview so it doesn't feel like a generic, impersonal thank you card. Leave the card with the building secretary or office manager, or send the card by mail dropping it off in the closest mailbox to the interview location. You want the card to arrive within a day or two after your dietetic internship interview, so be sure to hand it off or send it right away. Also, bring multiple thank you cards. I was interviewed by a panel of 4 dietitians, so be prepared for anything!
10. If you Don't Match, Write an Email to the Program Director.
This step is probably the most underutilized and most powerful tip of all. Contacting the internship program director after match day is the perfect time to open the door for a second round match opportunity or to become a priority applicant for next year. If you didn't match, you might be really upset, hurt, or frustrated but you have the perfect opportunity to build a bridge, not burn one. Right after not matching, write a friendly and professional email to the dietetic internship director to let them know you did not match to any of your programs and that you plan on applying to their program next year. This is also a good opportunity to ask for feedback on your application and find out what you can do within the next year to improve your application.
This helps set you up for matching to an internship in three ways:
#1: Sometimes accepted interns drop from their internship a few days after match day or even a few days before the program starts (gasp, I know! But it actually happens more than you think). If the program director liked you as an applicant and they know you are available and didn't match anywhere, they are more likely to contact you to see if you want that newly opened spot in their program.
#2: Program directors talk after match day. If an internship didn't fill all of their spots (which does happen believe it or not) sometimes program directors will reach out to other program directors to see if they can help with their internship vacancies. Increase the chances of your name being tossed around because you let them know you are free and didn't match.
#3: Letting the program director know you will be applying to their dietetic internship next year will help them keep your name in mind. If you were a top applicant that didn't quite make the cut, next year you might be a more favored applicant. Also, telling them you will apply to their program again next year lets them know you really believe their program is the right fit for you, something they look for when selecting interns.
Remember, the dietetic internship program director doesn't know who matched outside of their program, so let them know you are free! Shout it from the roof tops. Give them the opportunity to snag you up if they ever need an intern or know of another program that does - whether it's the day after match day or the following year when you apply again.
The picture above was from my dietetic internship's clinical rotation, a place I know you will get to experience too! You just have to visualize it, see it, believe it, and work towards it everyday. The road to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is not easy, but you have worked so hard to get to this point! Don't run out of steam. Be confident and be your awesome self, everything else will fall into place.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR ADDITIONAL DIETETIC INTERNSHIP INTERVIEW TIPS, COMMENT BELOW! I WOULD LOVE HEAR FROM DR'S2BE AND START THE CONVERSATION.