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Selection 

Most responding organizations hire interns who have an educational background in I/O psychology (74%). A few organizations hire graduate students with educations in clinical/counseling psychology (4%), business-related areas (3%), human resource development (5%), and general psychology (4%). 

The minimum education requirements for graduate level internships vary from organization to organization. Some organizations require that interns have proposed (27%) or completed (20%) their masters thesis. A few require that interns have taken their comprehensive exams (8%), while others (13%) are flexible in their educational requirements, using coursework and research experiences to determine if applicants are qualified. Of those, 5% simply require that the applicant be enrolled in a graduate program. Seventeen (17%) companies do not consider education when selecting interns. 

With regard to selection, interviews are by far the most popular type of assessment with phone interviews being conducted by 49%, structured in-person interviews by 46%, and unstructured or traditional in-person interviews by 33%. Furthermore, many organizations indicated that they conduct at least two interviews. Personality (18%), cognitive ability (15%), work sample (10%), situational (4%) and other types of tests are used less frequently. It is important to note, however, that unstructured or traditional in-person interviews (35%), personality tests (38%), and cognitive ability tests (30%) are used much more frequently for external consulting internships than internal consulting internships. Other types of assessments include obtaining references from faculty, conducting structured reviews of vitas/resumes, and evaluating writing samples.  

Respondents were asked to select the three KSAOs that they thought were most critical in the selection of interns from a comprehensive list. Those who selected other were given the opportunity to add important KSAOs but were asked that the total identified not exceed three. Results indicated that the most important KSAOs are teamwork/interpersonal skills (45%), basic statistical skills (32%), ability to communicate, in writing and orally, with a business audience (28%), and experience using standard statistical packages (28%; see Table 1). KSAOs added by respondents included personality traits (e.g., motivation and conscientiousness), specific knowledge areas or skills (e.g., 360 feedback tools, job analysis, validation, etc.), and interest in I/O-related work and research.  

Comparing external and internal consulting internships shows some minor differences in the rank order of these competencies. For example, written/oral communication for a business audience was the second most important KSAO for external consulting while basic statistical skills was the second most important for internal consulting. Project management, survey design, and knowledge of employment law were slightly more important for internal consulting while willingness to travel, written communication, advanced statistical knowledge, and previous experience were slightly more important in external consulting. 

Table 1. KSAOs and Frequency Selected 

KSAOs

Overall

 %

External Consulting %

Internal Consulting %

Teamwork and interpersonal skills

45

53

46

Basic statistical skills (e.g., descriptives, correlations, regression)

32

 

28

 

30

Written/oral communication to a business audience

31

38

27

Experience using statistical software packages, such as SPSS, SAS, LISREL, etc.

28

 

23

 

24

Written communication

20

23

16

Project management or planning skills

18

20

24

Previous experience (obtained through other applied or school experiences, etc.)

16

 

20

 

14

Oral communication

13

10

8

Advanced statistical skills (e.g., IRT, structural equations modeling, HLM)

9

 

10

 

3

Survey design

8

3

11

Basic understanding of business (e.g., marketing, sales, finance, business trends/headlines)

7

 

8

 

8

Experimental design

3

0

3

Knowledge of employment laws and regulations

2

0

5

Ability to speak multiple languages

1

0

0

Willingness to travel

1

3

0

Demonstrated leadership experience

0

0

0

Other

15

13

19

 

What does this mean for internship seekers? Most organizations hire interns who are in I/O programs. While many consider education level in their selection process, this varies from organization to organization; review job postings and talk to recruiters for specific information on minimum requirements. Expect to be interviewed at least once during the selection process either in person or over the phone. If applying for an external consulting position, you may also take a personality and/or cognitive ability test.  

Teamwork and interpersonal skills, basic statistic skills, and ability to communicate in writing and orally with a business audience appear to be the most important KSAOs that organizations consider during the selection process; however, understanding the differences between important KSAOs for external and internal consulting internships may better prepare you for the selection process. 

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