Financial assistance provided by the government and nonprofit entities is a double-edged sword. For an outsider it may look like a perfect instrument for those who aren’t lucky in life. But the truth is that that bureaucracy makes it difficult for people to actually get access to the funds, and many people who do not need them try their luck. What’s more, it’s not really a solution of the problems we face in 21st century

Food coupons help homeless and poor people survive, but do not motivate them to look for job. What’s more, we should perhaps ask why we have homeless and poor people at the first place… But I do not want to philosophize here. Working as an Eligibility Worker, you will help to ensure that the funds get into the right hands, that people eligible for them know how to get them, and can follow the application process to the end.

Let’s have a look at the questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job.


Why do you want to work as an Eligibility Worker?

Meaningful purpose is the obvious thing. You know that poor people do not have it easy in life, and want to play your part in helping them–at least with a temporary solution of their problems, so they have what to eat and where to sleep.

And since you weren’t lucky enough to earn a degree in social work or psychology or other related field, this is your way of joining the fight against poverty, helping those who need it the most. It’s nice as long as it is honest, but you should not end your answer here.

Tell them also about your skills that make from you a good applicant–at least in your eyes. You have a good understanding of the social services system, the different aids people can apply for. Excelling in administrative work and communication with people–with all kinds of people, in all kinds of physical and mental condition, you feel to be the right man for the job. Hence you decided to apply.


What do you know about our organization and the financial assistance we provide?

Try to learn as much as you can about them before the start of the interview. Most importantly, the eligibility requirements for the applicants, and the main target group of population the organization/institution works with and tries to help.

Read the mission statement on their website, check something about the leaders of the organization, their successes and failures. It is good if you can find something that resonates with you–with your values. Perhaps you feel close to their target group, or consider the type of aid they provide really important in the local community. You should definitely share your sentiments with the hiring mangers.

One way or another, they should get an impression that you did your homework, and that they are your first choice, and you do not apply with five other nonprofits simultaneously. The more you know, the easier it is to make such an impression.

* May also interest you: Social work interview – What are your strengths and weaknesses?

How do you imagine a typical day in a job of an Eligibility Worker?

The most important thing is to show realistic expectations. You will spend the majority of your time in front of a computer screen, or on the call. Filing paperwork, contacting clients, sending emails, and answering phone calls will be your daily bread.

It’s important to not get carried away, saying that you expect to do a lot of field work, or make strategic decisions, or devise new goals and plans for the organization. Because that won’t be the case, and if you expected it, they would not hire you.

Of course what exactly you will do depends on the organization of their office, and you should read the job description carefully before deciding how to answer this question.


You decide that a client isn’t eligible for the aid. They call you and say bad words, that you ruined their life or something similar. How will you react?

It’s important to be empathic, but also mentally resilient. Ensure the hiring managers that you won’t decide an application in somebody’s favor just because you are afraid of them, or they threaten you, or you feel for them, or anything else.

You will simply follow the procedures, step by step, and decide about each application without emotions. What’s more, you know that not everyone will be happy about your verdict, and that you may hear some bad words on your address in work. But it won’t discourage you, because you have understanding for the feelings of people who struggle.

Hence you will simply explain once again why you could not approve their application, suggest them some options (if there are any), and move on to the next client. For more inspiration, you can also check 7 sample answers to “How do you handle rejection?” interview question.


You will work with all kinds of people here. How do you plan to make sure that everyone understands the application process, and knows how to proceed?

Patience is the key, and your willingness to go above and beyond when explaining things to the client. Ensure the interviewers that you won’t mind repeating something to a client seven times, until they finally get it right. What’s more, you will simplify your language to the maximum, and try to make the process as easy as possible for the clients.

In some cases you may actually fill the forms for them (or even almost all cases, if that’s the standard procedure in the organization). Hence you will just ask them simple questions and complete the application for them. Of course they may still need to bring some materials and other things, but you will try to make the process simple, within the bureaucratic limitations of your position.


How do you feel about traveling to meet clients at home (or in the street), and being confronted with their daily reality?

If they ask about an option of making home visits, you can be almost sure it belongs to the job. You typically won’t go alone, which makes it easier, but you should be still ready for a harsh reality you may observe in some places.

Ensure the interviewers that you do not live in a bubble. You know that people have all kinds of troubles, and that rich and poor often meet at the same street corner. You may see a father beating his child, or stinky clothes and rubbish covering the ground in a place someone calls home–basically conditions in which it is hard to imagine someone living their life normally.

But you won’t get emotional or need a help of a psychologist when confronted with the reality of your clients. You take it as it is–at the end of the day you try to help them with the aid. That’s what matters, and what you will focus on during the visits…


Other questions you may face in your eligibility worker interview

  • What do you expect from your colleagues, social workers who will supervise you in this job?
  • How do you handle rejection? How do you plan to deal with setbacks you’ll experience in this work?
  • Do you have any experience working with clients with mental or physical disabilities?
  • What motivates you the most in the work of an eligibility worker?
  • Tell us about a time when you faced ethical dilemma in work.
  • With whom would you discuss confidential information about your clients?
  • Do you have any questions?

* You can download the full list of questions in a simple, one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

eligibility worker interview questions, PDF

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of an Eligibility Worker belongs to interviews with average difficulty. This is neither the easiest nor the best paid administrative role, and hence it isn’t as popular as jobs for secretaries or corporate administrative assistants.

It may easily happen that you will be the only job candidate, which makes your situation easier. On the other hand, you will have to demonstrate right attitude to work, mental resilience, and readiness to deal with all kinds of tricky situation that can happen in this job.

Read the questions again, and try to prepare an answer to each one of them. And do not forget to make some research about your future place of work–it will help you to answer some questions. I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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