Helping people, doing a job with a meaningful purpose, and getting a decent salary for your service–social work in certainly one the best fields of employment. But how to succeed in your interview?
Ever more people face adversity, and the social sector is growing each year. It means more job opportunities, but also a stronger competition in your interview. Let’s have a look at some questions you will face, and a guide on how to answer them.
Why do you want to become a social worker?
The interviewers want to hear that you care for their institution, and for the target group. I suggest you to talk about your desire to help people—the particular group of people you’d work with in your new job.
On the top of that, you shouldn’t connect your job choice to the past, saying that you want to work as a social worker because you graduated from the field. Such an answer would indicate a must, while you want to show a desire.
You can talk about your desire to make things better in your city, county, or country (and there are plenty of things we can improve everywhere), about your wish to help the others, to make a difference in the world, or at least in local community.
Say them that you see a meaningful purpose in this career, and imagine doing it for many years to come.
Why are you applying for a job in our institution?
Show empathy for their target group (seniors, unemployed, homeless, orphans, drug addicts, refugees, prisoners, other groups they work with), and tell them that you believe to have the right personality, skills, and values to help the particular group of people.
Alternatively you can talk about their institution. You can praise them for the good things they have achieved over the years.
A brief research should help you to find a good answer to this question.
Perhaps a local press published an article, describing the activities of the institution. Perhaps they have carried out a particular project that helped the local community. Try to find such news and refer to them in your answer.
You can praise them for many things–their system of work, their reputation, the values and principles they follow in the organization, etc. You can also say that you like the location of the place, that it will be convenient for you to commute to work.
What is your experience with the target group?
Try to focus on things you have achieved with the target group before. Did you help some children to find their way in life? Did you help the sufferers to find new hope? Did you hep the homeless to reintegrate into working society?
Speak about things you have achieved, and how you have achieved them. Narrate the details. Speak with enthusiasm. Show us that you really care for the target group.
And if you have no professional experience with the target group (perhaps you are applying for your very first job), talk about the experience with the people from your personal life (your schoolmate was an orphan, many homeless people live in your street, you visit a nursing home often to meet with your grandmother, your cousin suffers from down syndrome, etc).
Experience with people help us to understand their needs and desires. Show us that you understand the target group, and are ready to start working with them from day one.
How do you imagine a typical day in work?
Try to present yourself as someone who wants to work, who likes to work, and who always looks for something productive to do.
Look at the job description, list the principal duties, and say you would devote your time to study and research–if there were no other things to do.
Do not forget to list also the “unpleasant aspects” of the job in social sector (for example helping the clients with their personal hygiene, or anything else that feels difficult to you), showing us that you see your job realistically. Show us that you are ready to handle everything the job presents.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
There aren’t many career growth options for most positions in social sector (the few exceptions just prove the rule). And a good social worker (or a person with a good personality for this job) should actually not seek promotion, or a career change.
Oppositely, they should be happy with their job, seeing the purpose, enjoying doing the same thing over and over, trying to improve their work with the target group.
You can say that you will be happy to have the same position, or you can actually turn your focus to your personal life. You can say that you see yourself starting a family in five years time, or just see yourself being a better social worker, a better mother, a better person…
Special Tip: To know how to answer a question, and to come up with an amazing answer on a big day, when facing a panel of interviewers, are two different things. If you experience anxiety, or do not know how to answer the questions, have a look at my eBook, the Social Work Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to 25 most common social work interview questions will help you simplify your interview preparation, and deliver when it matters the most–when you sit in front of your interviewers. Thank you for checking it out!
How do you plan to build relationship with our target group?
Good answer depends on your attitude, your methodology of work, and the philosophy of the particular social work institution. Many institutions have their own system of work, and the employees are bound to follow the internal rules.
Nevertheless, saying that you will always try to think on the same wavelength as the people (your target group), or that you will look at the situation from their point of view (trying to understand their needs and desires, their emotions), will work in most job interviews.
Getting close is an answer. Get close to the people, open your heart, and win their trust…
Here is a problem we face. Think about a solution to this problem, and describe it to us.
Social workers face a lot of challenges in their jobs. Conflicts with colleagues and clients, cases we can do nothing about, clients that just won’t cooperate, and so on, and so forth.
Show us that you are ready to address the most common challenges, that you won’t panic in a given situation. Design a simple solution, speak in a calm voice, and admit your inexperience (if you are just starting your professional career).
Good social worker should be able to think independently, and decide on their own. On the other hand, the best social work is always a team-effort. Say that you will consult your colleagues, people with more experience, people who have already faced the same challenges, anytime you aren’t sure what to do.
Do you have any questions?
Job interview is a dialogue (or at least it should be a dialogue). Ask questions. Start a discussion. Elaborate on their answers.
Each good question shows them that you care, that you want to know more about the things they do, that you are interested in their institution. You can talk about the challenges they face, about the working environment, about the goals they try to attain, etc.
And if you can not come up with anything better, ask them about the next steps of the recruitment process, or when you can start the job.
Other questions you may face in your social work interview
- What do you hope to accomplish as a social worker?
- Why did you decide for this specific filed of social work, and not for another one?
- What do you consider to be your major successes and accomplishments in your last job? Who did help you the most to achieve them?
- What was your biggest failure in social work so far?
- Think of an aggressive/angry client from the past. How did you deal with the situation?
- Think about conflict situation form your last job. How did you solve the conflict?
- Describe a situation when you did something more than expected from you in job.
- There are always cases we can do nothing about. Describe such a case from your experience. What have you tried before giving up on the case?
- If a client did not understand a simple language you used, what would you do?
- Why should we hire you, and not one of the other job applicants?
Conclusion, answers to all questions
Job interview in social work belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You have to convince the interviewers not only about your knowledge of the field, but also about the right attitude to work, strong motivation, and about your desire to make a difference in the life of each client.
If you are not sure how to answer the questions, or experience anxiety, have a look at the eBook I wrote for you, the Social Work Interview Guide. Great answers to all difficult interview questions will help you to relax, and to deliver your very best in the interviews.
* You can also download the full list of interview questions for social work in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
May also interest you:
- Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication? The way you walk, shake hands, the chair you choose in the room-it all says something about you. Learn more about your body language, and how to “say” the right things.
- How to dress for your interview – Four rules to consider when choosing clothes to wear. A simple article that will help you to finally decide what to put on for your interview.
- Salary negotiation tips – Time to finally get as much as you deserve.
* This is a guest post published by Ellen King for InterviewPenguin.com. The article was edited before publication.