Though underpaid in many countries around the world, social work is still a popular career choice. After all, who would not want to have a job with meaningful purpose, getting up from bed in the morning knowing that they are going to try to change something to better in the world? And though reality of social work is often much harder than outsiders think, the competition for good jobs in the field remains high, and you’ll have to navigate a tricky selection process.

One of the questions you will almost always face (either on a job application or in the interviews) is “Tell me about yourself“. And while you probably introduced yourself hundred of times in life (when meeting someone new at school, in a date, while traveling, etc), it isn’t so easy to do in the job interview. What do the hiring managers want to hear from you? What should you focus on, and what should you avoid talking about? We will try to find the answers on the following lines.

Let’s start directly with 7 sample answers to the question. You will find on my list answers for people new to social work, but also for experienced veterans of the field. Below the list of answers you will find additional hints on what to focus on, so make sure to check them out after picking your favorite answer. Enjoy!


7 sample answers to “Tell me about yourself” interview questions for social workers

  1. Let me introduce myself in five words: Motivated, responsible, patient, compassionate idealist. My personality has brought me to social work. Walking the streets daily with open eyes and no headphones in my ears, I can see the injustice all around. And while I know I am not going to change the world, I also know that I can make a difference in lives of some people on that street. That’s why I opted for social work, earned my degree from XYZ college, and now apply for a job with your NGO. In my free time I enjoy reading, watching documentaries and sometimes going for a hike to remote places, in order to forget for a while about the seemingly insolvable problems we face as human society.
  2. My name is Mario, I am 27 years old, have two brothers, and lived in this city for my whole life. I was raised in a broken family, and understand fist hand the impact such an up-bringing has on a child, and the challenges such a family faces. That’s why I pursue career in social welfare, and hope to leave my mark in the life of many children, just as social workers left it in my life. Apart from my passion for this type of work I am a normal guy who enjoys watching a football match on TV and spending time with his family. Please tell me if there’s anything you’d like me to elaborate on in terms of my education or on anything else.
  3. Jordan, 48, and probably the most experienced person you will interview for this job. I’ve been working in mental health for almost two decades, but the place where I worked closed down, and I am looking for a new job. One can say that I have “seen it all and done it all”, but I want to assure you that the fire of passion for social work still burns within me, and that I try my best to stay humble and keep learning, every day in the profession. With three children and a wife I do not have much free time, but when I have some I enjoy to immerse myself in a good book or movie, or just listen to music and relax both my body and mind.
  4. I would introduce myself as someone who wants to change the world. And I know it sounds ambitious and far-fetched and you are probably laughing reading this job application. But I believe one can put a dent to universe working in public welfare, and that’s exactly where I want to be for the next decades. I can think creatively and outside of the box, and my leadership skills are yet to betray me in life. In my opinion, I have what it takes to become a prominent figure in social work one day, which is my vision and something that drives me forward each day.
  5. Let me tell you a story. When I was 17 and most of my peers spent time in clubs drinking and smoking, I decided to visit a local nursing house. Talked to staff members and found out that many people in the place were lonely and barely anyone came to visit them. I immediately decided to visit the place twice each week, always taking two clients for a walk on their wheelchairs. One at a time. This took four hours of my time each week, but I found special love for elderly people, and I have felt it ever since. That’s why I studied social work at ABC college (as you can see on my resume), and now apply for a job in your nursing home. This story sort of characterizes who I am–or at least how I perceive myself. Please ask if you want to know any other details about me and my life journey.
  6. I’m someone who always loved to dig deep into data, and to work on scientific research. But I quickly found many research filed abstract and far from daily reality. I felt a strong desire to help underprivileged people, to play my role on forming a better society. Yet I also knew that I didn’t have the social skills, the communication skills, or even the courage to work in the field. Then I discovered the field of social work research. Did my PhD, chose my specialization, and now I hope to work on the university and help create framework for effective social work practice. That’s why I am here, and everything you can see on my resume formed an important step towards towards this day.
  7. Maria here, 39, and I am sure you are surprised looking at my resume. I worked as a financial analyst in a big corporation for twelve years, and now I am looking for a job in social work, which does not pay half as much as my previous job did. Why? Well, I experienced a complete burnout, started to hate my job, and for the sake of it could not understand why exactly it existed–except of generating more money for my employer, and a nice salary for myself…. More than anything else I missed the purpose, and that’s why I hope to change my career to social work. To me, this is the introduction I want to give, for people to understand me. But if you want to learn more about anything else in my life, please ask.

Focus on your strengths, avoid excessively long answers

While introducing yourself in social work interview, you should focus primarily on your strengths. It can be your experience, personality traits, motivation and vision (what you want to achieve with your work), and it can even be your life story in brief, explaining how your youth experiences, or anything else, transformed you and planted in you the seed of desire to do social work, and you’ve been cultivating that seed ever since…

What I suggest you to avoid though is lengthy introduction, talking for minutes about your education or naming all jobs you had and what you did. Remember that hiring managers have seen your resume, they know what you studied and where you worked, and probably it is good enough. If it wasn’t good enough, they would not invite you for an interview. Sure, something in particular may interest them when it comes to your education or last job, but if it does they will ask about it in a separate question later on.

Try to make your introduction short and powerful. After hearing it (or reading it), the hiring managers should have a clear idea of your motivation to work in social sector, and your ability to handle the job (or strong determination to learn to handle it). You can always add some detail from your personal life (your greatest hobby, whether you have children, etc), just to give them some glimpse of who you are as a person, since it also always matters… Hope it helps, and I wish you best of luck in your social work interview!


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Matthew Chulaw
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