Social work is more than a job. It is a mission, a never ending attempt to end the misfortune in the world, and a daily effort to change something in the lives of individuals you work with–be it broken families, homeless people, hungry nations, or anyone else. It’s a wonderful profession indeed, and I am sure you don’t struggle with an answer to “Why do you want to be a social worker?” question. So much to talk about with that one. There’s another common interview questions you will face, however, one that’s not so obvious. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a social worker?

The first rule to remember is to talk about strengths that matter for the job. Such as listening skills, ability to solve conflicts, mental resilience, patience, passion for what you do. And there are many other (we’ll look at them in a minute).

When we talk about weaknesses, however, you should pick something that won’t make your life difficult in work, something that matters, somehow, but isn’t pivotal for this role. And ideally it should be something you can improve on, if you try hard enough. Let’s have a look at some sample answers, before I offer you some additional explanations and hints.

 

7 sample answers to “What are your strengths and weaknesses as a social worker?” interview question

  1. I’d say that my biggest strength is mental resilience. One sees a lot of bad things in this job. If you get too emotional, or struggle to make a thick line between your work and your personal life, you will suffer. Sooner, or later. But I’ve been always able to make this thick line, and continue trying, accepting the low success rate we’ll always have here. But there’s one thing I can improve on, and that’s definitely an ability to build the trust with the clients. This is something I’ve failed to do many times, and I am yet to understand how to do it effectively, case after case. I hope to improve with more experience in the field…
  2. This is my first job application for social work, so I can talk only about theory. It’s hard to point out your strengths and weaknesses when you never really did the work–if you understand what I mean… Generally though I’d say that communication skills, and an ability to talk effectively with people from all demographic groups, is my biggest strength. At least in theory. And my lack of experience is definitely my greatest weakness. Because one thing is what we learn at school, another one what we experience in the field. I am sure that many situation will catch me by surprise, but I am ready to learn, and to eventually become a great social worker.
  3. I’d say that conflict resolution, and ability to keep a cool head in trying circumstances, are my greatest strengths when we talk about social work. I am sure they will help me in many difficult talks I’ll have with clients in this job. On the other hand, getting emotionally involved in some cases, especially cases involving children, is my weakness. I find it hard to bear when I see a child being mistreated, and cannot do anything about it from my position, at least not immediately. This can make my life difficult, both in work and outside of it, and I am well aware of the consequences. But I also hope that with experience I will somehow get used to seeing these situations, and will learn to accept them, without being emotional.
  4. Passion for social work is certainly my greatest strength, and particularly for work with this demographic group. I believe it will help me to carry on when things do not go well, when I do not achieve results I’d love to achieve with the clients. And I am sure it will happen sometimes, because the success rate isn’t high in this profession. On the other hand, I am often over-friendly with the clients, and struggle to keep my distance. I know that this can backfire terribly, that I may make wrong decisions because of it, and hence I must learn to keep some distance. It’s not easy to do, but I won’t work alone, and hope that my colleagues will help me avoid this behavior.
  5. To be honest, I feel like I have to improve on everything–communication skills, dealing with tricky situations we experience with clients, being more patient, not expecting too much, results we cannot achieve. I would not necessarily call these abilities my weaknesses, but I see room for improvement in all of them. And that’s maybe my strength actually–the desire to keep improving, my effort to become the best social worker I can be. At least that’s the way I see this…
  6. I struggle with making decision. Wanting the best for my clients, considering the impact my actions will have on their lives–which is a huge responsibility, I sometimes simply cannot make the final call in the case. But what can I do about it really? I have not found an answer yet. On the other hand, I’d say that mental resilience is my biggest strength. I have seen a lot of terrible things in my life, but they don’t make me cry, or shiver. Life is as it is–there’s a lot of suffering everywhere, and that’s why we are here, trying to change the situation, within the scope of our job. I learned to accept suffering, defeat, rejection. It definitely helps a lot in my work.
  7. I would love to answer your question, but I cannot tell. Not at the moment, before I had the job for a month at least. Any strength or weakness I’d pick would be just a guess–at best, because I am yet to be tested with the harsh reality of the job. I can just tell you that I will try my best, and that for sure I will identify some abilities I have to improve on. It can become obvious after first week in the job, or after the first month. Once I identify them I am ready to work on them. But now, at this moment, I cannot really point out anything, because I do not want to make things up…

 

Lack of experience is a always a good weakness to mention

Humility and a healthy level of respect will help you a lot in your career of a social worker. It’s fine admitting that you lack experience, that you may struggle with something in the job because of that, with the tricky situations you will encounter while working with the clients.

If you cannot think about a better weakness, go with lack of experience. Over-confident job candidates who think that once they earned a degree in social work they are ready for everything, are not really the best social workers. Hiring managers know it, and you should not present yourself in that way, in any case.

Always emphasize your effort to improve, to learn from your colleagues

Everyone has some weaknesses and nobody is born (or graduated) a perfect social worker. Interviewers want you to admit a weakness, and, that’s the most important thing, hear that you want to try your best to improve on it.

Some weaknesses are easy to eliminate, but you may battle with some for years in the job. And it’s all right, because you will never be an isolated unit in social work, and can rely on your more experienced colleagues to hand you a helping hand.

As long as you demonstrate your willingness to work on your abilities, and to eventually become the best social worker you can be, the hiring managers will be satisfied with your answer. But… it won’t be the only difficult question you will face in your social work interview. For brilliant answers to all 25 most common social work interview questions (+ more), check out the Social Work Interview Guide eBook.

Thank you, and good luck in your interview!

 

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Matthew Chulaw
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