Top tips for your social work interview
On paper, you look great! You’ve sailed through the first stage of the hiring process for your dream role in social work and your potential future employer now wants to meet you face-to-face. Want to be confident you can ace the interview too? Here are our top tips:
Make sure you’re organised.
It’s an obvious place to start but an important point, nonetheless. Prepare the logistics of your interview well in advance. Ensure you’re clear on how you’re getting there and have accounted for potential traffic and public transport delays. If possible, it’s always good to do a ‘trial run’ to your interview venue in advance.
Lay out your outfit the night before and pack anything you’re taking with you sooner rather than later, too. Even leaving out items for breakfast if your interview is taking place early in the day, can help too.
You want to arrive feeling calm and collected so prepare all you can to give yourself the best chance of feeling super-prepped.
Practise great communication.
Although good communication is an important skill in any interview, it’s particularly important for social workers. As you’ll know, communication is essential in social work and your interview is an opportunity for your employers to see first-hand how well you interact with others. They’ll want you to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and professionally, but they’ll also want to know that you're human and personable too. Remember to smile.
Research the organisation.
Even if you’re an experienced social worker, not all authorities you’ll work for will be the same. Make sure you do your research before meeting them so that you have a good idea of how they operate. This way, you can tailor your responses, making them specific to the organisation. Not only will your knowledge likely impress your interviewers, but it will convince them that you’re serious about the role and joining them. Providing you know who they are in advance, researching your interviewers can put you steps ahead too. You may just have something in common that you can talk about to build your relationship.
Take a notepad.
Another great way of showing you’re keen is to actively take notes throughout the interview. Not only will it show potential employers that you’re engaged and listening, it can really help you too. You can prepare and refer to (brief) notes so that you don’t forget to mention or ask anything vital, as well as refreshing yourself with finer details you may have otherwise forgotten following your interview too.
Consider your body language.
Body language is another important consideration for any interviewee, but particularly for social workers, due to the nature of your role. Remember your interviewers are probably going to be assessing you in terms of how you would come across when with vulnerable children, adults and families, so whilst you want to appear professional you also need to demonstrate a degree of warmth too.
Don’t fidget, remember to engage in eye contact and sit slightly forward in your seat. Never fold your arms, try not to interrupt and even if you’re not feeling exceptionally confident, try to come across as assured and calm. As a social worker, you’ll face many difficult situations and your employers will want to know that you’re able to respond well to stress.
Prepare for common interview questions.
Prepare and practise for commonly-asked questions. It’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to be asked about but having a few scenarios in mind of where you’ve performed well, overcome a challenge, exceeded expectations or solved a problem will almost definitely come in useful. Think also about your strengths, weaknesses and your greatest achievements, along with your motivations for a move. Having responses prepared for these kind of questions is sure to keep the conversation flowing.
Have questions prepared.
Interviews are not just for you to be grilled! Remember, they’re a two-way process and are as equally for you to understand whether a job and organisation are right for you too. Therefore, be sure to have a few of your own questions to hand. It’s often wise to avoid too many questions around salary and benefits in a first interview, but asking questions to get a better feel for the role, progression opportunities or the company culture are all going to help you to make a decision. And once again, validate your interest and commitment to the interview process.
Your likely to be one of many people being interviewed for a role, so it’s important you stand out. A great way to do this is to prepare your USPs (unique selling points). Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and ask, ‘why should someone choose you?’ You want to come up with reasons that no one else will have. What makes you different and perfect for the position?
Also, always prepare for the inevitable opening question of ‘tell me about yourself.’ While you might like talking about where you were brought up, or your favourite sport, it’s better to keep it relevant to the job. Although a broad question, it’s a great opportunity to hit your interviewers early on in the interview with impressive USPs.
Even if you’ve had bad workplace experiences, try to erase them from your mind for the interview. Complaining about your current employer or situation never goes down well. And if asked specifically about a negative experience, try and turn your answer around into a positive. For instance, what did you learn from the experience, rather than dwelling on the negative details? Your prospective employers are more likely to want to hear about that, than something pessimistic or downbeat.
And if you’ve had a tough interview experience, leave that at the door as well. Your negativity can easily come across and hinder your current opportunity. Treat this as a new experience and believe that this time will be different.
Finally, always leave the interview room on a positive note. Shake hands with your interviewers, thank them for their time and let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon.
If you want further advice about landing your perfect role in social work, why not get in touch with one of our team? We do this every single day and are here to help!