First things first: before your interview, you want to learn as much as you possibly can about the job you’re applying for. This means reading up on the organization in question, learning about its core values and the key services that it offers. Having a good sense of what this company is all about will be crucial to developing impressive answers to their interview questions.
Beyond researching the organization itself, it can also be helpful to look into its current staff members, both to learn more about the work experience of current employees and to check for any potential overlaps you might have with them – you never know if you might share a point of connection with your interviewer.
Once you have a sense of the needs of the job and your prospective employer, it’s time to craft a resume that’s tailored to their priorities. Be sure to highlight any work experience that overlaps directly with their job description as well as other past employers with similar values as their own.
15 Social Work Interview Questions to Expect
Though there is no standard set of social work interview questions, there are a few subjects that will come up in any context, from school social worker positions to jobs in clinical social work.
Arriving at your interview having prepared answers to these questions will take a lot of the pressure off, allowing you to give the best responses possible and engage your interviewer in a larger conversation that will help them get to know you more fully.
1. What unique qualities or perspectives will you bring to this job?
This is a great first question for any social worker to ask as they prepare to take next steps in their career. Your strengths are what will make you stand out among other applicants. Make sure to highlight those qualities as much as you can in the rest of your interview questions.
2. What do you hope to learn from this job?
Think this one through before your meeting; having a clear, thoughtful answer to this question will give great insight into who you are and what you have in mind for your social work career.
3. How does this organization’s work align with your professional mission?
This is one of the most important social work interview questions to prepare for, as it will frame your current job aspirations within the larger context of your career. Be sure to think through this question honestly and thoroughly – you don’t want to give an insincere answer only to end up in a role you don’t actually want.
4. Why did you choose to become a social worker?
This is related to the question above, but can be a helpful way of shaping a narrative about yourself that makes it easy for your interviewer to get a sense of who you are and what motivates you
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Be mindful in answering this question that you are speaking to someone who hopes to employ you for a reasonably long period of time. While it’s great to show ambition, make sure you are giving the impression that you intend to hold the job in question for long enough to make real contributions to the organization.
6. What are your experiences with the target population?
Be honest in answering this; if you don’t have experience with the main demographic being helped by this organization, it’s okay to say so. Think of other similar work and educational experiences you have had and how they can help you adapt to the needs of a new community.
7. Why are you leaving your current job?
Regardless of what your answer is, it is important to show your professionalism here by keeping your answer positive and not oversharing too much about past work experiences. If possible, keep your answer to this question oriented toward future opportunities – no matter what other reasons you might have, you are moving on to best support your own goals, and that’s what your interviewer should know.
8. How do you handle conflict?
You might have an answer to this question that relates specifically to the types of situations that will come up in your future job; if so, it is excellent to provide an example of how you have navigated and overcome conflict in a comparable setting. However, if you don’t have an example that perfectly aligns with the role you are applying for, it’s helpful to still have a concrete story in mind of a time you have been faced with conflict, especially professionally, to give a general illustration of how you respond to difficult situations.
9. If a client is aggressive toward you, how will you respond?
It’s important to have an answer to this, both in your interview and in your practice. If you are in a position to apply for a social worker job, you likely have learned various methods of handling these situations. Draw from your knowledge in answering this question.
10. Have you done this type of work in the past?
Again, don’t misrepresent your work experience if you haven’t had a comparable role before. Instead, focus on the qualities that make you certain you could do this job to the fullest. You’re applying for this job because you think you’re capable of it, after all – coming in prepared with reasons for why they should trust you will help prove that point.
11. What are your weaknesses?
This question is a trap – don’t fall for it! Use the opportunity to speak about learning experiences – when weaknesses led to newfound strength that you will use in your new job.
12. What kind of supervision do you prefer?
Here it is best to strike an honest but open-minded tone. It’s good to take the opportunity to describe your work style, but important to stress your adaptability to new approaches.
13. How do you help clients find the resources they need?
This is another competency question. In addition to reviewing the knowledge you gained in your degree program, take a look at the specific services this organization is offering to prepare the most thorough answer possible.
14. Are you a team player?
Regardless of what your work style is, your answer to this question in a social work interview must start with “yes.” There are many ways to be a team player, and it’s okay to prefer a more independent way of working. Figure out which qualities you bring to a team and focus on them in your answer to this question.
15. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself?
If there is something you’d been hoping to bring up in your interview but haven’t yet, now is the time to say it! If not, don’t let that be the end of the interview. Instead, start asking questions of your own. Read the section below to learn the best questions to engage and impress your interviewer.
Follow-Up Questions You Can Ask at Your Social Work Interview
Just as good questions can reflect a good job applicant, having no questions as a job applicant can make you seem ill-prepared for the job. It’s good to have a few questions up your sleeve so that you can keep the conversation going.
As a job candidate, asking questions can be a great way of asserting yourself. You’ll show your interviewer your thoughtfulness, competency, and seriousness of purpose.
Here are a few of the best social work interview questions you can ask your interviewer:
What is a typical day like in this role?
Though simple, asking this question shows that you see yourself taking this job and want the clearest picture possible of what you can expect from it. It’s also very useful information for you: different social worker positions come with vastly different job expectations, so it’s in your best interests to clarify exactly what this role will entail.
What are the career growth opportunities for this job?
This is an extremely important question, and if your interviewer doesn’t have a good answer for it, that is worth noting. If your future employer cannot promise career growth, that should be a serious strike against the position you are pursuing – even if you are anxious to get a job now, you will want to have faith that your next job will help you level up in the future.
What are you looking for in candidates?
In a way, in asking this question you will be conducting research for future job interviews. It’s always helpful to know what an employer is looking for, and it can be helpful in evaluating your own fitness for the position in question.
Following Up After Your Social Work Interview
After any interview, it is good etiquette (and a sign of your thorough work ethic) to send a thank you note to whoever interviewed you. Here you do not need to continue making a pitch for yourself, but rather simply thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration. You may also offer to send along any additional information they might want.
The Five-Day Follow Up Plan
If you haven’t heard back from an interviewer after five days, it is professional and acceptable to send a short follow-up email to politely inquire if they have made a decision about the job. Under most circumstances, your interviewer will get back to you, even if it’s just to let you know that they need more time to get back to you.
Taking the Next Steps to Become a Social Worker
For social workers seeking new job opportunities, there’s good news: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a robust 9% growth rate for social worker jobs in the next ten years. There are many compelling jobs to be found within the world of social work, requiring different areas of specialization and work experience.
To learn more about the different social worker roles that are available, places to find jobs, and more tips for succeeding in your social work interview, take a look at our article Finding and Securing the Social Worker Position You Want.