Social workers should be great listeners, so make sure you use that skill during the job interview. Answer the questions that you’re asked and practice being succinct with your answers. After all, a social worker who rambles and can’t answer a direct question doesn’t present a very good picture of a competent well-organized professional who can work with a range of personalities and situations.
Social workers usually have to multi-task in an often fast-paced work environment. You’ve got to meet with clients and submit reports, develop programs and attend staff and community agency meetings. The recruiter will want to know how well you juggle various tasks and how well you can prioritize your work. Have a few examples ready that illustrate your ability to get every responsibility complete on time. Talk about your previous job where you built a schedule and stuck to it closely to get in all the interviews and reports you needed, while leaving room for unexpected calls. Wrap up the scenario with the outcome of your planning and how it helped you close more cases, maintain a heavy caseload or earn a commendation.
Explain How You Compromise
You’ll inevitably have to work with other professionals when treating clients or handling casework for families and individual with a wide range of needs. Clients may need housing, food assistance, substance abuse treatment or medical care. Whether you are a clinical social worker counseling clients or work as a case manager, you’ll work with medical doctors, government assistance agencies and other counselors. Social worker interviewers want to know how well you play with other professionals and what you will do when disagreements occur. Explain how you solved a difficult issue with a coworker in the past and turned it around so that you achieved the best overall results for your clients.
Demonstrate Stress Management Techniques
There’s a chance you’ll be put on the spot during the interview so that the recruiter can gauge how well you respond under stress. Since a big part of your job is assessing the needs of your clients, you might be given a scenario and asked to come up with a quick assessment of the situation right there on the spot. Interviewers won’t be as interested in what your answers are to fake job scenarios as they are about how you handle yourself. Take a deep breath and rely on your anti-stress techniques to get through the activity. After you solve the problem, tell the interviewer that you have developed exceptional stress management techniques you’re sure will come in handy on the job.
If social work truly is your calling, it should show in your face when you talk about the prospects of working with the agency or organization. Prepare to talk about your goals for the future and how excited you are about the prospects of working with this particular agency because of its reputation. Always include complements to the interviewer’s company to win over the recruiter and influence her final decision.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."