Interviewing to be a social worker is no different from any other interview--be prepared, practice, and let your best qualities shine. It's also a great idea to arrive 15 minutes early, wear professional attire, and bring a copy of your CV. That said, it's best to do your research about the organization and what specific questions will pop up -- because they will, time and again. The more prepared and knowledgeable you appear at the interview, the better your chances are.
Know The Questions In Advance
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The same questions arise at every social work interview, so this is your chance to be extra prepared. Interviewers will want to know general information such as why you've chosen a career in social work, what you hope to accomplish in your career, what have been your successes and failures in past case work, and what experience you've had working with different races and sexual orientations. The interviewer will also be curious about whether you're an active listener, have good boundaries and are sensitive/intuitive, as well as how you carry out a psychological assessment, whether you're into short-term or long-term treatment, and how you've dealt with both good and bad clients. Also, make sure you're prepped for questions about your specific field, such as what your family therapy theory is based on, how you'd objectively counsel a teen about an abortion, how to spot signs of neglect, and your opinion on managed care.
Prepare Personal Stories
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Interviewers love specific examples of how you've tackled past problems, dealt with tricky cases, or come up with creative solutions. Make sure to practice ahead of time two to three stories that illustrate how you solved a problem at work and two to three additional stories that show how you learned something new on the job.Tell your stories using this format: problem, action, result, meaning what exactly the issue was, what steps you took to solve it, and what the end result was. Having these types of stories in your back pocket is a great way for potential employers to assess your personality. It's easy to say you're a creative thinker, but even better to give a detailed example that shows just that.
Let Your Best Personality Traits Shine
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The social workers that employers want to hire have a very specific set of personality traits. The most coveted skills are: compassion, listening skills, organizational skills, people skills, problem-solving skills and time-management skills. Be sure to highlight whichever of these traits you have, and do so through your prepared stories if you can. Interviewers will try to surmise these qualities by asking how well you work without supervision, whether you'd rather design a program or implement it, and what kind of problems you like to handle.
Ask Questions and Follow-Up
If you've already reviewed the organization's website and know by heart their programs, history, mission, philosophy and client system served, good job. If not, get reading. You'll need this information to prepare a list of questions and show your potential new boss how eager you are. Ask about the staff structure, what types of clients you'll be working with, what kind of professional growth and opportunities you can expect, what kind of feedback, support, and supervision you'll encounter, and what the interview decision process will be like. After all, you want to make sure the job is a good fit for you as well. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer within 12 hours, and feel free to follow up after a week if you haven't heard anything.
Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.