Job done: interviews for graduate roles in social work

Find out what to expect from your interview for a graduate social work job and how to tackle typical interview questions – and pick up ideas for questions you could ask your interviewers.

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Interviews for graduate social work roles are often carried out by a panel. It may seem daunting, but this format is often quicker than a series of meetings. It's fairer too: if a solitary interviewer misunderstands one of your answers, for example, they can be overruled by others.

For some roles, you may be asked to complete some practical tests such as an in-tray exercise or drafting a briefing. You may be invited to meet service users: they may serve on the interview panel or you may just have an informal chat. Either way, the aim is for your recruiters to see how you interact with your potential clients.

Be prepared

You should know about the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Make this your reference guides to the skills and qualities you're expected to demonstrate at this early stage in your career: make a note of situations when you've shown these skills and be ready to talk about them.

Most of the interview questions won't come as a surprise to you if you've studied the job description and person specification carefully and researched the organisation. Think about how you can demonstrate the skills needed, and practise your responses so you feel confident. Your university careers service may also offer mock interviews if you need extra practice.

Tips for interviews for social worker jobs

  • Research the employer and the position to find out more about the nature of the job and the work environment. Remind yourself why you want to work for this employer.
  • Revise your knowledge of legislation, relevant current affairs, developments in practice and career frameworks. You could resources you found useful during your studies, carry out online research or reach out to one of your lecturers to make sure you’re as up-to-date as you can be.
  • Identify ‘problem areas’ that you might encounter in the interview and consider how to answer questions about any difficult issues such as time out from your course or health problems.
  • Prepare and practise. Find out as much as you can about the interview format and if there are any other elements to the selection process, such as presentations – then practise showing the essential skills you think are likely to be assessed here, such as clear communication.
  • Keep up to date with current affairs. Be ready to talk about changes in social work and think about how they might affect you.
  • Review your application form in case you're asked to discuss any of the answers you provided in more detail.
  • Make some lists of situations in which you've demonstrated the skills in the job description and the relevant sections of the Professional Capabilities Framework.
  • Go in ready to project a positive attitude. Reminding yourself of what excites you about the job and your desire to make a difference might help with this.

Prepare answers for typical interview questions in advance

You could be asked the following types of questions:

Hypothetical questions. These feature scenarios that are likely to be situations that you could come across on the job. For example, you could be asked, ‘What would you do if you felt threatened during a home visit?’

Questions about yourself, the employer and the job. These questions are often a way for the employer to find out more about your motivation; for example:

  • Why did you choose to study social work?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • Why should we employ you?

Competency questions. These questions relate to the competencies needed for the job. You could be asked to give examples of the following:

  • a time when you had to work with others to solve a problem
  • a time when you refused to compromise
  • a time when you had to make a difficult decision.

Try to use examples from your practice, placement or academic work, and outline the issues involved, the pressures you faced and how you solved problems. Describe how you acted and any outcomes.

It's likely that you will be asked questions relating to dealing with stress, contributing to a team and making good use of supervision.

Questions you could ask at interview

It’s also a good idea to prepare some questions to ask. Here are some possibilities:

  • Ask about progression and training. Would you have a mentor? Is there room for progression?
  • Ask your interviewers about their work for the organisation (but try not to seem interrogative). How did they progress to their current roles? What do they enjoy most about their day-to-day job?
  • Ask whether and how a social work-related news story you read recently is having an impact on work at the employer.

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