Interview Skills

Performing effectively in interviews

In these uncertain times it has never been more important to have the right attitude to interviews, whether you are newly qualified or an experienced social worker - considering the following issues should help you whatever employment challenge you face.

Preparation is key

Be passionate and knowledgeable about your subject or your area of expertise. Review relevant legislation and the policy framework that surrounds it - this will suggest to the interviewers that this is more than a job to you and that you keep up-to-date with the research that will help you perform most effectively.

Prepare five or six examples that demonstrate your qualities as a social worker. This will vary drastically depending on your level of experience but no matter what your level be wary to not divulge too many case issues. Ensure you focus on the practice issues you have faced and subsequently overcome. Keep your examples balanced and interesting and always keep in mind what personal qualities you are trying to demonstrate.

Take the time to write down two or three questions that you would like to ask at the end of the interview. Remember, an interview is a two-way process; you need to find out whether the job is right for you as well as whether they want you.

A positive attitude will get you far

An interview panel wants you to do well; after all, they want to fill the position with the best possible candidate. Project a confident and calm attitude and never be afraid to talk positively about your qualities and successes.

So much of social work is about interaction; remember this throughout your interview and ensure that you are engaging, that you maintain eye contact and are unafraid to show your personality.

Answer the question

The questions you are asked will be designed to allow you to demonstrate your skills and your understanding of the kind of work you will be engaged in. With this in mind, think about the purpose of your answer before you begin giving it and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you think it is necessary.

As much as possible use specific examples from your practice, placement or academic work and engage the panel by outlining the issues that are involved, the pressures you have faced and most importantly, how you solved problems using your expertise and professional instinct. Social work is a people-based profession - there is no harm in emphasising the human-interest angle in your examples.

After the storm

You cannot get every job - sometimes you will lose out to someone with more relevant or extensive experience. However, that does not mean the process has been a waste of time.

Evaluate your own performance, learn from your mistakes and address these weaknesses before your next interview. Always ask for feedback from the panel if it is available, ensure you do not take this personally and that you are willing to act on the advice given.