‘Don’t assume finding social work jobs through an agency will be an easy ride, even if you’re experienced’

Agency social work can be a good option, but the interviews can be as tough as they would be for a permanent job, warns one agency worker in the south of England

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By an agency social worker, who wishes to remain anonymous

A couple of years ago, I decided I needed a break from social work, so I took early retirement. But after a couple of months, I realised I still wanted to do social work, but at a level where I would have fewer hours and less responsibility (I had been a manager before). So I joined an agency in November last year.

I was reassured by the strict criteria of the agency I found; they required three references and a comprehensive CV. Former colleagues said it would be easy to get work.

What I didn’t realise is that all of the different agencies are competing for one pool of jobs. I was only invited to five interviews in six months.

One did offer me the job, but then they wanted to fight about the rate at which I would come in. They said I wasn’t experienced enough for the full rate – yet I have been working in social care for 25 years.

I qualified as a social worker in 1997 and have worked in assessment teams and hospitals, to name but a few, and at various levels of seniority up to service manager.

One interview was for a team leader. They asked within 24 hours of the interview for me to do a presentation. I did get something together and it seemed to go well. But then I didn’t hear anything back. That’s happened on three or four occasions.

During another interview I was tested on the council’s electronic recording systems, which seemed a bit unfair. Then the manager interviewing me was rude and said my CV didn’t tell him anything.

Yet in another authority, the manager invited me to an interview, saying he’d read my CV and just wanted to have a chat. I had the job within two hours.

I started there last Monday. There are a lot of agency staff on the team, because the service is restructuring and needs to be flexible. They are also looking for experienced who, because they Think a lot of newly qualified and there is a big learning gap. I think, if all goes well, they will offer me a permanent contract, so it’s a good way in.

So, after all of that, I would recommend agency work, but you must be prepared; it’s by no means an easy ride. The interviews can be as rigorous as they would be for a permanent job.

Read our analysis on why local authorities are using more agency social workers

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2 Responses to ‘Don’t assume finding social work jobs through an agency will be an easy ride, even if you’re experienced’

  1. Liz McAteer November 28, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Why shouldn’t agency workers have the same criteria applied when attending an interview as those who are applying for a permanent post? Anyone who is employed as a social worker, whether in an agency or permanent position will be doing exactly the same kind of work and the positions need to be filled by candidates of the highest calibre. Service delivery to those who we work with should be the best we can give, in the same way we require the services we receive for ourselves and families to be of high quality. All social workers should keep their skills, knowledge and research up to date and be able to demonstrate this at interview, regardless of the avenue they are taking to acquire the job.

    • Cara November 29, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Nobody said the standards should not be the same, the individual is simply correcting the misconception that securing agency work is somehow easier.