How to impress at your next social work interview

By preparing yourself thoroughly, you can increase your chances of landing social work job you want

By John Eccleston

Do your research

Before an interview, don’t just research the role you’ve applied for. By the time you turn up, you should know about the organisation, what it does and details like where its offices are.

The internet is your friend. All of this information is at your fingertips, and a few hours’ research will give you a good picture of the organisation.

You should also find out what the format of the interview will be. Will you be interviewed by more than one person? Will it be a group interview? Are there any tests or exercises involved?

By finding these out in advance you’ll avoid any nasty surprises on the day.

This research will also help you to put together some questions of your own, which are essential. It’s not enough to answer the interviewer’s questions successfully – you’ll be expected to ask your own.

For example, you could ask whether the role is a new one or a replacement, how it fits into the wider organisation and what the employers’ plans for the future are. And if you can ask questions based on things you’ve discovered through your pre-interview research, even better.

Also, dig around for any recent news or developments across social work. You’ll impress by showing an awareness of current issues and forthcoming changes.

Know your story
This might sound strange, but it’s just as important to do some research into yourself. The interviewer will be asking about your skills and experience, as well as possibly asking questions about your personality and preferences.

Review your CV and refresh yourself on the details of what you’ve done in your career so you can confidently answer any questions about yourself.

If you’re well versed in your career history it will be much easier to link yourself to the needs of the role and the expectations of the organisation.

Think about the career path that has led you to the interview. Interviewers will want to see that you have a firm career plan in mind and that you haven’t simply stumbled from one role to the next.

Consider how your previous roles have got you to this stage and be prepared to communicate that in the interview.

Prepare some answers
Like it or not, there’ll be some standard interview questions that you won’t be able to avoid.

You’re likely to be asked questions such as ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ and ‘why do you want to work here’, so take time beforehand to think about what your answers might be.

It pays to build a basic profile of yourself and to think about how your skills and experience tie in with the expectations of the employer. This will help you to deal with the type of generic questions you’ll hear across various interviews.

Don’t blow the basics
At the risk of stating the obvious – if you’re late for an interview you might as well not turn up at all (unless you have a seriously good reason).

An interview is your chance to make the best impression. If you can’t make it there on time, why should they expect you to turn up on time once you’ve got the job?

Plan your journey well, and give yourself plenty of breathing space beforehand. It’s better to have a spare half hour with a coffee to prepare yourself rather than turning up sweaty and red-faced after rushing to arrive on time or, even worse, being late.

Don’t turn up empty-handed. Take paper, a pen (or two!), and a copy of your CV and cover letter to help jog your memory. If the recruiter has sent any materials in advance of the interview, take those along too.

And turn your mobile phone off. It’s bad enough when a phone rings in the cinema – imagine how much worse it is during a job interview.

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