‘Don’t give up’: 10 job-hunting tips for newly qualified social workers

A newly qualified social worker shares what she learned from her 16-month-long hunt for her first social work job

job application

By a newly qualified social worker

On my last count, I notched up at least 13 failed interviews – four of which I believe I was overqualified for. As you can imagine, this did wonders for my confidence.

As a newly qualified social worker, it seemed my lack of experience within the social work field somehow made me an ‘unsuitable’ candidate for a ‘social work’ job.

Oddly enough, my applications for a support worker job didn’t do much better either. I was clearly over qualified, but employers didn’t want to touch me with a barge pole.

After countless failed attempts and just as I frivolously prepared to except my fate as a ‘jobless’ newly qualified social worker, the ‘impossible’ happened: I landed my first social work job in child protection.

Was it just luck? I doubt it.

The last 16 months felt like I was in a boxing ring; battered and bruised after every interview but, what do you know, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And along the way I subconsciously learned so much about the interview process.

As I impart my top 10 tips on how to secure a job as a newly qualified social worker, let me say I’m totally aware of the frustration that has grow fiercely amongst NQSWs. There’s no point sugar coating it: you’re up against stiff competition, particularly in the North, but perseverance and a passion for a career in social work will shine through every time.

So don’t give up, it’s not impossible – regardless of however many knock backs you get.

My top 10 job-hunting tips for NQSWs

  1. Read up about the council or organisation you are applying for. Find their latest Ofsted report. Employers like to know you have researched about where you hope to work – it shows you’re enthusiastic and eager.
  2. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the job. Start to compile a set of notes for the feedback employers give you. Ask them questions about issues you don’t understand – this information is invaluable.
  3. Social work interviews are competency based. Think about real-life examples during your placement or voluntary work that you could talk about. Use these examples to illustrate your answers but do try to ensure they are relevant to the question asked.
  4. I can’t stress how much you need to know about current legislation and the law. You’re almost guaranteed to be asked about this in your interview.
  5. You are newly qualified – use it to your advantage. You are keen, enthusiastic and want to be given a chance. Sell yourself to the employer.
  6. Before you start applying for social work positions, ensure you are HCPC registered and signed up to the DBS update service. It also helps to get two written references from any of your previous employers. Asking them repeatedly to provide references for you can become annoying.
  7. You are applying for a job as a social worker so you better know how to multi-task. Talk about how you work under pressure and think about examples from past experiences.
  8. Applying theory to practice is important, so I suggest you start looking back at your uni notes (yes, I know you don’t want to). Get up to speed with good old ‘Bowlby’ and discuss current and relevant research in areas such as sexual exploitation, etc.
  9. You’re newly qualified and you can’t be expected to know everything, but I would say read up on issues around fostering and adoption. You will be expected to have minimal knowledge about this topic even if you have no experience.
  10. Finally, social work is all about team work and being able to communicate with a wide range of individuals. Again, have examples ready about how you have worked independently and in a team environment.

And as my lecturer always said: “If you give up, you will never know how close you were to succeeding.”

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One Response to ‘Don’t give up’: 10 job-hunting tips for newly qualified social workers

  1. Jan Carpenter April 25, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    As an adult social work practitioner manager and interview coach I am often shocked at the frequency of experienced social workers who lack decent interviewing skills. So I would say don’t be disheartened focus on thorough preparation using these 10 top tips and remember 2 key points if any:

    1. Conveying good knowledge about law and theory applied practically to your awareness of general, as well as local, issues/themes fused with your experience is essential.
    2. Demonstrate motivational energy and a working rapport with the interviewers – as it will give an indication about how you build fast, dynamic and productive relationships with individuals and groups/teams.

    If you are an NQSW or experienced social worker looking for support on preparing for interviews feel free to contact me.