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Social Work Interview Questions Article

Questions You May Be Asked in a
Social Work Job Interview

 By Elizabeth R. Rose, MSW

It may be your first interview after graduating with your BSW or MSW or it may just be one of many career changes you will be making. If you are serious about your next job, you will be just a little nervous about the interview. As a long-time social work manager, primarily in hospitals, I am going to share with you the questions and techniques I have used over the years. Since I am no longer interviewing job candidates, I feel comfortable sharing these questions and tips with you.

Right now “Behavioral Interviewing” is all the rage. According to Alison Doyle, of About Job Searching, Behavioral based interviewing is interviewing based on discovering how the interviewee acted in specific employment-related situations. The logic is that how you behaved in the past will predict how you will behave in the future i.e. past performance predicts future performance. More on Behavioral Interviewing.

You may guess, that with my social work training, I have been using behavioral interviewing for ages!

When I interview, I usually start by putting the job candidate at ease (as if that is possible!). I may ask questions like, “Did you have much trouble finding us?” or, “How’s the traffic out there today?”

I interview starting with general, easy questions first. I then get more specific and ask the tougher questions. Between you and me, if your interview never does get very specific and if it lasts less than 45 minutes (unless I have told you it is a brief screening interview), I have probably decided you are not a match for the job. Often, I will tell a job candidate this toward the end of the interview, point out their strengths and offer alternative ideas to the position I am interviewing for.

 General Questions:

  • Have you read the job description? Do you have any questions?

And then…

  • What led you to apply for this job?
  • What interests you in working for XYZ agency?
  • What interests you about working with the XYZ population. If the agency serves the homeless, I would ask about their interest there. If we serve cancer patients, I would ask what interests them about working with cancer patients. (You get the idea)
  • What training and experience do you have that you would apply to working here? (this is where we go through your resume together)

The More Specific, Tougher Questions:

Here is where behavioral interviewing takes place. I usually start by asking a series of questions such as:

  • Tell me about a case you worked on where you felt you were particularly effective.
  • Tell me about the toughest case you ever worked on.
  • I would give my own case example and have the applicant walk me through the assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation process.
  • What types of clients are difficult for you to work with? What are your thoughts on why that might be?
  • How and when do you use supervision? What type of supervision do you prefer?
  • What is it about supervisors, clients and co-workers that can frustrate you?  How do you handle your frustrations?
  • What is your work style? What do you do to seek balance in your life?
  • What do you do when you are faced with an ethical conflict? Have you experienced this in your work? What can you tell me about how you handled this?

Throughout these questions, I would be probing for a deeper level of information, just as you would do in a client assessment interview.

 Career-Oriented Questions:

  • What are your career goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would be your role and what services would you be providing.

 Wrap-up Questions: 

  • At this point, what is your level of interest in the job?
  • What is your availability?
  • What questions can I answer for you?

I always share with the applicant what the next steps will be. If they haven’t filled out a formal application and signed a release so that I can contact references, I walk them down to Human Resources so they can fill out an application. A formal application is necessary so we can check references, run a background check and check licensure status. 

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Copyright Elizabeth R. Rose, MSW. All Rights Reserved.

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