Questions You May Be Asked in a
Social Work Job Interview
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.
“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!
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
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.
- Have you
read the job description? Do you have any questions?
- What led
you to apply for this job?
interests you in working for XYZ agency?
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
training and experience do you have that you would apply to
working here? (this is where we go through your resume
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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?
these questions, I would be probing for a deeper level of
information, just as you would do in a client assessment
- 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.
- At this
point, what is your level of interest in the job?
- What is
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.
by the author