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Social Work Beginners: Preparing for your First Interview

Your first adult job interview can be intimidating, especially so when it’s in an area like social work. Making mistakes in a call centre might annoy a customer but is unlikely to do any more that. Making a mistake as a social worker can have big consequences for the lives of multiple people. What that means is that even after years of training, you might be more nervous than other people about this interview.

Today we’re going to help you prepare, so you can face those social work interview questions with confidence rather than anxiety.

Prepare

The first and most important piece of advice is to prepare. You can’t sit back and rely on things being ‘alright on the night’ – you need to put the time in to thinking about this upcoming job interview, even if you’d really rather not, because facing your nerves ahead of the interview allow you to be less affected by them on the day.

Get Specific

When you’re answering questions in an interview the most important thing is specificity. Sounding nervous, stuttering or pausing isn’t a great disadvantage: the people interviewing you can make allowances for people who are nervous, but not for simply not getting the information they need to make a decision. Sounding confident but talking in generalities that don’t really convey anything, won’t get you as far as a stuttering but considered account of how are well qualified for the position you’re interviewing for.

Being specific means two important when you’re interviewing: giving specific, quantifiable answers to questions, and making sure the examples you use are specifically related to the job you’re interviewing for.

The first instance means making sure you know your facts and figures, and dates and times. Your training and studies should have included both work experience and the chance to write extended research projects and essays. Make sure you’re able to discuss exactly what you wrote about, and where you did your placements. Saying you worked with children is less effective than being able to name the service you worked for, the people you worked with and specific challenges you faced and how you overcame them or worked around them.

The second kind of specificity you need means choosing examples to talk about that are relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. If you’re interviewing for a job working with addicts, lean on examples of work experience that relate to that directly.

Research

Getting this right means research. Make sure you know what the job is you’re applying for, and some of the history of the service or institution it’s based in. Understanding the culture you’re going into helps you shape responses so they’ll be appreciated by the panel interviewing you. If it’s for a post attached to a prison that’s reforming and modernising, talking about your enthusiasm for new working practices will be appreciated, for example!

Getting specific, preparing and doing your research will give you your best chance on the day. There’s no way to guarantee a successful outcome, but if you don’t do the work you almost certainly guarantee failure.

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