successfully prepare for your social work interview

Successfully prepare for your interview

By Gemma Raw

If you’ve been invited to attend an interview, then preparation is key. If you’ve applied for a social work job role through Sanctuary, you will be able to speak directly with your consultant who will be able to advise you on what the hiring manager is looking for. But beyond that, there’s still plenty of scope for you to undertake your own preparations prior to an interview. 

Background checking is key

Whether you are applying for an NQSW position, an independent assessor job role or even an AMHP job role, the processes of interview preparation will remain the same. Prior to attending the interview, you will need to be aware of the background of the employer. This will not only enable you to anticipate any questions relating to the job role itself, but it will give you a chance to discover what you would like to ask the employer yourself. 

Firstly, make sure you read through the prospective department’s pages on their website. Familiarise yourself with the senior management team and understand what their priorities are. You may wish to look up the most recent Ofsted inspection report – this will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation. You may also wish to look up the company on the Social Worker of the Year Awards website – after all, if they have been shortlisted (or won) for an award, you may be able to read case studies and feedback from peers. 

You can also make use of social media. Have a look at the organisation’s profile pages, not only will you be able to see what projects they are currently working on but you may gain an insight into the local area. If you’re planning to commute or even relocate, this may give you much more understanding of the opportunities. 

It’s important to note that the more background research you do, the easier it will be to engage with the interviewer. Yes they will be looking to question you on your own skills and what makes you right for the job role, but they’ll also be looking for someone with a genuine interest in the company. If you can ask them any questions about previous projects then it will reflect favourably on you. 

Know the job description like the back of your hand

Before walking into the interview room, make sure you are completely aware of everything required within the job description. 

The hiring manager will be looking for someone who is the right fit for the job role, so you need to be able to demonstrate why that person is you. Where possible, when selling yourself to the recruiter, try to use the same terminology that is used in the job advert – it may sound like a ‘box ticking’ exercise, but it could be enough to secure you the job. 

Hiring managers will know that not every candidate will fit every single requirement; with such a long list of requests, that will always be impossible. If there are any elements where you feel that you are lacking in the skills or experience, take the time to think about how you will explain this. Perhaps you are planning on undertaking some training, or maybe you would like to request a mentor from the team to provide you with any support needed. The hiring manager will be impressed that you’ve taken the initiative to combat any lagging attributes. 

Practice your interview skills

We all know the old adage, “practice makes perfect” and in the competitive jobs market, this in undeniably true.

If you can, try to practice your interview skills. Ask a friend or family member to ask you questions so you can prepare your answers in advance. You may find it beneficial to use the ‘record video’ feature on your phone so you can review your progress. If you find yourself stumbling over words or using “uh” and “um” then take a step back and think about what you want to say. 

A good tip is to always speak slowly. If you are asked a question, allow yourself a few seconds to consider your answer before speaking. Slowing down your speech will give your mind enough time to think about what you want to say, and will allow you to sell yourself much more effectively. It can also help to prepare answers to commonly asked questions. We've created children's services interview questions and adult services interview questions guides.

First impressions matter

We know that first impressions are important. Apparently it takes just eight seconds for a recruiter to form an impression of a candidate. 

To make the best impression that you can, ensure that you are dressed appropriately for the occasion. You may dress informally for the job itself, but you can never go wrong in an interview situation by being appropriately “suited and booted.” Make sure your shoes are clean, your hair is neat and don’t wear chipped nail polish – these are obvious tips, but they may provide you with that little extra confidence that you need. 

Body language is also important. A smile goes a long way, and try to offer a firm handshake as you greet the hiring manager. When sat down at the desk, make sure that you sit up straight and make direct eye contact with the interviewing panel. If there is a pen/pad on the desk do not fiddle or doodle – if you look disinterested from the very beginning you will not get the job.

We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your social work career.