Congratulations! Your impressive resume and well-crafted cover letter have made such an impression that you’re now scheduled to interview for a social work position. This is a great opportunity to let your personality shine through and demonstrate your passion for helping people. It's natural to feel a little nervous, especially if this is your first social work job interview, but don't worry: You got this far because of your knowledge and experience, and with a little preparation, you can nail the interview, too.
Remember that, first and foremost, this a way for you and your interviewers to get a sense of whether you would be a good fit for this position. Proper fit is especially important in the demanding, yet immensely fulfilling field of social work, so you should aim to have a solid understanding of what would be expected of you and whether you would enjoy the position by the end of your interview.
Below, we’ve compiled seven key strategies that can help you nail your job interview and land you one step closer to a meaningful career in social work.
1. Research the Organization and Position
Your interviewers will expect you to have done your homework—doing so indicates your interest in the position and prepares you to have an educated conversation about your qualifications. Learn everything you can about the organization where you want to work: What does it do, and what clients does it serve? Who might be interviewing you, and what kind of people work there? And what skills—both soft (strong communication skills, a cooperative outlook) and hard (specific case management software)—are required for the position?
2. Anticipate Their Questions
Though you don't want to sound scripted, you do want to have your best answers at hand. Look over some lists of common social work interview questions in advance and think through how you would approach them. Be specific and direct. Your interviewers will likely want to hear examples of how you have addressed problems in the past, how you overcame mistakes, what you've learned from your experiences and how you have successfully worked as part of a team.
Get your jitters out of the way before the day of your interview. Find a partner to give you a mock interview. Ideally, this should be someone who knows the social work field and can evaluate your answers, but if that’s not possible, at least try to share a list of anticipated questions with the person in advance. Ask them to be honest with you. Do you seem confident? Do you feel confident? Are you speaking clearly, making strong eye contact, and avoiding awkward pauses and filler words?
4. Dress Appropriately
Wear professional clothing to your interview, even if the position itself would require a more casual wardrobe. Your appearance the moment you walk through the door is a key part of your first impression, and you want to project seriousness, confidence and a professional presence.
5. Arrive on Time and Prepared
Know where you're going in advance and allow ample time for traffic or any other unexpected complications. Bring copies of your resume, as well as your professional and personal references. Remember that your interview begins the moment you walk in the door. Consider each interaction (a welcome from the receptionist, an office tour from an HR representative) part of the process.
6. Ask Intelligent Questions
At the end of your interview, you'll have the opportunity to ask questions of your own. This serves two functions: It lets you learn more about the position, and it shows your interviewers that you are thoughtful, curious and have done your research. Plan these questions in advance, based on your own research into the organization and the position. And don’t forget to ask for business cards so you can properly follow up.
7. Send Thank You Emails
As soon as you can (and definitely within 24 hours of the interview), send an email to each person you interviewed with to thank them for their time and consideration. To avoid sounding formulaic and set yourself apart from other candidates, make sure to reference something unique you discussed during the interview. If you’re really excited about the position, now is the time to reinforce your enthusiasm. Maintaining a line of cordial communication demonstrates your interest, keeps you on the hiring manager’s radar and shows that you’re the kind of amiable person who would make a great coworker.
Note: Handwritten thank you notes are acceptable, but it’s still a good idea to send an initial thank you email for the sake of immediacy.
The above steps are good practice regardless of your professional and academic qualifications, but they can only take you so far toward achieving your social work dream job. While you may be qualified for entry-level jobs in social services with a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Social Work (MSW) can open up more job possibilities and may be necessary for specific kinds of social work licensure, depending on where you live.
Consider how the online Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work could serve you, and then check out our overview of jobs available with an MSW as well as detailed advice on choosing the right social work specialty for you.