Social work is a noble profession and it is quite possibly one of the most rewarding careers you could choose. Yet it is also one of the most difficult jobs in existence and every day delivers new challenges in ensuring that the needs of service users are being met. As a result, there are not enough social workers to fill the vacant roles, and that is why we need to encourage more undergrads and postgrads to take up the task.
For those who have chosen to study social work at university, once you have completed the application, you may be invited to the university for a selection day or interview. Getting an interview is an achievement on its own, with the potential to shape your future career. To increase your chance of success, check out our top tips for making sure you relish this opportunity to shine and always put your best foot forward.
Universities are usually clear about their expectations and requirements before the application process begins. As a result, you should have some awareness about what they are expecting of their students. Don’t forget to check out the course modules as well, as it is here you will be able to find some points of reference for your pre-interview research. You should also consider the necessary values and principles that underpin the social work profession and how these relate to your experience. If possible, speak to somebody who is already a social worker or check out people’s experiences of the interview process online for an idea of what you are likely to expect.
It is completely normal to be nervous before your interview, but proper prep and research can go a long way to calming those butterflies. Research can be an essential component in success, and anticipating the questions that may be asked will help you to prepare your answers. It is also a good idea to research current news related to social work practice, as they may ask questions related to these.
Although you will be unexpected to know everything right now, it is advised to have some awareness of the Code of Ethics, the Knowledge and skills statements (KSS) and the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). These documents will not only guide your learning, but they will also be essential for future practice.
We have all heard the saying that practice makes perfect, and you could ask a family member or a friend to practice mock interview situations. Feedback is also a crucial component of social work practice, so encourage your ‘interviewer’ to give honest critical feedback as well as pointers as to how you might improve.
First impressions are crucial, and we never get the opportunity to make them twice. For example, you should dress the part, with smart professional clothes being preferred. Professionalism is one of the domains within the Professional Capabilities Framework, and having a professional demeanour throughout your interview can make all the difference.
When you are in the interview, pay attention to your body language and what non-verbal messages you are communicating. This could be as simple as making sure you are not sitting with your arms crossed, offering a firm handshake and making direct eye contact. Whatever happens, remember that being open, polite and friendly can go a long way.
Beating the Nerves
It is completely natural to be worried about the interview process and there are so many different tools you can use to beat the nerves and ensure you deliver a successful interview. For example, breathing techniques and positive affirmations can go a long way when the nerves are getting the best of you. Arriving early could also help you to acclimatise to your environment, as well as allowing you to explore the campus; where potentially you could be spending a lot of time in the future. When your name is called, take another moment to breathe, relax and repeat your affirmations-you got this!
Questions and Answers
As we have previously said, it’s a good idea to consider the questions that you may be asked and have some answers already prepared. Some example questions may include:
Why do you want to work in social work?
What are your experiences in the health and social care field?
What are your ideal position and career path?
The first question is particularly important as this will indicate your motivation for studying the course. It is important to remember that whilst going into social work to help those who are most vulnerable is a key reason, it is also quite common as you can imagine. Flavour your answers with personal reasons, anecdotes, experiences, and highlight why you feel that you would be successful in this profession. Drawing attention to your achievements, express your personal story and also highlight why you think social work plays such an essential role in society. You may also be asked hypothetical scenario-based questions, such as the steps you would take in providing care to an example service user. It is important to remember that you are not expected to know all of the answers at this stage, but instead, they are evaluating your initial intuitive response. Moreover, some universities may also use a written task during the interview process to analyse your writing ability.
Know your skillset
The majority of courses require a certain amount of hours experience in the health and social care field, and you will be given the opportunity to talk about this. However, any work experience in any field could also be relevant, and it is important to be able to identify your transferable skills. However, it is also important to highlight your personal knowledge gaps and be aware of your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Critical reflection is an important part of practice, so demonstrate your willingness to learn and think about how you can improve as part of your personal and professional development.
A Two Way Street
Do not be afraid to ask questions. An interview is ultimately a two-way process, in that you are also interviewing the university to see if it’s the right fit for you. Think about some questions that you can ask before. Having a few intelligent thoughtful questions to hand can make a great impression and if necessary, write them down to ensure you don’t forget them.