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Whether you’re looking for work as a clinical social worker who counsels individuals and families in trouble or as a direct-service social worker who guides people to the assistance they need, you care about your clients. During the interview, use every opportunity to show recruiters how you put your compassionate nature to work for others, how you incorporate your training and education in your work and how excited you are about the possibility of joining the organization.
Tell Me About Yourself
Most recruiters ask this open-ended question as an introduction and way to get to know about your background, experience and the things that make you passionate about social work. Rather than rehashing your resume, use this question to relate a story about a social worker who was influential in your early life or talk about the volunteer work you do in your community and how great you feel after helping someone less fortunate achieve a goal. Describe how this passion drove you to study social work and other languages and how you excelled in school, further validating that you made the best career choice.
Why Should We Hire You?
You may have the requisite degrees and licenses needed for the job, but so do other candidates. Recruiters want to ensure that you‘ll fit in with the culture of the organization. For this question, you want to highlight your communication skills by talking about the various teams you worked on at your last job or how you lead an outreach committee; include outcomes from your past experiences. Present a story about an outreach campaign you initiated and how it resulted in an increase in community support. Give specific examples of how you worked with your peers and how well projects turned out. Reference your research into the agency and assure the recruiter that the company goals and mission statement precisely align with your own beliefs and values.
How Do You Handle Stress?
High caseloads and troubled clients can create enormous stress for social workers. Managers need to know they have competent, well-adjusted employees on hand who don’t fall apart when crises occur. Talk about your belief in balance and your talents at being able to create environments free of stress in your home. Highlight your extracurricular activities such as playing an instrument or running and tell the recruiter the importance of your health to your overall mental well-being. Explain that you eat well, sleep and rest at night and can get others to breathe deeply and change directions when they get stressed out. Provide an example of when you applied your relaxation techniques with clients and the results of your intervention.
How Are Your Writing and Speaking Skills?
Writing reports and talking with peers and clients are integral skills needed to be successful in the field of social work and sometimes difficult to gauge in a simple interview. Answer questions about your technical skills with more examples of how you engaged a group of mothers to form a support network and spoke at their annual volunteer recognition dinner. Carry copies of newsletter articles you wrote for your previous employer or for a group with whom you volunteer. Refer to your exceptional grades in English and public speaking at school as well as your ongoing participation in continuing education courses to improve your writing and speaking skills. Include references to professional groups that you belong to and the committee work you do with those groups, as well as any positions you hold within the organization, to further highlight your commitment to self-improvement and to your career.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."