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Interviewing for a position as a professional social worker can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, especially if you're a recent graduate or returning to the workforce. Since social work is a people-oriented profession, it's important to demonstrate your exceptional communication skills during the interview. And as with any job interview, you'll need advance preparation, a knowledge of the field and the agency you want to work for and a positive, confident attitude.
One of the most critical things you can do is to research the organization where you are interviewing. If you have a number of job interviews lined up, seek out specific knowledge about each organization, so you can show the interviewer that you don't just want any job – you want this job. You should be able to explain what it is about this particular organization that appeals to you. Be knowledgeable about the organization's area of practice and any relevant policy or legislative changes.
Practicing and rehearsing the job interview with someone – or even in front of a mirror – can help you formulate coherent and thoughtful responses to many common social work interview questions. One of the most common questions is why you decided to become a social worker. This can be a loaded question, as many social workers decide to enter the profession because of personal experiences. While it's acceptable to disclose a little information, such as a good experience you had with a social worker when you were younger, the interview should not turn into a therapy session. Keep it short and simple, but don't be afraid to be honest.
You don't need to sound like a used-car salesman, but you should be able to highlight your skills and/or previous contributions to the profession. Focus on your strengths, desirable or unique traits and/or experience that will benefit the organization. For example, you should be able to explain why you excel at leading groups or conducting assessments. Because social work typically involves interacting with people in difficult or challenging circumstances, show that you can keep calm and cool during the interview and not get nervous. Make eye contact, sit up straight, present a firm confident handshake and speak slowly, with control.
An interview is a two-way street. You're also interviewing your potential employer to see if the organization is a good match for you. Asking questions about the organization and the position proves that you are interested and enthusiastic. You might consider asking questions about growth opportunities within the organization or the most important qualities and traits a candidate needs to be successful in this position.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.