“Stay calm and come prepared”: How to succeed in social work job interviews

Speaking at the COMPASS Jobs Fair, Steve Stuart highlighted important tips for maximising your performance in social work interviews with a number of different techniques.

07/01/22

“Stay calm and come prepared”: How to succeed in social work job interviews

A social work interview is your time to shine, Steve Stuart of VRIC Consulting told a seminar at the COMPASS Jobs Fair recently.

“It is no place to be modest. It’s about ‘I did this, I did that,’” Stuart highlighted.

He said that the key to letting interviewers know how you deal with real situations is in the examples you give, so candidates should make sure you have a range to demonstrate your skills and experience.

A good example, Steve said, passes what he called the CAR test:

Context – in which you describe the task,
Action – what you did, and
Result – how it worked out.

“Examples do not have to demonstrate perfect practice. How often does everything go perfectly?” Stuart added. “That's not an everyday occurrence. So showing that you can deal with things that don't go perfectly is a useful skill.”

He said that examples don’t all have to be work-related either. But they do have to be relevant.

You will be asked about every point on the job specification, so you need examples relating to each one, but one example can refer to several points in the spec.

However if you cross-refer to an earlier question, make that explicit: “if you don’t say that you want to add that point or example to your answer to an earlier question, it won’t be counted.”

“At the start, sit comfortably and put your notes out on a table if you can. Good body language helps. Smile and look interested. It really helps to engage.”

“Don’t worry about the interviewers who are writing things down. Concentrate on the person who is asking the question.”

In every interview, Steve said, there are some ‘easy wins’:
- You will be asked about health and safety, so mention risk assessment, trip hazards, fire safety, COVID.
- Similarly equal opportunities, the council or employer’s place in society; What are the council's overall aims and objectives? And how do they potentially fit into your particular role?
- Dealing with IT.
- Dealing with stress.
- Being part of a team.

At some points, interviewing panels will probe for more information from you if they feel you know more – so don’t just repeat what you have said. “Instead, pause. You can always say: ‘can I take ten seconds to think about that?’”

Some questions can be really convoluted – most panel members are not professional interviewers. So don't be afraid to ask panel members to repeat the question to make sure you have covered all their points.

A common question is to ask about your greatest weakness when you're working. “It is important to be honest and say, ‘I had this problem... So what I actually did was…’ That way, you are taking your weakness question and you're showing your corrective action.”

Finally, he encouraged participants to enjoy the interview. “How many opportunities do you get to showcase your skills, [talk about] why you wanted to become a social worker? And the fact is, that every time the job might grind you down… [with] these examples of where you have done well…you will remember why you became a social worker, about all the things that you wanted to do and when the outcome was fantastic. So enjoy the opportunity.”

You can register now for COMPASS events in 2022 to find more useful career advice, as well as seminars on the latest information in practice and policy: https://www.compassjobsfair.com/Events

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