20 Social Work Interview Questions and Answers

Sample social work interview questions with good interview answer help. Be well prepared for your social worker job interview and stand out as a professional and serious job candidate.

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This comprehensive list of social work interview questions and answers covers the key areas of a social worker's job and includes:

  • skills and experience interview questions
  • behavioral interview questions for social workers
  • motivational interview questions

Social Work Interview Questions - Skills, Experience, Strengths and Weaknesses

Prepare for typical social worker job interview questions that explore your relevant skills and experience. The interview answer guidelines will help you formulate your own good interview answers.

What have been some of your biggest accomplishments as a social worker?

Focus on accomplishments that show you are an excellent candidate for the job opportunity. Use specific examples of positive outcomes such as:

  • effectively managed a high caseload
  • reduced behavioral problems such as truancy 
  • involved in a successful pilot project
  • resolved complex cases
  • implemented successful treatment plans
  • developed group programs
  • successfully collaborated with community services to achieve a treatment objective

What do you consider your strengths as a social worker?

Focus on strengths that will be of value in the job you are interviewing for. This list of workplace strengths will help you identify your own relevant strengths.

And your weaknesses as a social worker?

Everyone has areas for improvement. Showcase your self awareness by identify a couple of weaknesses and discussing how you are working to improve them.

List of Workplace Weaknesses

Tell me about your experience relevant to this job

Demonstrate a clear understanding of the job requirements and refer to the relevant duties and responsibilities that you have undertaken in your previous jobs.

Social Worker Job Description

Expect social work interview questions that further explore your relevant experience in terms of the application of social work principles, techniques and practices including:

What techniques have worked well for you in crisis intervention?

How do you set and maintain professional boundaries?

How have you gone about learning about community services and resources?

What resources do you use in making your assessments and recommendations?

How do you stay on top of the "paperwork" involved in social work?

Discuss the tools and strategies you use to make time for your admin load. Key actions in managing the workload include:

  • scheduling a realistic amount of time to complete your admin in a timely and accurate manner
  • maintaining good communication with your managers and colleagues to ensure you have the necessary resources and tools for keeping up to date with your administrative tasks

How do you manage constantly shifting priorities in your work?

The employer is looking for evidence of your organizational skills. Discuss how you prioritize tasks and how you are able to quickly adapt to changing demands.

Provide an example of how you have had to adjust priorities quickly to meet new responsibilities and needs.

How do you go about building a relationship with the client?

Communication, empathy and trust are key to establishing effective relationships in the social work setting. Focus on your ability to:

  • listen actively and respectfully
  • ask questions to gain a clear understanding of your client's needs
  • express yourself clearly and adjust your communication style to the characteristics and needs of the client
  • attempt to see the situation from your client's point of view
  • develop trust by providing reliable and helpful information, giving honest feedback, demonstrating competence and facilitating initial small successes to build confidence

Behavioral Social Work Interview Questions

These social work interview questions explore those behaviors or competencies that are considered key to effective job performance as a social worker.

Tell me about a particularly complex case you worked on recently

Be concise and clear in your answer focusing on the actions you took and the outcomes. Key actions could include:

  • collecting all relevant data and information to accurately assess the client's needs and determine an appropriate treatment plan
  • collaborating with other professionals and services to ensure the best outcome

Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a professional about a treatment plan. How did you handle it?

Most social workers work as part of a team. Focus on the following collaborative behaviors in your interview answer:

  • your ability to listen to others
  • your ability to remain objective while asking for the rationale for a decision
  • your ability to check your and other's understanding of the situation
  • your ability to offer input and ideas while acknowledging and respecting other's input
  • your self awareness and willingness to be flexible when necessary

Tell me about a major disappointment you experienced in your work

Everyone experiences failure in their work and it should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. Resilience is a key requirement for a social worker and it is essential that you are able to handle disappointment while maintaining effectiveness.

Give an example of when you had to deal with conflict or confrontation in a work situation

It is important to try and keep the situation as conflict-free as possible. The key is to:

  • remain calm and objective
  • listen respectfully to the client to understand the reasons for the conflict
  • gather all the relevant facts and information so that you can determine the best course of action to diffuse the situation

Ethical dilemmas can arise in social work. How have you handled such a dilemma?

Social work interview questions about ethics explore your integrity and  judgment. Highlight how you are able to adhere to ethical norms, professional standards and relevant policies and procedures in handling an ethical dilemma. 

Every dilemma involves deciding on the most appropriate course of action. Show how you are able to use sound judgment in making this decision.

Tell me about a time you had to persuade a reluctant client to participate in a treatment plan

The focus is on your ability to influence and motivate the client. Highlight these key actions in your interview answer:

  • ask the right questions to find out the reason for the client's reluctance
  • acknowledge the client's objections and concerns
  • use the right communication methods and interpersonal style to address the client's concerns
  • clearly demonstrate to the client how the treatment plan will benefit and meet his or her needs
  • present possible alternatives and negotiate with the client to gain commitment to the plan if necessary

Find out more about answering behavioral interview questions

Social Work Interview Questions - Motivation

Be ready for social work interview questions that evaluate your motivation for social work in general and for this specific job opportunity.

Why did you choose a career in social work?

Avoid generic cliches such as "I want to help people". Provide an answer that is more substantial and specific. For example:

"As a social worker I am able to promote social justice by acting as an advocate for vulnerable people who often don't have a voice, particularly at-risk children. Social work provides me with a career that has meaning as well as being constantly challenging and diverse and rewarding."

Why have you chosen this specific field of social work?

Relate your chosen field of social work to your strengths and interests.

"I have chosen the field of family social work because I firmly believe the psycho-social health of the family is the bedrock for  the health and well-being of the community and of broader society. By strengthening family relationships we can restore and enhance the well-being of the community."

Why are you interested in this specific social worker position?

Make sure you have done your homework and researched the job and employer thoroughly. Have the facts ready to support your reasons. Use these resources to conduct background research on the employer.

Focus on aspects such as:

  • specific models of working
  • projects they are currently involved in
  • previous successes
  • the client demographic 

What do you know about the population we serve? Why does working with them interest you?

Again do your research and have a clear understanding of the target population. Focus on the skills and values you have that will benefit this population. Discuss your previous successes with the target group.

Why are you the right person for this position?

Refer to the job requirements and highlight how your strengths, skills and experience match up.

Good answers to Why should we hire you

What are your career goals for the next 5 years?

Avoid focusing on promotion or a career change in your interview answer. This may bring into question your commitment. Rather focus on personal and professional growth and development.

"I want to have developed my skills and expertise and to have successfully met the challenges that come with this position. I would like to be recognized as a social worker who has really added value to the community and made a positive difference in the lives of my clients"

How do you stay current with developments in social work?

The focus, in social work interview questions like this, is on your commitment to staying up to date in the field and to be alert to any legislative or regulatory changes that impact your work.

Discuss how you stay up-to-date with the latest treatment modalities, new interventions, models of engagement and best practices. Various ways to do this include:

  • subscribing to journals
  • belonging to professional groups
  • attending training courses

Ask smart questions in your social work interview

Asking the right questions in your interview sets you apart from the competition and highlights your professionalism. Examples of good questions to ask the employer include:

What is the most challenging aspect of this job?

How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?

Good Questions to Ask the Interviewer

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