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Some social work interview questions come up more frequently than others. So we’ve asked our Head of Social Work Recruitment, Craig Davis, and consultants Jade Bradlaugh (Children’s) and John Rudland (Adults), to share their thoughts on what make good answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. 




Can you tell me about yourself?


Craig: “Try to avoid listing your qualities, unless of course you are asked to describe yourself in three words.  The employer wants to hear about your individual skill-set and why you are suitable for the role. If you like to challenge yourself, work well in a team and have a highly adaptable approach, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate these with real examples. Do try to keep your examples brief though. There will be plenty of opportunity for you to talk more about your specific experience later in the interview.”

Can you give an example of something you are proud of in your social work career?


John: “This is your chance to show how innovative and resourceful you are. If you’ve got experience of creative support planning, here’s your chance to say how valuable this can be in adult social care. Use your knowledge of the local area to show how you would draw upon the support already available in the community.”

Jade: “You could focus on how you managed to assist a family in making positive changes in their life when the situation initially looked very different. Or you could highlight where you’ve taken the lead on an innovative project, or focus on a specialist area of practice you are trained in, for example Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) protocol.”

What do you know about working for our local authority? 


Craig: “You’ll need to show how you’ve taken the time to research the local demographic and services provided. Our consultants will be able to help you with this, but there’s no replacement for doing your own research; checking the local authority’s website, identifying relevant media coverage and viewing recent Ofsted reports. If the local authority has been involved in piloting a project in social care, recognise this. It demonstrates how knowledgeable and resourceful you are.”

How do you prioritise your caseload?


Jade: “You will need to show how adaptable you are and how seriously you take meeting deadlines whilst balancing the need to address urgent enquiries that require action.”

John: “Being able to demonstrate how you communicate with your peers and managers to facilitate effective case management is key. Always be ready with two or three examples if you can.”

Could you give me an example of a complex case you were involved with?


Jade:“If the role is in children’s services, be concise when explaining the case and underline your understanding of child support, safeguarding and protection within the context of relevant legislation. You may also be asked to review an example case of a child who may be at risk and identify what processes you would follow and what multi-agency checks you might make.”

John: “If it’s an adult social work position, be ready to explain your understanding of your legal responsibilities with regards to adult safeguarding following the introduction of the Care Act 2014. Depending on the role, you might wish to discuss Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and when mental capacity assessments are appropriate.”

What is your experience in working with partner agencies?


Craig: “Employers will be looking at how well you work with partners to secure positive outcomes for vulnerable people, whether children or adults. External agencies will sometimes have conflicting concerns or differing views – you will need to be able to explain how you manage this in order to secure the best outcomes for people.”

Jade: “Multi-agency working is a really strong aspect to securing positive outcomes for children and young people – if you’ve worked with other agencies (perhaps with a MASH) and can explain both the challenges and benefits, here’s your chance.”

John: “Be prepared to speak about working with health professionals, especially if applying for a role in adult social work. Local research about clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the area will be useful and will allow you to choose examples from your own professional experience.”

How do you make sure you are on top of your continuing professional development (CPD)?


Craig: “Employers will look at how your CPD has broadened your skill set and why it will be of direct benefit to them. You will need to be able to talk beyond just having an acknowledgement of the importance of CPD. Have a couple of examples you can draw upon. Perhaps it’s a course you’ve attended, or networking with other agencies, service users or the wider community that has helped to inform your practice. Remember, employers are looking to see how well you communicate with and learn from others. 

John: “You could also draw upon your own network ahead of interview, especially if you know somebody who already works for the employer. This will assist you in having a greater understanding of the role and what examples you might want to give to show how you are suitable for the position.”

Craig: “As an aside, you can count reading Sanctuary Social Work News as part of your CPD. We publish the magazine on a quarterly basis and it is packed full of the latest developments in the social work sector. Best of all, you can sign up for a free copy.”

Have you got any questions?


Craig: “You’ll more than likely feel you’ve covered everything you would like to know, but there’s nothing more awkward than not having anything else to ask. It’s also your chance to bring a natural close to the interview. You could ask more specific questions about the nature of the role; for example, how does the position fit into the overall team structure and what opportunities are there for career progression? You could also ask if there is area they would like you to go back over or expand on to perhaps give you the chance to cover anything you may have left out.”

To help you prepare for interview, we have added two downloadable interview guides to our Careers Hub; one for adult social work and the other for children’s. 

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