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Prepare for your social work job interview

The interview provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your skills, knowledge and experience. At Sanctuary Social Care, we’ve talked to managers about what they expect from interviewees and the questions they often ask. Below we’ve brought together this information to help you prepare for your interview.


You can now download our adult and children's interview preparation guides.


Find out as much as you can about the role. Talk to your Sanctuary consultant to ensure you have all the information available and research the employer. Has there been any press coverage, good or bad? Are they known for any particular successes or innovations? Has the relevant director or a senior manager been interviewed recently in the media? 

Work through the job description, matching appropriate examples from your own practice to each requirement. Check to see if there has been any recent research or new policies in that particular area of practice.

Think about your own practice – do you have examples of successes or complex cases that may show your skills, professionalism and practice approach?

Some employers may want you to submit a piece of written work to help assess practice before an interview. In children and families work, for example, this could be an anonymised assessment. Before submitting this, you should make sure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors, that the language is clear and that your recommendations are well-evidenced. Potential employers need to know you take pride in your work and that it will be of the required quality.


First impressions do count, so be prompt – or even better aim to be a little early. Remember to dress smartly. Smart dress doesn't necessarily mean a stiff suit, but it does mean avoiding casual clothes, such as jeans, etc. You need to send the message that you respect the employer and would like to be respected as a professional in turn.

Remember to take a notebook and pen. Making notes will help you remember important points from the interview. It also shows that you are taking it seriously and by holding the pen and paper any tendency to fidget will be restricted.

It is a good idea to have a list of questions that you want to ask in your notebook. Make some of these about the department’s approach, workload and arrangements for professional supervision, rather than just about pay and hours. If all your questions have been answered in the interview, say so, explain what the questions were and refer back to your notes to confirm the answers.


Common questions you might expect in any social work interview include:This gives the employer an indication of your attitude to social work and your interests.

  • Why did you decide to become a social worker? This gives the employer an indication of your attitude to social work and your interests.

  • What do you know about the job? This is an opportunity to show that you have prepared properly.

  • Why is your experience relevant to the job?
  • Describe a stressful situation and how you handled this. Make sure that you give a real example and explain what the situation was, the factors causing the stress, what you did to address it and the outcomes.

  • Have you had to deal with conflict or confrontation in your work? As with talking about stressful situations, be clear on what happened, your approach to deal with it and the outcomes.

  • What is happening in social work policy at the moment that could affect your work? An employer might use a question like this to see how aware you are of national policy, news about social work or new research.

  • Can you give an example of a success or accomplishment in your social work career? Social workers traditionally find it difficult to talk about their successes, but this is a chance to show how good you can be. Make sure you have thought about what you are proud of in your career.

  • Which areas do you need to develop as a social worker? No one is perfect so make sure you are honest about where you can develop and how this would change your practice. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses means that you are more likely to address them in your practice.


  • Could you tell us about your experience of assessing and addressing risk? Make sure that you are clear on what makes a good social work assessment and which models of practice and methodology you use, and why.

  • How do you use evidence, critical thinking and research in your conclusions and recommendations? Be prepared to have two or three examples.
  • What are your experiences of working with partner agencies to address risk? If you have worked with other agencies to help secure positive outcomes for a child and their family, reference specific examples.

  • Could you provide an example of a complex child protection case you were involved with? A strong answer will show you have a thorough understanding of child protection issues, that you know the desired outcomes from the case whilst explaining exactly what you did to achieve these.

  • What pieces of legislation would you say are relevant to the role? Remember to do your research and show an understanding of current legislation, for example, the Children and Families Act 2014.


  • Could you tell us about what would be expected of you under the Care Act within this role?

  • What experience do you have in creative support planning? Be prepared to talk about what support is available in local communities and how you would draw on this support within the role. Remember, specific local research is more useful that offering abstract answers about what might be available.

  • How have you worked with colleagues in healthcare to support a service user? With health and social care becoming more closely aligned, showing your understanding of the benefits of this is useful in at interview.

  • Could you tell us more about your understanding of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and when mental capacity assessments are appropriate? You may or may not have experience of this, but do be clear about whether you’ve had training on mental capacity assessments or, if not, would accept training. 


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