Maybe you just graduated and are looking for your first social work job. Maybe you are searching out the perfect practices or internship. Maybe you’d have been doing this social work thing awhile and are looking for greener pastures, we all go through the interview process at some time. I have had many, many, many, many interviews where the outcomes have ranged from ecstatically successful to horrendous. I have also been interviewing and hiring people for years. Hopefully, some of my thoughts will help you land your perfect job.
- Be on Time – I know this seems obvious. I have been late for interviews due to construction or just being lost. I have interviewed people who have showed up late. Plan accordingly. It is better to wait an hour in your car before the interview than end up being late. You may still be hired but your first impression will be dismal and you will be fighting an uphill battle.
- Dress the part – You may be interviewing for an outreach worker or a laid back job but how you put yourself together will be a factor the interview considers. Flip flops and T-shirts aren’t appropriate. Being too dressed up is overlooked more than being underdressed.
- Don’t give up during the interview – I admit, I generally have an idea if I’m going to hire someone within a few minutes of interviewing. However, you always have a chance to turn it around. Sometimes, I am on the fence with someone and right before the interview is over they will say something that has me buying into them. Even if you feel like you are bombing the interview, keep keeping on.
- Keep some boundaries – It isn’t necessary or desirable for you to share your whole life story. We are social workers and we like to talk and connect and often our history adds to our ability to empathize. I have had people tell me too much about the alcoholism in their family or the sexual abuse they survived. I dont want to know this as part of the hiring process. Your history may be a vital aspect to show you have a passion for working with a population. As an interviewer,though, I might wonder if you have some issues to work through before you should be working with that population if you are over sharing. Early in my career, in an interview at a Community Mental Health Center, I went on and on about having a parent with a severe mental illness. I did get the job but I believe my over sharing should have been a red flag for the interviewer that I had not worked through all my issues yet. Thankfully, I finally realized it and found another job.
- Don’t Personalize Anything – This is actually good advice for your entire life but is also important in the interviewing process. The interviewer is just getting a snapshot of who you are. They have biases and preferences and personality and them not choosing you may have little to do with your skills. For example, team dynamics are important to me so if I don’t think you will fit in with my team, I may not hire you despite your skills.
- Practice Your Answers to Often Asked Questions -There are some rather universal questions asked during interviews. Work on having answers to these questions.
Some questions you might be asked are below. Think about them and come up with answers. Then you will be ready for them when you are asked and impress your interviewer.
- Tell me about yourself. – This is a broad questions but I have asked it and been asked it at most interviews.Think of a couple of sentences that describe your experience and what is important to you. Once you start talking the interview often flows.
- What are your weaknesses? When I was new in the field I would say something along the lines of needing to hone my skills because I didn’t have much experience. I know I have heard the advice to take a negative and make it a positive such as ” I work too much.” I would advise against that. When I am interviewing I would prefer a thoughtful, real answer. You certainly shouldn’t say anything damaging or horrible. Think of some skills or areas you would like to improve and give your interview a genuine answer. Of course, remember to use common sense and don’t tell them you have a problem showing up for work or anything similar.
- How do you organize yourself?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How do you handle difficult situations?
- What are some successes you have had in your work history?
- With what kind of supervisor do you work best?