Interviewing

How to Answer Social Work Interview Questions

If you are preparing for an interview as a social worker, reviewing some of the most common social worker interview questions can help you feel prepared and confident. Employers can sometimes ask tough questions to determine whether candidates are a good fit for a challenging role in social work. You can use this list of social work questions and sample responses to help you demonstrate that you have the necessary qualifications.

Why do employers ask tough social work interviewer questions?

Employers ask tough social work interview questions to assess how a candidate responds under pressure. Social work can be a stressful career, so tough questions can help draw out important details that allow the interviewer to evaluate a candidate’s abilities and qualifications. Tough interview questions challenge the candidate to think critically and explain the processes they would use during difficult situations.

Common social work interview questions

Here are some questions to help you prepare for a social work interview:

What made you want to be a social worker?

Interviewers ask this question to learn about your background and what motivated you to go into this type of profession. Avoid speaking in generalities and go into specific detail about your background and events that may have motivated you to choose this career. Your answer should demonstrate your commitment to the job and understanding the role in society, as a whole. 

Example: ‘I had a friend as a teenager who had a difficult home life and was exposed to drugs and abuse. A social worker pulled him out of that home and placed him in a healthier, more stable home and truly became a mentor to him. That experience made me see what an impact social workers can have on the lives of others and inspired me to pursue this path myself.’

Why did you choose to work in this field of social work?

Social work is a wide field that gives a candidate the opportunity to serve a variety of different people. By asking this question, the interviewer is assessing what field you are most interested in and whether you will be passionate about the work you are doing. Your answer should make it clear why you are interested in that particular field. If possible, share stories with details telling why you are passionate about the role.

Example: ‘I am most interested in working with people who struggle with addiction. One of my family members struggled with alcohol abuse throughout the duration of my childhood. Through personal experience, I have witnessed what people with addiction think and need, and it’s for that reason that I believe I bring a unique perspective and can have a real impact.’

What is your biggest weakness?

With this question, the interviewer is assessing your level of personal awareness and willingness to grow. For your response, select one weakness that you have either been working on improving or intend to work on. The weakness you select should be something that will not limit your ability to perform the role. The interviewer is looking for an answer that shows you recognize your limitations and are proactive about addressing them.

Example: ‘My biggest weakness is that I want every job done perfectly, which causes me to sometimes get behind schedule. I know that as a social worker I need to stay highly organized and complete my work on time, which may mean having to ask for help. It’s something I’m confident won’t be a problem in the future.’

What strategies do you use to intervene in a crisis?

As a social worker, conflict is inevitable. The interviewer understands that and wants to assess whether your strategies for conflict resolution align with those that the organization is seeking in a candidate. As you answer, keep in mind that the interview is looking for responses that don’t blame others. The explanation you provide for the strategies you use should also include the context in which they were practiced.

Example: ‘I once worked at a women’s shelter and noticed that when changes in routine occurred, the residents in the shelter would get upset. In order to avoid or, at the least, mitigate this, I started being proactive about talking to them before changes happened. When crises did occur, I practiced remaining calm and used restatement, clarification and ‘I’ statements to ensure the situation didn’t escalate. In most cases, that strategy would diffuse the situation quickly.’

What kind of clients do you find to be the most difficult to work with?

Social work is highly rewarding, but can also be stressful. By asking the question above, the interviewer can assess a candidate’s stress levels and how they deal with challenging clients. When responding to this question, avoid answering with negativity or blaming a client for hostility or aggression. The interviewer is looking for a response that includes some positivity, isn’t blaming others and accepts some responsibility in the situation.

Example: ‘I find that the most difficult clients are the ones who seem to have given up. However, when I encounter those situations, I always try to put myself in their situation and think about what they have been through. When I am working with a client who is uncooperative and appears to have given up, I try different approaches to motivate them and help them see hope because I believe all my clients deserve my best effort.’

How do you build relationships with your clients?

Being an effective social worker requires you to earn the trust of the people you work with. Regardless of the type of client you’re working with, you need to share with the interviewer that it’s important for you to develop a trusting relationship with every one of your clients. In your response, the interviewer will be looking for compassion, the mention of firm boundaries and the ability to remain calm. 

Example: ‘I want my clients to understand that they can trust me and come to me as a friend. I take the time to get to know them, whether that means talking about their past or finding out what their interests are. I go out of my way to make sure that they feel relaxed with me. That said, I believe it’s also important to set firm boundaries so there are never any mixed messages sent.’