Tips for your Social Work University interview
It’s that time of year when the Social Work University interview process is in full swing as courses begin to recruit for September starts. Having sat on both sides of the table, as a candidate and an interviewer, I often get asked for advice on how to get through a Social Work University interview.
So, here are my top tips on making a success of the interview and getting onto your course:
Tip 1: Do your homework!
A Social Work degree isn’t like most degrees because, not only are you getting your qualification, but you’re getting a profession too. Because of this professional aspect, it is essential that you do your homework before attending your Social Work University interview. Here are some pointers to start you off.
- Look at Social Work job profiles and job adverts to find out what we do
- Go on the BASW or NASW websites
- Look on Social Work news and blog websites
- Find out about Social Work ethical and professional codes of conduct
- Read up on some basic Social Work theories
- Keep an eye on news stories that are relevant to Social Work
- Use Facebook and Twitter to engage with Social Workers
- Access some of the laws that govern Social Workers
- Research some emerging themes that may be facing Social Workers
The interviewer won’t expect you to know everything, but they will want to see your potential ability and how eager you are to train as a Social Worker.
Tip 2: Know the process you are about to face
Most Social Work University interview processes consist of four stages:
- The application
- A written test
- A group task
- A formal interview
Assuming that you’ve already been successful in your initial application, let’s take a more detailed look at what the other three aspects entail.
Tip 3: Prepare for a written test
This test will most often be a case study that presents you with a scenario that is common to Social Work. In your answers, the marker will be looking for the following:
- Good writing skills
- A basic understanding of Social Work issues
- Analytical skills
- Good time management
You can practice for this at home by looking up Social Work news stories and taking 30 minutes to write a response. Consider what the underlying issues are, what societal factors impact on oppression and how Social Workers can effect change.
Tip 4: Prepare for a group task
These tend to consist of either a group discussion on a Social Work issue or a group presentation. Markers will generally look for the following:
- Good verbal communication
- Good teamwork
- An ability to facilitate conversation
- An understanding of the presenting issues
- Sound ethics and values
Be considered in what you say, think through your input and try and bring quieter members of the group into the fold. Remember that Social Workers are facilitators and enablers of change, so try to show this!
Tip 5: Prepare for your formal interview
I know interviews can be nerve-wracking for many people, but they are a skill like anything else and you can get better through practice. As well as doing your homework (see Tip 1) there are a number of interview techniques that can help you shine:
- Listen carefully to the question and focus on the keywords you hear
Interview questions are there to elicit certain knowledge or experience from you. Because of this, try to listen out for keywords for a clue as to what the interviewer will be looking for and try to work towards these. All questions should be aimed towards showcasing your Social Work potential, so make sure you do this!
- When answering, try to link back to things you have actually done
Anyone can fire out buzzwords like ‘I helped someone’ or ‘I made a difference’, but you need to do more than this in your interview. Tell the interviewer how you helped someone or what skills you have that allowed you to bring about a positive change. Whenever you answer a question, give real-life examples of what you have done.
The STAR tool can help you frame your answers by focusing on the:
Situation you were faced with
Task you identified was needed
Action you undertook (showcase your skills, knowledge, and experience here)
Result of your input and the difference you made
- Show what you know
If you’ve prepared correctly, you’ll have a basic understanding of the Social Work role, contemporary issues, the legislation that guides the profession and the evidence-base to practice. Even if the question isn’t directly linked to your learning, try to squeeze in your knowledge and show off a little.
- Demonstrate that you know what an actual Social Worker does
One of the most frustrating things when interviewing potential students is how many people don’t know what Social Workers actually do for a living. I know that professionals can be hard to access, but try and do some research into the day-to-day life of a Social Worker. A good way to start might be to join my Facebook group and ask on there.
- Steer away from ‘I want to be a Social Worker because I want to help people’
Everyone wants to be a Social Worker because they want to help people. Try to flesh out your back story by giving reasons behind your motivation for applying to the course and why you think you’ll be a good Social Worker.
Tip 6: Keep calm, carry on and do your best!
The people interviewing you will all have sat in your position before and know how hard it can be. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re nervous, feel free to say if you’re unsure about what’s being asked of you and don’t worry about asking to pass on a question to come back to it later (far better than waffling an answer you’re unsure of!).
Overall, try to keep calm and do the best you can.
Good luck with your Social Work University interview!