A career in social work can be very rewarding yet challenging at times. Tough decisions must be made under pressure and sometimes the media attention can be high profile and negative when things go seriously wrong. Having said that, social workers do a hugely valuable job in supporting individuals and their families through difficult times to ensure that vulnerable children and adults are safeguarded from harm. The role is truly vocational; it is one that helps to improve outcomes in people’s lives.
The skills of a qualified social worker are varied; you should be able to clearly demonstrate the ability to build working relationships with service users and professionals, possess excellent communication and listening skills, and finally the ability to problem solve and use professional judgement to make difficult decisions that might not always be well received by those you are trying to help.
The need for excellent practitioners in social work is even more important and in the New Year, we often see a large increase in the number of roles available for both qualified children and adult social workers. So, if you’re planning to look for a new job this New Year here are some tips to help you get started:
Ensure your CV is up to date and well presented
Your CV should be up to date with your experience, training and accurate dates of your previous employment. Remember that your CV is the first thing an employer sees so it is crucial to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors and that any gaps in your employment history are explained.
Employers and recruiters will want to know that you have the mandatory qualifications needed for the job. Whether you’ve completed an approved degree in social work, have a degree in another subject and have completed a postgraduate social work qualification or undergone additional training during your social work career, don’t forget to include all your relevant education.
Prepare for your interview
Most social work interviews are carried out by a panel. The interview is likely to include tests in a range of formats, including practical and written tests, in-tray exercises and traditional questions and answers. Additionally, some councils will undertake a full assessment or recruitment day too. For more senior roles, there will be a two-stage interview process; stage one will be with HR and hiring managers and stage two is often a presentation and panel discussion with other managers.
Before your interview, research the organisation or council in detail and check their website to familiarise yourself with things such as their ethos, staff structure and recent news or developments. Whatever the role you are interviewing for, make sure you have read the most recent and relevant inspection reports and are prepared to answer questions about why you want to work for the particular council or borough. Your preparation will show your commitment to the role as well as organisational skills. You should also prepare a few questions to ask your interviewer about the role and working environment.
Here are some example questions to help you prepare:
Think about the questions you are likely to be asked and prepare responses with clear examples of your work or situations you have experienced as they relate to the questions. Don’t be afraid to make your answers true to yourself and don’t be afraid to make it personal. For example, if you are asked, what made you go into social work, if it was because of a personal experience of someone in care inspiring you, don’t be afraid tell this to your interviewer!
Take some time now to prepare your ideas and thoughts on common social work topics which are appearing in interview questions including:
- Assessment techniques
- Managing your workload
- Ensuring safeguarding
- Experience of promoting diversity
- Experience of supervision
- Current legislation on your area of specialism, i.e., Mental Health, Child Protection
Framing your answers to reflect your capabilities in work
You should now be prepared with some answers on the technical side of social work but increasingly employers are assessing your capabilities as a qualified social worker. Employers want to be confident you can take on all aspects of the job and the key capabilities which come up in interviews include:
- Behaviours and values in social work
- Leadership and management
So, make sure you have examples of what these capabilities mean to you and your experience in these areas. Be clear to outline an example to show these, what you did and then the impact it had on your work.
After your interview, remember to follow up with your recruitment consultant to receive feedback from your interview, this can help you in your search or to act upon any successful news to secure your new role.
For further information on Hays Social Care please visit: www.hays.co.uk/socialcare
Contributed by Roop Bhumbra, Director at Hays Social Care
Find out more from Hays Social Care
If you’re interested in learning more about how Hays Social Care can support your job-seeking process, come to our convention for social work and care on 24th January 2019. They’ll be running a workshop on “Working Effectively in Times of Austerity” and you’ll get to chat to their team in the exhibition too!