How to Ace Your Social Work Interview

Whether you’ve recently graduated with your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and are looking for your first social work job or you’ve spent years in the field and are seeking a change, interview skills are an essential piece of the puzzle.

Common Interview Questions for Aspiring Social Workers

When heading into an interview, you should expect to be asked general questions about your education and previous employment, as well as questions that speak to you on a personal level, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What are your qualifications for this position?
  • Tell me about an example of how you’ve worked well under pressure.

Additionally, you will be asked questions that are geared more specifically to the role of a social worker. To help with your preparation, the National Association for Social Workers (NASW) has curated a list of frequently asked interview questions that all social workers should be familiar with before heading into a job interview, including:

  • How does the work in this organization fit your professional mission or experience?
  • What are your experiences with the target population?
  • Why do you want to work with this target population (e.g., children, adults, hospital patients, older adults)?
  • Describe the process you go through in developing a case plan/budget/workshop.

Social Worker Interview Questions by Field

Graduates of MSW programs may go on to become school social workers, medical social workers or psychiatric social workers, while some may find themselves in a variety of other settings like the corporate sector. Interview questions will vary depending on the type of social work job you are applying for.

According to the National Association of Social Workers, clinical social work is “a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional, and other behavioral disturbances.” While the underlying role of a social worker remains the same — helping people identify and cope with problems in their everyday lives — there are nuanced differences in day-to-day roles depending on the population of a social worker’s caseload and the type of environment in which they work. 

Interview Questions for Medical Social Workers

Medical social workers typically work in settings such as hospices, nursing homes, hospitals or in/outpatient clinics. They may also be referred to as psychiatric social workers or hospital social workers. See below for some topics for medical social work interview questions:

  • Knowledge of current health care system.
  • Experience and comfort-level with home visits.
  • Crisis intervention techniques.
  • Conflict resolution when a client or family disagrees over a treatment plan.
  • Experience with psychosocial assessments.

Interview Questions for School Social Workers

School social workers work with students, teachers, parents and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that common places of employment may include public, private and independent school districts, and the type of issues that school social workers address can cover bullying, chronic absences and aggressive behavior. School social work interview questions may focus on:

Interview Questions for Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers, including those who pursue an online MSW degree, often work with individuals and their families who are experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma. Clients may range in age from infancy through adulthood. During the interview process, be prepared to answer questions related to:

  • Knowledge of mental health disorders and the DSM-5.
  • Current legislation related to caseload population.
  • Knowledge of evidence-based treatment strategies.

Regardless of what type of social work position you’re applying for, the objective remains the same: to demonstrate to the hiring agency or organization how well you can advocate for yourself and for your potential clients. Between the coursework and field placement(s) in your MSW program, you will be prepared with the technical, emotional, and occupational skills needed to succeed in your career as a social worker.

Citation for this content: The MSW@USC, the online Master of Social Work program at the University of Southern California.