Prior to starting your social work degree, you must first go through the dreaded, fear-fuelled process that is the interview. Just the thought of having to be interviewed may cause chills to ripple down your spine, but fear not! I have devised a handful of tips to hopefully assist, guide and calm some of those nerves you have ensuring you can embrace the process and smash it!
Okay, yes, this is an interview. You are going to have to sell yourself. You are going to be tested. You are going to be out of your comfort zone. So! Let us prepare.
1. Begin to think about your application to study social work. If you wrote a personal statement check over that again and refresh your memory. Completely go back to the beginning of the process before your exams came and university applications floated to the back of your mind. Why social work? Be creative, be in-depth and be confident. In social work there is no straightforward equation, so don’t worry about being wrong, worry about how passionate you are and make sure this shines through!
2. Is there a book I can read? Yes! There are millions and thousands out there. But don’t bombard yourself with too many books, newspapers, articles and other sources of information. A good source of information is The Guardian, you can download it as an app or you can pick up the paper version weekly – lecturers love The Guardian, it will help you keep up to date on current social care topics. Also have a look online on Community Care, this website is filled with mounds of information about social work and can really help you if you’re interested in a particular area – giving you the opportunity to expand your knowledge and research it further.
3. Do I need work experience? The preferred candidate will have some sort of experience. This can range from working in the social care field to being a volunteer. Anything you find is helpful, the more experience the better. Are there any local youth groups your community centre run? Volunteer. National Citizenship Service? Volunteer. Charity shop needing a retail assistant? Volunteer. Any experience is better than no experience and I really mean it. I also think, personally, that volunteering can also be something that is personal to you, it can really help you find your passion – after all volunteering, or the job you are in now, may have prompted you to apply for this degree course in the first place!
4. Probably the first thing that popped to my mind, what to wear?! Please don’t make the mistake I did and turn up in jeans, sandals and a white flowery top (yes I was foolish and yes I could have cried) go for something you would normally wear to a job interview - a nice shirt or blouse with some trousers or a dress.
5. Check over all the details and requirements in your interview invitation letter/email. This will give you a lot of information that you probably already wanted to know. It will give you the time, date and campus where you interview will take place. An extremely important point to make here – especially if you are travelling a far distance – give yourself plenty of time to arrive on time! A lot of factors outside of your control can affect that efficient time estimator on the satnav and the last thing you want is to panic about not being on time and potentially missing your interview. In addition, being late to an interview in any circumstance does not stand any individual in good tow. Being late is also something that social workers are scrutinised for. Don’t allow something like this to let you down!
6. The written test – this may seem daunting but there will be a written part of the interview. Preparation can be quite difficult for this, but generally if you are reading and researching this should help with your writing skills. The written test may require you to read a case study and present your ideas or views or there may be a short video clip to watch. It is also used to assess your analytical skills.
7. Next up, a group interview - A group interview?! What is this?! – I know, scary stuff here! Relax it’s really not that bad. Usually you will be presented with a case study as a group and while you are observed, you try and reach a decision with your case. Sometimes you are simply presented with a topic that you will talk about as a group, this generally depends on the day. Some of the people interviewed despise anything group-like and some absolutely thrive within this environment. For those of you who find group discussion hard, firstly remember this is a social work degree you have signed up for: group situations are extremely common. Don’t worry though, make sure you speak up your opinions and let your view come across, listen to others but do not sit back and watch – that’s the observers job! For those of you who love a group debate be careful that you don’t overpower others in the group. Remember again, you have applied to do a social work degree. Social workers are required to listen to others views and ensure that their values do not impose upon a person or a decision. You are all in the same boat! Be kind to one another! Encourage a debate, make it an exciting and memorable experience!
8. One to one interview: time to shine! This part usually comes at the end, giving you the opportunity to recover from any mishaps earlier on in the process. This is where any preparation you have done will really come in handy too. Be sure to mention why you applied for social work and how you became interested in it. If, through your research, you have found a great talking point, or a currently debated topic that your particularly interested in… mention it! You should also talk about any experience you have in the social care field and any volunteering you’ve done. Your passion and excitement for social work should really come through in this stage. You are here to sell yourself, to show you will be a hard working suitable candidate for not only that year’s social work class, but for the future generation of social work!
9. I’m just going to add this one in again for special effect… Allow plenty of time to arrive to your interview and do not be late! I’m certain that it looks better to be half an hour early than five minutes late!
10. Although this may seem impossible try to relax and enjoy the experience and the journey you are about to embark on.
Future social workers; take deep breaths, think before you speak and relax! It is likely you will feel overwhelmed once the day of endurance testing is over, I remember walking out of the building, phoning my mum and bursting into tears. This is a big interview and a rigorous process. If you are passionate about being a social worker you are likely to feel a ton of emotions before, throughout and after. What I think is important to remember is that this is normal, and everyone you met on this day has also been through what you have.
You can find out more on our interview process pages. Good luck!