Social Worker Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Social workers are responsible for providing support services to individuals, families and communities in need. They assess clients' needs and implement plans that protect them from harm and address their social, emotional, psychological, physical or environmental issues, and they help people cope with their daily lives by connecting them with resources to improve their well-being. If you're applying for a social work role, learning about the common interview questions hiring managers may ask you can help you prepare effectively. In this article, we explore the questions you may likely encounter as a social worker during the interview.

Related: What Does a Social Worker Do? With Types of Social Workers

8 social worker interview questions with example answers

Here are some social worker interview questions with example answers you can reference to help you prepare your own:

1. How would you handle a situation where a client refuses to cooperate?

Interviewers may ask interview questions like this to see how you might react in an uncomfortable situation. They want to know that you're tough enough to handle the frustration of not being able to help someone. They may also assess your ability to problem-solve and show compassion when working with challenging clients.

Example: 'I would try asking the client why they feel this way about accepting my help. Many times, clients refuse because they feel threatened by the idea of having someone else control their lives. So one strategy could be talking through these feelings and explaining that I'm trying to coordinate resources that can ultimately empower them instead of hinder their independence.'

2. What would you do if a client had unrealistic expectations of you?

Employers ask questions like this to see how well you work under pressure. The best way to answer interview questions like this is by thinking about what you can contribute to help the client meet their goals. When responding, briefly mention an example from your past, and then discuss how you managed the situation.

Example: 'In general, I try to avoid absolutes when working with clients who have already been let down repeatedly by others. So, before I make any promises, I'd try to get a better sense of what they're expecting from me and see if there's anything I can do to help them meet their goals.

For example, I was helping a client find a new temporary home. They requested a three-bedroom home in the middle of downtown. I could not provide a home like that within the budget, but I worked with them to find out what other elements they were looking for. I was able to find a home that worked for them.'

3. What is a challenge you've encountered?

Interview questions interviewers ask for social worker positions to discover how interviewees manage problem-solving and high-pressure situations. No matter the interview question, interviewers want to know that you have a kind heart and patience above all else. So if they ask this interview question, try to emphasise your ability to empathise with clients.

Example: 'I was working on an outreach team where we do home visits with families in poverty, and I came across an infant that seemed to be struggling even though her parents were trying their best. It made me sad because the parents didn't know what they were doing wrong and needed help learning how to take care of their child correctly.

It was an emotionally challenging situation for all involved, but after providing a set of local resources, the family was able to get the help they needed. This experience taught me that it's important to remember that clients are often trying their best and just need some additional guidance.'

Related: What Is a Medical Social Worker? Definitions and Career Path

4. Can you tell us about your work ethic?

Employers typically want interviewees for social worker positions to have a strong work ethic, and interview questions like this one give them the chance to find out how you approach your job. In your response, be honest. If possible, try to include a specific example that demonstrates your work ethic and how you've used it in the past.

Example: 'I have always been motivated by my desire to help other people. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to offer that help. And the more I learn from others, the stronger my skills become and the better equipped I am at helping someone else through what they're going through.

I believe social work is based on principles accepted as ethical standards for professional conduct. These principles include human rights, self-determination, non-discrimination and confidentiality. Part of my work ethic involves demonstrating these principles whenever possible.'

Related: How to Be a Social Worker (With Careers in Social Work)

5. How do you handle conflict resolution as a social worker?

Interviewers may ask questions like this because they know working as a worker is not an easy task, and interviewees for social worker positions may handle conflict every day. Employers don't typically want to hire someone for this role who has strong conflict resolution skills. They want a social worker who can also address potential conflicts before they escalate into something more serious. In your response, try to include details of your conflict resolution process.

Example: 'If one of my clients is having an issue with their living situation, I try to figure out whether it's a lifestyle clash or a safety concern to approach them from a place of understanding and respect. I approach the conversation calmly and ask a lot of questions to ensure I fully understand what the client is saying. If we have a minor difference in opinion, my goal is always to be mutual satisfaction so that everyone can move forward.'

Related: How to Write a Community Service Resume Objective in 5 Steps

6. What do you like most about your current or previous job?

Employers may ask this to assess your work experience and your personality. In your response, you can discuss your previous or current role. If you have social work experience, try to include details to demonstrate this. If you're moving into social work from a different role, you can include details about your working preferences that may transfer into a new role. Consider connecting your response to the company you're interviewing with to show why you might want to work there instead.

Example: 'My favourite part of my current job is the clients I get to work with. Over the last four years, I build strong relationships with many amazing individuals and have seen them progress in great ways. Although I'm sad to leave them, I am excited about a chance to lead a team of social workers.'

7. How do you handle stress?

Employers want a social worker who can demonstrate they can healthily handle stress. It shows them you know how to avoid letting certain situations impact your emotional well-being or interfere with your ability to do your job properly.

Example: 'If I'm feeling stressed out about something, it usually means there's an issue that needs my attention right away. So whenever I feel overwhelmed, I always ask myself if I need to intervene personally or ask for help. Sometimes, I can reduce my stress by taking a walk. Other times, I discuss my feelings with a trusted peer who knows what social work can be like.'

8. What do you know about our work?

Employers ask interview questions like this to see if the interviewee is genuinely interested in working for them. They may want social workers who can contribute their positive qualities to the company, so they require interviewees to show that they care. In your response, include specific details about the company or agency.

Example: 'Of course, I've researched your company thoroughly online, and it looks great! I'm excited about how many ways there are to make a difference here and what you all stand for as an organisation as a social worker. It makes me even more confident that this is where I want to be right now because you all truly put people first. I have worked in three other countries, but I feel like I can make the most significant impact in Singapore when given a chance to work in the social work department.

For me, it's really important to work in an environment where everyone has respect for one another, and we all see each other as equals no matter what level we're on within the organisation.'

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