Woman being greeted at the front door by someone
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters

A social worker’s top priorities are determining the needs of each client and creating a plan that best suits these needs. You need to know your candidate has a comprehensive method for assessing each client and building a plan accordingly. They should be dedicated to doing what’s right by their clients, and that requires taking the time to understand their specific circumstances and needs.

What to listen for

  • Knowledge of the steps involved in evaluating a client and creating a plan.
  • A clear, thorough answer that demonstrates a commitment to client care.
  • Ideally, candidates will describe a similar protocol to that used by your organization.

Why this matters

Social workers often work with vulnerable populations who are sometimes subjected to abuse. Since their clients may not be ready or willing to discuss it, it’s important for the social worker to be able to detect signs of abuse so that they can take appropriate steps to stop it and get their clients the help they need.

What to listen for

  • Answers may include frequent or unexplained injuries, sudden weight loss or gain, or the client becoming withdrawn.
  • Candidates should mention both behavioral and physical signs.
  • Strong answers may draw from past experience, demonstrating an appropriate level of discretion.

Why this matters

Another huge part of a social worker’s job is maintaining a comprehensive record of each client they’re assigned to. While every organization may have a different system for keeping track of information, this question can help you assess a candidate’s overall level of experience, and give you an insight into the technology they’re proficient with.

What to listen for

  • Signs of good organizational skills.
  • References to specific case management software, such as CaseWorthy or Penelope.
  • An understanding of the importance of maintaining complete and accurate files.

Why this matters

Crisis intervention is a vital aspect of social work and your new hire must be ready and willing to engage in it. If they’re new to the field, you can modify the question to ask how they would handle a crisis situation. Either way, their answer should give you an idea of how prepared they are to deal with these challenging situations.

What to listen for

  • Empathy and compassion for their clients’ physical and mental wellbeing.
  • A clear (and appropriately discrete) explanation of the situation, their role, and the outcome.
  • Answers should show the candidate has a sense of urgency in these situations and acts accordingly.

Why this matters

Social workers need to be flexible and able to work with a multitude of personalities. It’s important to have consistent, structured plans for dealing with certain situations, but they also have to be willing to adjust their approach to best fit the needs of their clients and continue leading them towards success.

What to listen for

  • Recognition that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach in social work.
  • An emphasis on listening to clients and working collaboratively with them.
  • A willingness to seek help from others when needed.

Why this matters

In addition to being an advocate for their clients, social workers also have to advocate for and support their coworkers. This is an emotionally taxing field at times, and it’s important for social workers to know they can lean on other members of their team when they need a second opinion or another pair of hands.

What to listen for

  • A collaborative mindset.
  • Evidence of resiliency and a drive to get the job done.
  • A strong understanding of the implications of this field of work.

Why this matters

Social workers must be able to juggle multiple clients effectively. This makes time management and organizational skills a must. Between paperwork, meetings, client check-ups, crisis intervention, and community outreach, social workers have a lot of responsibilities, and it’s critical that they don’t drop any balls.

What to listen for

  • References to specific strategies, such as prioritizing time-sensitive work.
  • A willingness to ask for help when needed.
  • An emphasis on ensuring clients’ needs are met, even during busy periods.

Why this matters

Social work is often a challenging and demanding job that requires a high level of empathy, so it’s good to get a sense of why candidates feel drawn to this type of work. Often, they have a genuine desire to make a positive impact in people’s lives. This question can help you gauge your candidate’s passion, which may be a good indicator or how they’ll respond to challenges on the job.

What to listen for

  • Candidates may draw from personal experience dealing with social workers or from a innate desire to help people.
  • Empathy and compassion.
  • Top answers may demonstrate keen awareness of the challenges of the job—and the rewards.

Why this matters

Social workers must uphold a strict code of ethics. If someone in the organization is doing something they deem unethical, they should recognize that they have a responsibility to step in. This requires them to clearly communicate the situation, either to the colleague or to a superior, and to demonstrate a certain level of tact, especially in front of clients.

What to listen for

  • A strong focus on doing what’s ethical and right for the client.
  • An ability to separate themselves emotionally from the situation, even if the coworker is a close friend.
  • Signs that the candidate is a strong and tactful communicator.