Top 20 Social Work Interview Questions and Answers

Got an interview coming up for a social worker position? Do your prep for these common questions.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Social worker interview questions and answers

On a mission to become a social worker? Got a job interview on Monday? Eek.

While you can never really know what to expect from a job interview, the least you can do is brace yourself for the most common questions you might be asked.

If you’re struggling to find the answers or you don’t really know how to put them into words, have no fear! We’ve listed the top 20 social work interview questions and answers so you can truly prepare yourself and have your responses ready ahead of the big day.

1. What made you go into social work?

Employers want to hear more than just “I have a desire to help others”.

Most importantly, refrain from saying it’s because you graduated in this field. Instead, reveal your commitment to the job and how much you believe social work is essential to society.

Perhaps bring up a personal story and explain what led you to choose this profession.


I want to make a difference in the lives of maltreated children. I see and hear about the challenges they face every day in abusive/unhealthy households, and I want to be the one to improve this situation. Being a child protection social worker can help me help them find the right direction in life. I thrive to not only help, but also empower, motivate and advocate for this target group.

2. Why have you chosen this specific field of social work?

Social work is a vast field. There are those who prefer to work with children, others with substance abusers and others with clients with mental health problems. Whatever your preference is, make it clear in the interview, and explain why you’re interested in the particular field.

Aim to use a compassionate tone and, if relevant, try to speak from personal experience.


I believe that my place is with people with alcohol use disorder. I grew up dealing with a family member fighting against alcohol abuse, and now that I am old enough, I believe it is the right time for me to make a change in these people’s lives. Seeing it firsthand has taught me how these fighters think and what they need, and I want to be the one to give them just that.

3. Can you tell us your strengths and weaknesses as a social worker?

Being asked about your strengths and weaknesses is a staple question in almost every interview, irrespective of the role you’re applying for. If you’re unsure of the answer, ask a friend, family member or previous colleague to help you out.

You want to leave the best possible impression on your interviewer, even if it means highlighting your weaknesses. As long as you mention that you strive to overcome them, you’ll be on the right track.


I believe I have great communication skills. In fact, I’ve been told I’m quite a people-person. I can remain calm in conflict situations and find the right solutions in times of crises, and I find that I am extremely responsible. I would say that my weakness is perhaps being too honest, although this is a trait I am working to improve.

4. How do you balance your work and personal life?

Balancing your work and personal life as a social worker can be tough. It’s difficult to not bring a case home or get that phone call from a client during your Sunday family dinner.

The goal of this difficult interview question (which will most certainly arise) is to see if you can handle work interfering with your personal life, or perhaps to detect whether you’ll be willing to do some overtime.


I’m a rather organized person, and I’m able to separate work and home. I have a [partner/family member/friend] to take care of any necessities at home, so if my job demands that I do overtime or work on the weekends, that’s fine. I’m willing to give this job 100% because it’s something I’m extremely passionate about.

5. Would you be prepared to make home visits?

Visiting clients in their homes is a critical part of a social worker’s role. This can sometimes be a risky or emotionally challenging situation, and the interviewer will want to see if you’re prepared for it.

Answering this question with a “yes” is obviously the right way to go, but make sure to also express confidence.


I am absolutely ready and mentally prepared for home visits. I’m aware that these situations can be challenging, but I have enough experience/confidence to do it. In the case of an uncomfortable circumstance, I know to remain calm and seek help if need be. Either way, home visits are the best way to get to know a client outside of the office.

6. In your experience, what kind of clients are the most difficult to work with?

This is where your interviewer will try to identify your stress levels and how well you can deal with difficult clients, whether they’re adults or children.

A basic interview tip, in this case, is to avoid answering this question with negativity. Put the positive in dealing with a difficult client and, most importantly, avoid blaming them for their hostility.


I certainly find it hard working with uncooperative, angry clients, although I never give up in motivating them. In a difficult situation, I always focus on the good, and I put myself in the client’s shoes. I understand that the angriest clients are those who have no hope or who feel betrayed on a constant basis. When faced with an uncooperative or angry client, I try to approach them in various ways to see and learn what method works best.

7. Can you tell us any vivid signs of abuse?

Your answer to this question will amplify your strengths and capabilities as a social worker. Knowing and being able to identify the signs of abuse in any target group, be it children, teenagers or the elderly, will prove to the interviewer that you have sufficient knowledge or experience in this sector.

When answering this typical social work question, avoid sounding compassionate. You need to provide quick, factual and serious answers.


Mood changes are a tell-tale sign that something isn’t right. Depression, social withdrawal, sensitivity or acts of violence are clear symptoms of possible abuse. Most evident are the physical changes in the client, such as unexplained bruises, cuts or scars. Minuscule signs such as broken toys or glasses could also signal abuse.

8. How do you plan on building a relationship with the client?

Being a social worker is all about winning the trust of your client. During your interview, you’ll have to express how you plan on doing this. Whether you’re faced with someone with substance use disorder, an orphan or a disgruntled teenager, you must tell your interviewer how important it is for you to get close to the client.


I want the client to feel that they can open up to me and see me as a friend rather than just their social worker. By spending quality time with them, laughing, crying with them and expressing empathy, they should feel more relaxed with me. I meet them at the same wavelength, I in no way patronize them, and I might even dress like them and speak the way they do so they feel some sort of connection to me.

9. How would you handle a difficult/aggressive client?

Being a social worker involves dealing with client mood swings. Worst case scenario, the client becomes aggressive and uncontrollable.

You will be asked this question in order to test your patience and conflict-resolving skills. Highlight that you can manage angry clients by being empathetic, that you have the ability to stay calm, and that you can set boundaries in such situations.


During challenging situations like this, it’s very important that you stay calm and collected. You must avoid retaliating, shouting, or taking things personally. By showing empathy, listening and staying composed, you will have better control over the situation, and you’ll show the client that you’re not against them but very much with them.

10. Why should we hire you for this position?

Being asked why you’re the one they should hire should come as no surprise, as it’s one of the most common job interview questions. This is your chance to shine and really prove your experience and skills in social working.

You don’t want to respond with anything too cliché, but you should indeed highlight why you’ll be better than the next candidate.


I am self-driven and eager to make a change in the lives of my target group. I’m ready to take on any case and meet new clients who need support and, most importantly, I’m constantly up for a challenge. With my great interpersonal skills, responsibility, vast experience and determination to succeed, I believe I can certainly be this positive change and provide a light for those who are in need.

11. Why do you want to work here?

This question will undoubtedly come up, as the interviewers want to evaluate your ability to be an effective social worker for their organization, not just in general. Here they will be trying to gauge your understanding of the company and, based on that knowledge and understanding, get a better picture of why you selected them over every other organization out there.

Be sure your answer reflects your true feelings; demonstrating integrity will shine through in this answer.


Based on my research on your organization, I truly align personally with your vision and mission. I would love to utilize my skills and abilities as a social worker to drive the organization towards your goal of [organization goal]. It’s not just about the job for me; it’s about finding an organization I can believe in just as much as they believe in me.

12. What traits set you apart as a social worker?

Employers are looking at not only what sets you apart from the competition but also what specifically sets you apart as a social worker. It will be important to capitalize on that in your answer.

If you’ve been in the role for some time, just speak from your experience and what you know to be true. If you’re newer to the field, speak from the heart and let them know the essential traits, perhaps the key interpersonal skills you possess that will make you a great social worker.


I would pick two specific traits to highlight that go hand in hand: my empathy and active listening skills. In this field, you’re lost without empathy, but I believe in order to be effectively empathetic, you have to master the skill of active listening. I have taken the time to polish both these skills and translate them to my work. It’s through empathy and active listening that I’m able to be the social worker I am today.

13. What management style do you prefer?

In interviews, it’s always best to speak from experience, should you have some when a direct question is asked.

Be honest about your preferences and any past situations that have led you to that decision, but be flexible, as well. Focus on providing examples or concrete reasons why you would select one management style over another; perhaps you didn’t like having to deal with a narcissistic boss, but focus on your ability to adapt to change.


I have had experience with a very hands-on manager, and more of a laissez-faire management style. I believe it comes down to what type of employee you are. I believe in the work that I do, and while I prefer a more democratic management style, I am able to adapt to change and work with my manager, in whatever style they prefer, to achieve our objectives as an organization.

14. Do you prefer to work as a part of a team or independently?

When answering a question about your work preferences, it’s good to make sure you evaluate what the company structure is like. If you state here that you would work better independently, but the company is specifically team-oriented, this could hurt your chances.

Your answer should reflect your personal opinion and this company evaluation together.


I am driven enough to work independently, should the position permit, but also appreciate the importance of collaboration, an essential skill you need to be a social worker, that a team can provide. My specific preference would be dependent upon the case and load, accordingly. I’m no stranger to rolling shy sleeves up and getting the job done on my own, but also appreciate a good team project, should the case require one.

15. What is your process for creating a case plan?

Since case planning in social work is critical and, in some cases, required by law, your employer may take special note of this question if you’re working with adoption assistance and child welfare.

Take the time to focus on the key requirements of creating an effective case plan and any applicable legal requirements, while adding in any personal experience you may have to offer.


My process for creating a case plan is to assess and address the clients’ needs through active listening, then partner with family members and service providers to implement care as needed. From there, I effectively manage follow-up and transitional care, should the case require additional care.

16. What is the most important part about managing clients’ feelings?

A critical part of your role as a social worker is to dive into situations while keeping them as conflict-free as possible and finding a resolution. In order to do this, a key component is managing your clients’ feelings.

To answer this question, focus on the key qualities that you possess in these situations that would set you apart.


I have found that remaining calm and focused is key when managing my clients’ feelings. After all, I want them to feel comfortable with me and avoid any miscommunication. I’ll allow them room to process their emotions while maintaining boundaries to keep the walls of respectful communication open and clearly established. This is how I create a safe space for my clients, which I believe is critical when it comes to managing feelings.

17. What crisis intervention techniques have you found to be the most effective, and why?

Crises are an inevitable part of social worker’s job and being able to intervene effectively is one of the most challenging aspects of the role. Each social worker may have their own specific techniques, and that’s what the interviewer is looking for in this question.

Be sure you’re specific, but don’t ramble on about all the ways you can intervene; avoid that deadly interview mistake and focus on why you went with this one. Make your answer concise and clear, and be sure you answer the question thoroughly.


In my experience, de-escalation has worked most effectively during crisis intervention. The consumer feels out of control in a crisis, so I prefer to take a less authoritative, less controlling and less confrontational approach. I’ve found this actually gives me more control of the situation and has proven more effective.

18. Can you tell us about a time when one of your initial impressions about a case was incorrect, and how did you handle it?

Mistakes are bound to happen in any role; and in social work, trusting your instincts or first impression may not always pan out the way you hoped. Your employer wants to know what happens when you make mistakes to gauge how you’ll be if you work for them.

Don’t get caught up in the mistake when answering this question. Instead, explain where you went wrong with your initial reaction and what you learned from that and how you adapted it to future cases. Spend more time detailing the outcome instead of the mistake.


On one of my cases [briefly mention the case details], my initial reaction was wrong, even though I was sure I was right. I had to take the situation and walk through how I came to that conclusion and where I went wrong. Once I isolated the mistake, I was able to use it to improve in my future cases.

19. Can you tell us the most rewarding experience you’ve had in your job?

Your interviewer is looking for personal experiences at this point, trying to separate out the "human aspect” and see how you derive your value from what you do.

In this question, think back to your experience and speak from the heart. It doesn’t need to be scripted; just recount the situation with your interviewer so they can feel it with you.


My most rewarding experience was [case details]. I learned through that case that this is why I am in this career; for moments like this. The reward is well worth the work.

20. Can you tell us the most humbling experience you’ve had on the job?

Humility also makes you human. As the interview draws to a close, your interviewer will continually look for aspects that set you apart: being human, in the field of social work, is one of them.

Focus on responding with a specific answer from your experience, and capitalize on how that shaped you moving forward in your career.


The most humbling experience I’ve had was [case details]. It wasn’t easy to navigate through, but I found it grew me, motivated me and matured me as a social worker, and has given me a perspective I never would have gained without that experience.

Final thoughts

As long as you come across as sincere, passionate and confident about social work, you’ll have ticked several boxes during the interview process.

We hope that these questions and answers have best prepared you for your social work interview.

Remember these key items to help your interview achieve that next level of success:

  • Answer all questions, when possible, from experience.
  • Be honest in every question you answer.
  • Ensure you convey confidence in your responses.

Got a question about preparing for a social work job interview, and want to share your own experiences? Let us know in the comments section below.


Originally published on 16 May 2019. Updated by Shalie Reich.