Social work sample interview questions

Effective preparation for interviews in the field of social work is essential. By thoroughly preparing and offering concrete examples of your experience, you demonstrate your readiness to make a positive impact on the lives of those you’ll serve.

This guide offers a compilation of sample interview questions and provides tips on crafting your responses to commonly asked interview questions about social work.

Interview questions by category

We have categorized the interview questions into three sections. Feel free to read straight through or jump to the sections that interest you most.

Tell me about yourself.

This is the most common and one of the most dreaded interview questions because it is so broad. Here is a useful formula for developing an answer to this question:

  • Present Talk a little bit about your current role or educational program, the scope of it, and perhaps a recent accomplishment.
  • Past Tell the interviewer about your background experience and education. Be sure to mention previous experience that’s relevant to the job and company you’re applying to.
  • Future — Segue into what you’re looking to do next. Tell the interviewer why you’re interested in this role and why you’re a great value-add.

Your snapshot should show the interviewer how your experiences equip you with the skills to succeed at their company and why you are interested in the specific role.

Pro tip:
Your answer to “Tell me about yourself” could determine the direction of the interview. Typically, what the interviewer asks next will be a follow-up question based on your answer. It’s almost like you get to control where the interview goes! It is highly recommended that you prepare your answer to this question before each interview. Practice delivering your answer to ensure it is relevant and leads to follow-up questions that allow you to shine.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a social worker?

Describing your strengths gives you an opportunity to brag about what makes you awesome and why you’re a great value-add to the company. Discuss 1–3 specific qualities that are relevant to this position and illustrate them with examples. Stories are always more memorable than generalizations.

When an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, they’re trying to get a gauge on your self-awareness and honesty. Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re currently working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you get more comfortable when addressing a crowd.

Why do you want to work at this company?

Demonstrate that you’ve researched the company and talk about the unique aspects of the company that made you want to apply for a role. You can point out the organization’s growth or innovation while honing in on your own opportunities for future career growth and how the company can contribute to it. Keep your reply high-level and not overly personal. Be specific and enthusiastic in explaining why you want to work for the company.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals. The hiring manager wants to know: a) if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition, and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. If the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations, it’s okay to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.

What are your salary expectations?

The number one rule of answering this question is to prepare thoroughly ahead of time. Do your research on what similar roles pay by using websites like or and reach out to your network. Be sure to take your experience, education, skills, and personal needs into account. From there, choose from one of three strategies to answer the question:

  • Give a salary range — Keep the bottom of your stated range toward the mid-to-high point of what you’re actually hoping to get.
  • Flip the question — You can say something like: “That’s a great question. Can you share the range you have in mind for this role?” 
  • Delay answering — Tell your interviewer that you’d like to learn more about the role or the rest of the compensation package before discussing pay.

How do you handle situations where you encounter resistance or skepticism from clients regarding your interventions or recommendations?

It is inevitable that you will come across resistance and skepticism in your career. Employers ask this question in order to better understand how you will approach these situations when they present themselves. When responding to the question, highlight active listening to understand concerns, providing clear rationale behind recommendations, and adapting communication styles to align with client preferences. Additionally, consider mentioning the importance of building trust through transparency and sharing success stories to illustrate positive outcomes. 

In what ways do you engage in ongoing self-reflection and wellness practices to enhance your professional growth and effectiveness as a social worker?

Craft a response showcasing a commitment to continuous improvement and self-care. Give an explanation of your approach and how it helps you. Some common approaches include:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Quarterly retrospective sessions
  • Workshops and trainings
  • Mentorship

How do you stay informed about and integrate evidence-based practices into your social work interventions?

It is important to employers that their employees are lifelong learners. This creates an innovative culture and ensures that the organization’s methods are up to date. In your response, emphasize the importance of learning in life, and explain how you ensure that you are continuously learning throughout the year. Your response may include mentions of workshops, research journals, newsletters, conferences, or focus groups.

Pro tip:
A benefit that many job seekers look for in a company is professional development. When you are given the opportunity to ask questions, consider inquiring, “How does the company invest in the professional growth of its employees?” This question provides valuable insights into the organization’s commitment to nurturing and advancing the skills and careers of its team members.

Can you share an example of a time when you had to make a difficult ethical decision in your social work practice?

When you are asked to describe a situation or tell a story about an experience, we recommend using the STAR Method. (Learn more about the STAR Method in our Behavioral interview prep guide.) In response to this question, your answer should follow the structure listed here: 

  • Situation — Outline the specific ethical dilemma and persons involved. 
  • Task — Explain your role in the dilemma including your responsibilities and relationships. 
  • Action — Describe the actions that you took in order to weigh your options. These may include consulting relevant guidelines or seeking supervision.
  • Result — Illustrate how your actions prioritized client welfare while upholding professional values. Highlight the positive impact of your decision and any subsequent measures taken to prevent similar challenges.

How do you approach building a strong therapeutic alliance with your clients?

This is an opportunity to showcase your relationship-building skills and pose them as an asset to the organization. Respond by emphasizing the importance of rapport and empathy. Highlight how you use your specific skills, talents, and personality to build strong relationships.

Expert advice

“When you’re gearing up for an interview, consider involving your significant other, sibling, friend, or anyone you trust. Ask them to step into the role of the interviewer. Collaborating with individuals who are intimately familiar with your personality can prove to be both a beneficial and enjoyable method for pinpointing areas where you can improve.”

– Colin L., career expert at edX

A headshot of Colin L.

Discuss your experience in advocating for policy changes at a macro level to address systemic issues affecting your clients.

As a leader in your industry, it is expected that you actively participate in pushing the industry forward. In your response, outline specific policy initiatives you championed, emphasizing their positive impact on clients. Discuss collaboration with stakeholders, research conducted to support proposals, and navigating bureaucratic processes. Finally, convey your commitment to addressing root causes of systemic issues and creating lasting change.

Describe your leadership style and how you use it to build effective social work teams.

Usually, when employers ask this question, they are not looking for a specific leadership structure, such as democratic or bureaucratic. Instead, they hope to understand more about your approach to leadership. In your response, describe the characteristics and principles that you rely on when leading. You may choose to talk about the importance of collaboration, transparency, support, or mentorship. Illustrate instances of successful teamwork and outcomes, demonstrating your capacity to build and lead effective social work teams.

Share an example of a time when you successfully resolved a conflict within your team or between team members. 

When you are asked to describe a situation or tell a story about an experience, we recommend using the STAR Method. (Learn more about the STAR Method in our Behavioral interview prep guide.) In response to this question, your answer should follow the structure listed here: 

  • Situation — Briefly describe the context and provide necessary background. It is best to not use the actual names of the people involved. This will show that you respect the privacy of your team. 
  • Task — Outline your specific responsibilities in resolving the conflict. 
  • Action — Detail the actions that you took to address the conflict. Highlight your leadership and problem-solving skills. 
  • Result — Conclude by discussing the positive outcome of your actions. If possible, emphasize the impact of your conflict resolution using quantitative results.

How do you approach the supervision and mentorship of social work staff to enhance their professional growth and job satisfaction?

As a leader you are expected to not only do great work yourself, but enhance the work and experiences of your team. In your response, convey a commitment to employee well-being and growth. Share any strategies that you use to ensure that your direct reports are satisfied with their professional growth and daily work. Strategies that you may mention include: 

  • Fostering open communication
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Tailoring support to the needs of individuals
  • Providing feedback 
  • Recognizing achievements

How do you involve the community in the development and implementation of social work programs?

Craft a response that underscores your passion for community collaboration. Detail your commitment to involving the community by sharing anecdotes of successful initiatives or community-driven projects. Finally, show the employer that you are not just willing but eager to work hand-in-hand with the community.

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