Over the last 20+ years, social care Project Manager Steve has gained vast experience working across children’s and adult services within local authorities, as well as for the independent and third sectors.
Watch the interview between Adam and Steve here or read the transcript below:
Q: Before you interview, to what extent do you form an opinion of the social workers based on their CVs?
A: The CV is really important because it's the first stage of me getting to know a bit about the social worker. It's a really good way for me to read exactly what their experience is, what they've done… and that way I can see whether they've worked with this client group before, whether they've got experience of completing a particular project task.
And also, it gives me an idea about what kind of recording systems they've used because, more and more, the ability to use different recording systems is absolutely key to the social work task.
Q: What qualities do hiring managers look for? What are the top attributes, skills, knowledge, and behaviours, that you look for when you're interviewing social workers?
A: I'm looking for people who've got some experience in the task at hand and have also got experience of working with a particular client group. It could be, you know, adults with a learning disability, adults with mental health concerns etc., so I'm looking for that kind of experience.
I'm also looking for someone who is person-centred in their approach but is able to balance that person-centredness with the task at hand. We know when we’re brought in as a project [manager], we’re brought in to undertake a specific role and to take on something. So, it's about balancing those two things because all employers who take us on will be looking at some kind of further work through the work we're doing.
And after that, I suppose I'm looking for someone who is self-motivated, somebody who can manage their own diary, but someone who can go away and do the task but seek guidance where it's needed. I don't think a project manager is expected to micromanage what someone's doing, but we are expected to provide support, and then manage people around the expectation of what results they produce.
Q: In an interview, how can a social worker talk about their experience in a memorable way?
A: What I encourage people to do – I always think it's a good idea to adopt a STAR approach, where people tell you, when they're describing the piece of work they've done, they tell you the situation of the placement, tasks they had to undertake, the actions they took to achieve that task, and what the results were.
And if people can identify key parts within a kind of framework, I think it's helpful for the interviewer, because it enables them to understand that the interviewee understands the tasks required of them and it gives me an idea about how they approach things, both in a methodical way, but also in a person-centred way that follows our legal framework.
But it is also about achieving something at the end. It's about having an end product and being able to identify what that end product is.
What I'm really keen to do is learn about what that person's experience is in working with a particular client group they're being hired to work with.
Q: What job interview top tips can you give social workers?
A: Again, I think it's important to make it clear that you understand the client group and the tasks required. I think it's good when prospective social workers ask questions about what the brief is – the idea of the interview process is it should go two ways. It's about me figuring out whether I think that person's right for the project, suitable for the team, but it's also about the individual working out if the project is right for them. Is this the kind of project that they want to undertake?
It's also important that the social worker's clear that they can undertake the task and sometimes it can be a question of geography. As the interviewee, are you going to be able to do the required visits into a particular area that you're asked to work? Are you able to complete the task at the pace that's required? And really be clear about whether this is a role that's really going to be good for you.
The last point is to, if possible, try and come across as quite personable because, you know, this is an opportunity – it's the one chance the manager's got to see how you get on with other people. The way you go on with the person that's interviewing you may be an indication of how you get on with people you meet as a social worker. Remember, you're going to be meeting vulnerable people, family members, other professionals, etc., so having the ability to engage with people is important. So, if you can demonstrate that at the interview stage, that's a real bonus.