When people ask me what I do for a living, I give them a big smile and say “I’m a professional matchmaker!” After giving them a few seconds to look at me weirdly, I then follow up by saying I’m a specialist recruiter for the permanent Social Work division at Charles Hunter Associates and that my job is – essentially – to support people to get interviews for their dream job!
I’ve been with Charles Hunter Associates for six and a half years, and I like to joke that I’m part of the furniture. But in all seriousness, I’m still here because: a) I love what I do, and b) Charles Hunter is the best organisation to work for in the UK Social Work recruitment field.
For those of you thinking about taking the next step in your career by moving into a Supervising Social Worker position, I’d like to share the insights I’ve gained whilst working as a recruiter in the sector.
In a two-part series, I’ll begin with an overview of the Social Work recruitment lifecycle and your pathway to a Supervising Social Worker role. In the second article in the series, I’ll include some specific tips on how to put your best foot forward when it comes to applying and increase your chances of securing this role in the rewarding fostering sector.
The Route to The Fostering Field
Let’s start with the basics: To land yourself a Supervising Social Worker position, you first need to have a recognised Social Work qualification and usually a good body of post qualification experience. At a minimum, I’d recommend at least two years of working as a frontline Social Worker. This gives you a solid base for understanding a child's journey through social services as well as great Safeguarding experience. As a side note, some of my most successful candidates have even had personal experience with foster care, either as a child or as a carer.
As honesty is always the best policy, I must mention it’s a super competitive field. This is mainly because fostering often isn't as intense as frontline work, and it can also offer a better work-life balance with more manageable caseloads. You must be prepared to showcase your passion for the sector and why a hiring manager should consider you over other candidates.
The Best Way to Land A Supervising Social Worker Role
You might find yourself in a very lucky boat where you land yourself a fostering position as a newly qualified social worker, allowing for you to undertake your ASYE. This isn’t the case for most people, so you’ll still most likely need to do a minimum of two years as a frontline Social Worker first.
It probably comes as no surprise that I believe the best way to land yourself a Supervising Social Worker role is by partnering with a recruiter. But with so many years in the industry under my belt, I can be objective enough to say that and here are some reasons to back up my bold claim:
· If you work with a recruiter like us here at Charles Hunter Associates, 9 times out of 10, we can secure an interview just by submitting your CV so there is no need to spend an hour or more of your time carefully filling out each application, not even knowing if you’ll successfully secure an interview.
· Once you’ve landed an interview through us, you can then move to fill out the full application, happy in the knowledge that you’ve already got your foot firmly in the door.
· Another key advantage of working with a recruiter is getting an insider’s view of the role/s before committing to applying. As I work directly with the hiring managers, I have plenty of intel I can provide about the organisation’s culture, working conditions, staff benefits and so on - something that’s a little difficult to get when you’re doing a solo search. Further to this, I can arrange for you to have an informal chat with the hiring manager to ensure you are happy to fully commit to the application process.
· At the start of any new candidate relationship, I like to spend time getting to know you. I want to know what you do and don’t like about where you currently work (if applicable), what you’re looking for and explain my process for helping you. I have to be on the same page as you.
Two things usually happen after that initial chat – I don’t currently have a job that matches what you want, or I do. In the former, I’ll start the hunt on your behalf with the understanding of what you’re after. You’ll hear from me regularly with updates.
In the second scenario, where I have a job (or more) that suits you, I'll send you the details of the job and organisation via email. I like to give you a day to digest the details and then we catch up. At that stage, with your consent, I'll introduce you to the organisation by sending over your CV and will speak to the manager, telling them about you, rather than solely relying on an email.
If it’s appropriate, I can even arrange a ‘pre-interview’ informal chat between the hiring manager and yourself, so that they can give you a better understanding of the role to help you make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
Support After Landing A Supervising Social Worker Role
So let’s say you absolutely smash the interview and you get a job offer, but it’s not exactly what you want. Do you try to negotiate or don’t you?
On your own, it can be a little tricky and awkward, but by partnering with a recruiter like me, I’ll happily negotiate the best package for you on your behalf (truth be told, I love that bit!), whether it’s a desire for hybrid working conditions, a bump in the salary figure or annual leave entitlement offered, etc.
Once you land the role, I like to say that we become the best of friends, as I think it’s really important to stay in contact to ensure a smooth transition into the role. Open lines of communication are crucial.
In my time in the Social Work recruitment sector, I’ve realised that the onboarding process (compliance checks) can be a nervous time. It can be a long and complicated process, especially around documentation to meet Ofsted regulations.
While I don’t do all the nitty gritty stuff, like DBS checks, I act as an intermediary between you and your new employer during this phase, frequently touching base with the employer’s HR to see where they’re at and then updating you.
I will then try to get a provisional start date for you and once we have it, I always like to recommend that you take some time off - at least a week - before beginning. While rewarding, Social Work is intense, so a short break helps you start the new role fresh and ready.
From the day you start to your first month on the job, I’m here for you if you need further support. I’ll call or email to ensure it's progressing well and help wherever I can if you have any niggles or concerns. After that time, I take the brakes off – I promise – but I might still send an email every so often to make sure you’re ok.
So that covers the Social Work recruitment lifecycle for a Supervising Social Worker role. Stay tuned for my next piece with tailored tips around applying and interviewing for the role to increase your chances of landing it.
If you got any further questions in the meantime, feel free to connect with me directly. I’d love to chat.