Welcome to my second article in a two-part series about securing a job as a Supervising Social Worker. In the first article, I shared my overview of the Social Worker recruitment lifecycle and the pathway you take toward a Supervising Social Worker position.
Now I’d like to provide you with a toolkit of application and interview tips that can help you land the opportunity you’re looking for. These are gleaned from my six and a half years as a recruiter for the permanent Social Worker division at Charles Hunter Associates.
Key Job Application Tips
Moving from a frontline Social Worker team into the world of fostering is definitely exciting. It’s also a highly competitive field, mainly because it usually comes with a more manageable caseload than found in frontline Social Work, often allowing for a better work-life balance.
As it’s quite challenging to get into the sector, you need to give yourself the best chance by genuinely focusing on your application.
Channel the Hiring Manager
My first piece of advice is to put yourself in the shoes of the Hiring Manager – what would you look for in someone applying for your Supervising Social Worker job? It’s a great starting point as it can help you brainstorm exactly what information you should include in your CV and cover letter.
Customise your applications
The next tip is to customise every single application. Even though it’s a time saver, avoid copying and pasting information from one application to the next. Use keywords plucked straight from the job advertisement and the job description provided. You really need to tailor each one to the specific organisation and the position you are applying for because:
The Hiring Manager will be looking at a large number of applications from others wanting the same thing as you and you need to tick most of their boxes
Diversify your application with the strengths you bring to the role, but don’t forget to include all of the skills and attributes you possess that they specifically are asking for. Do not focus on personal traits and characteristics, such as punctuality etc
Your cover letter is a great place to showcase who you are and your personality – feel free to talk about personality traits and characteristics here
Why you want to work in fostering
It’s important to find a way to incorporate why you want to get into fostering and how your current experience translates to the sector. This could be done in your personal statement and I’d suggest including some of your standout traits, such as:
Your transferable experience/competencies from other social work teams
Your ability to engage with a diverse range of individuals
Your commitment to maintaining professional ethics and upholding confidentiality
Your genuine passion for making a positive difference in the lives of vulnerable children and families.
Work with a specialised Recruiter
If you get stuck – and there’s no shame in that because it’s a tricky task to get the formula perfect – consider partnering with a professional recruiter (yes, me!). In this capacity, I offer my candidates plenty of support in reviewing their application and providing suggestions about what information to include from the perspective of a Hiring Manager.
I’ll also help you translate your experience and passion for moving from the frontline Social Work to fostering into your personal story, one that will capture the Hiring Manager’s attention.
Interview Preparation Tips
At Charles Hunter Associates, we take interview preparation seriously because it can make a real difference as to whether you either land the job, or not!
A personalised, comprehensive preparation process
Once you secure a Supervising Social Worker interview, it’s time to launch into ‘prep mode’. From my perspective, the first thing to do is put together a personalised ‘bible’ for my candidate – a thorough email that covers every single aspect of the interview. Some agencies will only send out a calendar invite, but I go the extra mile and walk you through each step to make sure everything is as clear as possible!
This email includes:
Interview details (time, date, location)
Links to the company’s website and socials
The job description
The person specification
The statement of purpose
The Ofsted report
Preparation tips such as questions to expect
I’ll give my candidate a day to digest it all and then I’ll set up a time to do some more detailed preparation over the phone.
Provide some insider secrets
This is usually a 30-minute session where we go over what to expect. As I’ve had experience working with most of the Hiring Managers we work with, I usually know the structure of the interview, whether it’s all competency and scenario-based questions, or some written tasks thrown in too.
When it comes to how to answer questions, it does require a fair amount of thought and practice. In answering competency-based questions, you need to:
Be comfortable talking about yourself, specifically your practical examples that showcase your experience on a given topic
Showcase your achievements as a Social Worker, for example, how you've accomplished positive outcomes for children
How useful your experiences are for this job.
You’d be surprised how often people forget to do this!
At the same time, you need to know your weaknesses as that’s often asked about. Most people quickly default to, ‘Oh, I work too hard’, but that’s not really what will make you stand out. It's more about dissecting your CV (experiences) and finding something you can actually turn into a positive. So it might be ”I’ve never worked in a fostering position before, however, I have got XYZ experience that is transferrable.”
This skill is turning your weaknesses (or areas that you lack experience) into strengths. It also shows you’re human and that is compelling in such a role of this nature.
I also find it can be helpful to change your mindset around the questions Hiring Managers ask, especially the tricky ones. They’re not asking them to try to trip you up; they’re doing it to see how your mind works, as well as determine the extent of your knowledge.
This then gives them a baseline of where they can work with you.
A final preparation tip is to make sure you come up with your own list of questions. Often the things you ask are much more enlightening to a Hiring Manager than the answers you give to theirs.
I can support you in compiling a list that not only helps draw out the information you want about the role but ones that showcases your interest in it and in the specific company.
While the path to becoming a Supervising Social Worker may present challenges, it’s certainly achievable with full dedication and commitment to the application and interview process.
I hope you’ve found these application and interview tips helpful on your road to securing a Supervising Social Worker position, but if you need further support in any aspect of your job search, please let me know. I’d love to help