Interview With Lyla, a Young Social Worker and Recent Graduate Living in Salem


We at Everyday Interview Tips try our best to bring you real job interview experiences to help you learn how to succeed at your upcoming job interview. Today we sit down with Lyla, and lovely 25 year old social work graduate that completed her MSW last year and has since found employment with a social work company in Salem. Below is the transcript of the interview.

Before your last job interview, how did you prepare?

I looked through the job description of the position. I tried to think about questions I had about the position, jot them down. I thought about why I wanted the position and what I would learn from it. I also tried to prepare answers to questions the interviewer might ask me. I updated my resume and thought about my past job experiences and how those prepared me for the current position.

When you went to your job interview at the Salem Mental Health Services, how confident did you feel?

I felt confident about the position because I had previous social work experience and the education. I also met the bilingual requirement they were looking for.

How many interviews did they conduct before you were hired?

Two, but each was with multiple people. The first one I met with was an HR person, and one of the supervisors. Then, they had me write a response to a vignette. The second interview I first met with the head of HR and the department manager, then I met with the person who will be my supervisor, then I met with a case manager.

Tell me about the vignette. What was it and what exactly where you asked to do?

It was a case presentation about an elder. Included a little bit about the person’s life, support system, mental health issues, and then issues that the elder was dealing with. I think in this case, the elder was very independent and didn’t need support until she fell and broke her hip. She refused to accept services b/c she was always use to doing everything on her own. After I read the vignette, I was asked to respond to several questions. One of which was something like… what would you do to encourage the elder to seek help? I don’t remember the rest.

Did that task throw you off guard? How did you feel about being asked to complete such an unusual activity at a job interview?

I was nervous about it when I found out I was being tested on this. But it makes a lot of sense why they asked me to do it. I think it tested personal characteristics, like empathy, as well as how to deal with the reality of a situation that many elders face. I think they also wanted to see a little bit of my problem solving skills and creative thinking.

Very interesting. Can you recall any specific interview question examples that may help social work graduates prepare for their interviews?

  • Tell me about a challenging experience at a previous job. What did you learn? And what would you do the next time you experience something similar?
  • What do you like about this position?
  • What part of this job do you think you will excel in, and which part will you need more support and growth?
  • This position require someone who can multitask and think quickly on their feet during crisis situations, but is not afraid to ask for help or support. Does this describe you?
  • Give an example of a job experience where you had to multitask and or deal with a crisis situation. How did you deal?

Of the interview questions you remember, which did you find to be the most difficult to answer, how did you answer and do you feel you could have answered it any better?

I think the first question: Challenging experience, was more difficult for me to answer. I believe I talked about an experience with a depressed client, who I was trying to screen for suicidal ideation. I’ve been seeing this client for a long time, and it didn’t seem like she was improving at all. And it was very difficult to work with her because of a trauma history. I talked about her issues in supervision, and I think I made the mistake of telling her what my supervisors thought, which caused her to not trust me as much, even though she knew I was a student. In the beginning, I should have made this more clear to her, and maybe go over things that she may be okay with me sharing with supervisors, and things she would feel uncomfortable with. So that she didn’t think I betrayed her confidence. This question was difficult for me to answer because i don’t like displaying my past mistakes/weaknesses in an interview. I always worry how interviewer would judge me or what they would think. I could have answered it better by being more confident, and talk about my strengths, what I did well in that situation also, such as my desire to help, which was the reason I talked to my supervisor to gain some insight on the situation, instead of only the weakness.

What were your biggest weaknesses during the interview?

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I try too hard to get the job. I feel like sometimes I draw myself up to be the person that they are looking for, rather than completely being myself and answer questions more from the heart.

What were your greatest interview strengths during the job interview?

My greatest strength is my love for the social work field and working with people. I believe that my desire to help people is very transparent in my interviews and my answers. Another strength is that I have good insight and am good at giving examples of past relevant experiences.

How confident were you when you left the first interview that you would get the job?

70% confident, because I thought I did well on the vignette, and believe that I answered all the questions well. I also felt that the people i met with really liked me.

What was the salary negotiation experience like? Were you able to negotiate or was your salary tiered based on your work history?

I couldn’t negotiate, because it was already set by the union. It was based on my experience and being bilingual bumped me up a bit.

Great. Thanks. One last question. If you could give advice to recent graduates about to experience a social work job interview, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to apply for or go for an interview for a job that is borderline on what you are looking for. At the job interview you will meet with the staff and can ask as many questions as you want about the job to make sure that it is what you want and at a place where you have the potential for learning and growth. Remember, they are interviewing you, but you are interviewing them as well. So, bring a lot of questions, it shows them you are interested in the job, and being proactive in finding out if the position is right for you.


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