How to be successful in an interview for a support worker job
We look at how to prepare for a support worker interview and the key questions you could be asked, as well as highlighting some key policies you should be aware of. Words by Sarah Gill.
1st August 2011
As with any interview it is essential that you prepare yourself. Whether you are an experienced support worker or going for your first ever interview you will need to read up on current policy and do some research into the responsibilities you will have in that job. Make sure you fully understand the job your are being interviewed for and rehearse with yourself how you can ensure your experience is relevant. Even if you’ve never worked in health or social care before, you still have skills such as team work and communication which are relevant. There are some key policies you should also be aware of as a support worker, ones which will directly affect how you provide support for a service user.
The social care reform was launched on 10 December 2007 entitled “Putting People First”, and here are two of the key themes included in it that you should be aware of.
Personalisation in care was part of the social care reform that began in December 2007, and its principle is that people should be entitled “to live their own lives as they wish, confident that services are of high quality, are safe and promote their own individual needs for independence, well-being and dignity”. You can read the full details of the guidance on the Dept of Health archive.
You should be aware of this guidance as it’s one of the fundamental principles of delivering care to a service user. The guidance was updated last year, and the Social Care Institute for Excellent have produced a rough guide to personalistion, which you can access here . The Dept of Health have also recently produced a paper giving details of evidence of how the principles of personlisation have been applied in practice.
Safeguarding and dealing with abuse was another key factor in the social care reforms. There was a large consultation held that involved 12,000 people each contributing their opinions. You can read the detailed Safeguarding adults report here. The results of this consultation were instrumental in producing the guidance we have today, which was published earlier this year and is available to download here. It goes into details about the role every social care professional has to play in safeguarding.
You can read more about the social care reform policies and look at the other themes contained within the guidance on the Dept of Health archives.
Example Interview Questions
1. What qualities (and/or) experience can you bring to this role?
Many interviewers like to start with a fairly open question like this. It gives you a chance to relax a little and to speak freely about your experience and your personal qualities. It gives the interview panel a chance to get to know you a little, and for you to highlight everything you want them to know about you. It goes without saying that you should stick to talking about things that will be relevant for the support worker job you’re going for, they’re not that interested in knowing your hobbies unless they are directly relevant to the role.
2. What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
Make a big deal of the things you are good at such as communication, motivation, commitment, time keeping and give a reflection on your weaknesses to let the interview panel know you're aware of your weakness and have plans to improve on them. For example, a weakness of yours could be that you are sometimes a perfectionist, but you can overcome this by realising it’s not a perfect world and as long as a task is done safely and the client is happy, then that’s satisfactory.
3. What is your understanding of professional boundaries and how would you ensure they are maintained?
Professional boundaries are essential in social care, but especially in a support worker role. You will be working closely with individuals who require intimate and continuing support from you in order to maintain their independence and wellbeing, but that should be the limit of your involvement. You should acknowledge that any contact with a service user outside of work is not consistent with maintaining a professional boundary, nor is giving out personal information about yourself, and nor is accepting inappropriate gifts from a service user or family. If you are offered an inexpensive gift from a family member or service user as as gesture of thanks, as long as there is no conflict of interest you may accept but only after consulting your manager and logging receipt of the gift.
4. How would you ensure your are supporting a client to minimise the risks to themselves and you?
Risk is a key issue that must be addressed on a case by case basis. As a support worker you will be involved in undertaking risk assessments and once published, ensuring they are implemented. The process of carrying out the risk assessment will involve talking to the service user to find out the tasks they require support for, and how much they can undertake safely on their own. You will design robust working procedures that ensure your safety as well as the service user’s safety, and it will be your responsibility to introduce them to these routines as well as support them to learn how to carry out tasks safely.
5. Imagine a situation when you are faced with a service user who is aggravated and distressed. How would you manage this behaviour?
Challenging behaviour can present in many different forms, it could be anger, aggression, confusion or frustration, but however the service user is behaving you need to know how to handle it. If you’ve never been trained in how to manage challenging behaviour, just use your common sense in the interview to answer the question. You should always remain calm and listen to what the service user is saying, take time to fully understand their problem, and only then should you try to help them resolve the issue. If you feel your safety is being put at risk by their behaviour then you shouldn’t try to handle the situation alone. Leave the situation in a calm way and immediately get help. It’s important to let the interview panel know that you understand where your ability to manage the situation ends and when to ask for help. You should also let them know that as soon as the situation is resolved you would complete an incident report and ensure the entire event is properly documented.
6. You will be required to complete an assessment of a client’s needs. How would you go about doing this?
The assessment of a service user’s needs is done in conjunction with a risk assessment, and it also involves the client’s input. Start by talking to the service user about what they can do, what they struggle with and the things they need assistance with. Make sure you cover a complete range of activities from basic daily life tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking and eating to leisure activities and hobbies. Promoting independence and wellbeing is key to being a support worker, so your role is always to advise and assist but unless specifically required, never to undertake the task on behalf of the client. You should let the interview panel know that you understand it’s crucial for the client to feel a sense of achievement and independence in their every day lives and that you are there to facilitate that. This would be an ideal time to show your understanding of personalisation in care.
7. Give us an example of a time when you have worked in a small team, and how you personally contributed to that team.
This is a great opportunity to draw on a range of your experiences of team working. Make sure you give enough detail about how you worked as part of the team to support the other members, but also to ensure your contribution worked in conjunction with the team’s overall aim. Backing up any claims you make with previous experience shows the interview panel you have prepared well for the interview and that you can analyse your own behaviour to recognise the key skills you have achieved.
To view a full list of current support worker vacancies, click here.