Job Interviewing Strategies for Social Workers, with Anna Haley-Lock, Ph.D.

Job Interviewing Strategies for Social Workers, with Anna Haley-Lock, Ph.D.


Good afternoon, I guess. So, have you all been able to be – to go to
the last two sessions? Or no? Okay. So those are…so they’re online. I would say that this session, there’s certain
prep similarities with this one and the cover letter preparation, in the falling sense. For the cover letter, as in the large part,
would be interview preparation, you’re not thinking about the chronology of
all of your jobs, or the chronology of, you know, your educational experience. You’re thinking about how your range of qualifications
– so course work studies, volunteering, internships, jobs, even non-human services jobs – how those
can be leveraged to fit into the key job responsibilities for the opening that you’ve applied to, that
you’ve got an interview for. To get the interview, that’s what you do in
a cover letter. So you’re not just simply parroting back the
list of things you’ve done. You’re doing this content analysis of both
the job description and the key job responsibilities– the big, heavy-hitting things that that job’s
gonna do, and you’re writing a cover letter – that’s organize the body paragraphs around
those – two or three paragraphs worth. So, that’s what that session covers. Similarly, then, in the interview, you’re
talking through that. So it’s not resume structured. It’s cover letter and thus, job responsibility
structured, so how does your wonderful mix of all kinds of experience fit into that..yeah,
into that job? And they obviously have seen it, ’cause they
wouldn’t have brought you in otherwise. So you’ve made a nice cut. So, but the way you’re prepping again, is
that you are – you’re building off the cover letter to talk through that fit. You tell them more things that…that tease
out the fits, and then also prepare for the pockets of lack of fit. Where you don’t have a lot of qualifications
in a certain area that they’re interested in, for example. So here’s what we’re going to do today. So, we have this table. I’m a big table gal. And that table’s part of just a way that you
can structure your preparation. But what I want to walk through then, is the
table and yet, mainly the ideas in the table. Then the – that’s kind of the content homework
before the interview. Then the process homework. So, what you want to think about in terms
of the process of the interview. Prepare yourself psychologically, you know. Existentially. And then some discussion of different question
types and some strategies for most effectively managing responding to different kinds of
questions. Okay? Types more than actual specific questions. And then a little bit on the follow up. Now we’ll be done, and you’ll be ready to
interview, but you probably are now too. Okay, so content homework. So, thinking about the table. So, what does this table say? The idea is – and again, you, you really arguably
could do this well for cover letter. You want to review the posting. So I’m diving into the tasks now listed on
this. You want to review the posting for the job
opening and identify those clearest, the clearly highest priority qualifications. Alright? So not attention to detail. For example. That’s always on there, right? ‘Cause you always want that, but that’s like
at the bottom. Even if they arrantly put it at the top, they
have it organized things by heftiness. Figure that out and you know, figure out the
really clear nuance. You know, think about the rating of importance,
and then you’re going to look at your resume, and you’re gonna create notes – kind of per,
you know, this kind of table or not. Do something completely different. If you’re not a table person, just take some
notes, whatever. Just kind of how I think. And you’re gonna prep both cover letter and
then your interview according to that. So let’s walk through this. So, qualifications that I have. So that’s where you can just list out the
key job responsibilities. What are they? In order of most important to least important. Or the lower end. And then B, Column A was qualifications. Column B is: Prove It. So, looking at your resume. So at your paid experience, your volunteer
experience, internship experience, other kinds of service or training opportunities, if there’s
some things you can pluck from the back end section. That’s kinda those deep trainings or other
kinds of experiences. Maybe experiences overseas that may bear upon
you know, working in a diverse, multicultural clientele or workforce for example. And then your coursework, your studies. So, list those out per each of the responsibilities. And then after you’ve done that, you wanna
think through it – this is for the interview now, not the cover letter. Your cover letter, you’re not gonna highlight,
“Yeah, I don’t have any of that kind of stuff.” You know. But, that’s gonna come out up, chances are,
in the interview, right? So for – then you go to Column C, is I have
it here, “Qualifications I don’t have as much or at all.” Right? And you’re just, you’re noting only those
that relate to the big ticket item responsibilities. So don’t say that yeah, you don’t know Access
Database if they don’t mention that, ’cause who cares, right? Or if they don’t need Russian, then don’t
worry about not speaking Russian. But things that seem to be less strengths. So, note those. And then think about – so, Column D, what
that note says: “How will you address this if given the job?” Right? You could then in the event of that, talk
through how would you address questions about that? So, what, you know, what if any related or
similar experiences, qualifications, might you have in that area? Without stretching it. You wanna note, “Yeah, I don’t have experience
in the area of employee supervision. I have some, nominally similar experience
in working with, you know, college volunteers as a grad student. Oh, that, that’s supervisor. That’s pretty decent.” But you want to note if you have some similar,
you can jot that down and prep mentally. But you do always wanna clarify, “Yeah, I
realize this is – is not what you’re asking. It’s different, but it’s – I think it enforms
it.” And then, have in mind again, how you’re gonna
address if you got the job, that lack. And that has to do with talking through, in
some cases, additional training, or if they need an LCSW, or prefer one if they don’t
require it. Then here are your plans for proceeding with
that. You had some of the requisite coursework already. You have plans for pursuing supervision and,
you know, of your work with clients, you know, independently as needed. So you can talk – you’ve prepared thoughts
about talking about that. But certain, yeah, additional training classes,
if you need, like, a substance abuse – what’s that called again? Sack or something? Counselor. There are additional trainings that perhaps
they prefer you can talk through in advance. What your plan would be for – for achieving
those credentials, and that you are interested in that. If it’s a matter of supervising folks and
you haven’t had that experience before, then talk them through your philosophy for stepping
into that kind of duty. So that you, you know, as a person that’s
newer to supervision, you take a very consultative approach, where you would, you know, check
in with employees closely who have been there longer than you to make sure that you are
understanding their experiences that they have in that work environment. Consult with other supervisors as well to
get a sense of the approach to supervision that is established in the organization. So, that kind of thing. So what is your style in the light of being
a little lower power on certain areas? What would be your philosophy? Your style for approaching that. Ways of you know, addressing that learning
curve. Right? So thinking through that in advance would
be really helpful because they’re gonna – they may very well ask about it – they may not. They may be like, “Oh, she’ll figure it out.” But if they don’t, then it’s good to have
– it’ll look impressive that you’ve thought through those different issues. Okay. And then, so, looking at the bottom of the
sheet, when you’re done with this, you can review the visual balance of the table. So, hopefully you have a lot more going on
in the left side. Meaning, you’ve a lot more going on with things
that the qualifications you do have. I mean, you’ve got the job interview in spite
of there not being that left side dominance, that’s interesting. What does that mean? It – it might make it a little challenging
to repair because there’s something that’s – that’s connected with them, but it may not
be obvious to you what it is. Unless it is just a particular depth in like,
this one job skill that turns out to be not just their top most important, but like, night
and day, the key thing that they need. They haven’t found anybody else to date. What else here do we say? Then if the table is right-side heavy, so
the deficit’s the lacks, or the lower numbers are…(indecipherable) Yeah, you have more
of an uphill battle competitively. But again, if you secured the interview, then
clearly something is speaking to them, so, take a breath and proceed. What else? So then other kinds of questions. So, you’ll talk through your qualifications. You want to really…the main prep that you
should do is thinking through how to persuasively talk about the fit. Right? Both in terms of the nature of your qualifications
and the depth of those – the intensity of those qualifications. And students do ask about, “Oh, you know,
I have management experience, but it’s working at a retail store,” (or restaurant or whatever). Oh my gosh, absolutely mention that. Of course that’s relevant. That’s totally relevant, right? So really make sure, I mean, don’t – you know,
things that were much more peripheral or a light hour, you know, maybe the less things
to draw on, but any thing that would provide relevant experience given those job responsibilities,
do, you know, think through and add those in, and be prepared to talk about how, you
know, how they advanced or deepened your level of qualification in that particular area. Remember, in terms of enthusiasm, and hopefully
this is genuine enthusiasm if you applied to the job, although, I realize that bills
have to be paid, but – but talk about your enthusiasm for having the opportunity to continue
working along that specific dimension of work, right? That you are, you get a lot of satisfaction
and think that it is just really important work to be engaged in you know, volunteer
training or program assessment or you know, working with clients and their families doing
such and such types of intervention. So, remember it is surprisingly common, I
think, as folks are nervous, and they think that by virtue of applying, maybe it’s obvious,
“I’ve announced my interest, so you get that right? We can move beyond that.” No, no, no. You do very much want to continue to you know,
not to the point of just silliness, but to – to express your enthusiasm. “Thanks so much for having me, I’m delighted
learn more about the organization and see your needs for hiring this position,” which
is a line that I encouraged at the bottom of the cover letter. So, to reiterate that, that you’re just thrilled
to have the opportunity to learn more. And then, and talking through your fit with
those – from your, your little prep list. You know, if they’re particular, it may not
be every single one of those responsibilities, but if there are particular ones that you
are just really, I mean, it’s what drew you to apply for the position, then absolutely
talk about the fit and your enthusiasm. That this is exactly what you want to be doing
for the following reasons. So, that’s good. Any questions so far? No? Okay. Let’s see. So, gaps in time, that’s come up in terms
of resume. People have concerns about that. So a gap would be – so not school. School is something you’re doing. You know, potentially…so it could be, you
know unemployment, or you weren’t volunteering, you weren’t going to school, so not in paid
employments, but it wasn’t those other things. But other things that you could definitely
talk about are if you were engaged in dependent care of any dependents or volunteering. I don’t consider that to be a gap either. Those are always something you can very comfortably
talk about what you were doing at that point. You can say you were engaged in a potential
career shift at that point, that the market was pretty tight where you were, and you are
balancing dependent care with trying to find a good – a good fitting position for you. You were committed in that period to you know,
full time dependent care, home schooling, you know, working with an elder. So, all, I think in a human services context,
while is it true that some folks sconce at that and think less of it? Yeah. We can’t control that. It’s – it’s a reality, but I think could very
– you should very comfortably be able to walk through those things. And I know, again, I don’t know what your
individual situations are, but that’s – embrace that. In terms of unemployment, if actually, and
you’ve had that, at this point in time, and really over the last many years, economy,
you know the labor market, is such that it’s pretty common for folks to have gaps. Right? So, I don’t know that those questions are
terribly common, especially with human services, but also, you’re just coming out of school. You know, you’ve been in school. Even if, like, long before that there was
a gap. Like, “Oh you’ve been in school!” So they don’t even ask that kind of question. I wouldn’t sweat it too much. There will be questions, you know, the whole,
you know, “What’s your biggest weakness?” – which I think are just foolish. So, in a class, when I teach 840, you know,
part of my goal was to not just, you know, support perspective employees and current
employees that you all will be and being able to feel fully competent as employees, but
to train you guys as eventual managers and hirers who won’t ask those kinds of foolish
questions because what do they, you know, “If you were a vegetable..what..” you know,
hopefully that never happens, but really, your greatest weakness. Well, how is that guaranteed to map onto the
job in any reliable way? And how can you compare that question to the
answer for you know, given by another worker, or another applicant? And it’s just worthless, and it causes a huge
amount of stress. You’re thinking, “Oh, I gotta give something
so I look authentic and thoughtful enough and not pompous, but if it’s serious, I’ll
look like a loser,” and so the classic one is, “Oh, I have a hard time saying no.” Oh, no! “I have a hard time with time management,”
which actually can freak people out, like time management or, “I have a hard time delegating,”
think about if the previous person who has been holding that position, like they’re shifting
the whole focus because that person was a workaholic and stressed everybody out and
you know, stressed all of their supervisees out, or whatever, you’ve got to be careful
how what you say there may trigger past employee experiences. So I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna weigh in on
– oh, sorry, yeah? – Is there a good one? Right, I was just going to say, “I’m not gonna
tell you what a good one is, or what a good answer that is.” Yeah, I don’t know if I’ve found that because
I think the question is so flawed fundamentally, that I’m not sure that there is actually a
legitimate answer. What I would say is, yeah, that whole time
management thing because that tends to be characteristics proportionally of human services
workers, this proportionally in that – within that, women – that it’s either really cliche
as an answer or it could be scary for the person interviewing, like, “Oh, we don’t need
one of those again,” right? You could brainstorm briefly what you might
be inclined to say, but what you want to do though, is you may allude to a weakness, give
an example, talk about how you dealt with it, and your plan for how you manage it going
forward. So, regardless of what you say, it’s gotta
be in that structure. So, quick summary of it, specific example,
how you addressed that example because it was presumable the weakness causing issue,
and then how you seek to avoid that problem. So, in general, if you – any question around,
you know, “What have been some challenges, have you really engaged – have you had any
errors in approaching working with such and such in the past? And what did you, what did you do about it?” So you do want to be sure that you’ve had
made mistakes, you know that kind of questioning in general, like, weaknesses, mistakes questions. Note it succinctly, talk through the example,
and then talk about the solution and avoidance for the future. Like, what are your – the insights you gained
from that, such that you’re a little more sharp going forward about avoiding that. Right? That is the key structure. Yeah? [Audience member: so one of the things I’ve
done in interviews is, they general ask your strength first, and then give you the punch
with, “What is your weakness?” and I’ve, in the past, talked about my strengths, and then
used some of my strengths also as a weakness…] Like too much of the strength can be a weakness,
which is, hopefully when that happens, the interviewee – the interviewer has the insight
“Oh, that was kind of a stupid question wasn’t it?” You know, because they’re like “Oh, yeah,
that doesn’t help with anything.” I mean, it’s not – that’s standard. It’s not a disaster. With the strength though, here’s another strategy. With the strength, I would map it onto the
job responsibilities. Right? Not just some random, “I have lots of enthusiasm,”
“I delegate well.” See about a strength or a set of strengths
that relate to, “Yeah, I have particularly strong insights in terms of talking to employees,
working with them, in terms of their needs for support in providing supervision, or volunteer
management with folks who aren’t getting paid, you know, cuing in on the supports and motivation
they need to do their job well and stay with us,” something like – I know I keep putting
it on more macro-level, sorry. So, something that maps. That would be good. Then the weakness, ideally shouldn’t be key
to the responsibilities, right? Well, you know, “I don’t know how to supervise
employees or construct the performance reviews if my life depended on it,” which you wouldn’t
say regardless, but ideally the weakness is not, “Oh, I totally central to one of the
responsibilities.” Okay? Other – yeah? [Audience member: Can I go back, real quick,
just to gaps in employment, and…So, in between graduate and undergraduate school, there’s
like, a year a gap, and you did a little bit of volunteering here and there, but nothing
to make up for 40 hours a week, or even 30 hours a week. Can you say some – I mean, how would you address
that as far as like, career exploration?] Yeah, I mean, it can – a year, at this point,
honestly, I don’t even, it’s barely a gap. Right? That’s kind of a couple breaths. You know, you could say combination of you
were focused on dependent care while exploring future career opportunities, which is, I’m
guessing probably what was happening, right? On some level. So, I think just a quick answer that’s specific
enough, that’s not obtuse and you know, invites more questioning, it’s not mysterious, but
is not too long. That’s also a lot of how the art not science
strategy here, is you want to have answers that are specific and not too long. Think about, in some cases, that one was like,
a sentence or two, with more detailed answers about your qualifications, you want to have
an arc that’s more like a paragraph or so. Like, five or six sentences max. Right? So, you want to have the – the lead sentence. I don’t know if you guys have ever went through,
like I had to, like in fifth grade, it was intensive writing, you know, learning about
how to write, and so you learn to structure paragraphs. The lead sentence, kind of a summary, and
you break down the examples of it, then you kind of wrap it up. Right? So you want to have a sense of an arc. ‘Cause one of the great fears, you know, these
folks that are interviewing, they’re interviewing too many people, it’s exhausting, it’s on
top of all their other work. They need to be able to then take the data,
you know, note it down, and somehow compare it across multiple people, which is – is actually
stunningly hard to do. Like, as much as it’s hard to interview on
that side, being the interviewer, and recalling the interviewees answers to questions is really
pretty challenging. But you want to have the sense t the answers
is going to give you what you need, and then wrap up. So, again, it’s that start up – the lead sentence,
summary, details, and then concluding. If you get off into an answer that’s too long
or ill-formed, and you give the person a sense that it’s like this: going and going and going,
especially if you’ve gotten off the wrong track, and it’s going and it’s just not even
what the person wanted, it just creates this panic, in the sense that this person is not
someone I can work with, like, “Oh God! Like, I’m being pulled into this wild goose
chase.” Right? So, its better — another way, a kind of metaphor
to think of this is how you wear perfume or cologne. You want to wear just enough that the person
might be interested in coming closer to smell it, than so much that it’s, “Oh, goodness,”
then run away. It’s similar–it’s a balance. If it’s too short, it sounds like you’re being
evasive or a little too, you know, cute. But if you go on too long, it just, especially,
again, if you are just a little bit off-base, then it can feel like almost panicking or
annoying. Now, how are we doing? The weaknesses I punted. Any ideas of weaknesses that you guys would
share? We can at least process those. [Audience Member: I often share that I’m not
good at multitasking. This is a common belief in our culture that..] we can, when actually we can’t, yeah. [Yeah, that everyone needs to be be able to multitask and be really good at it. And you even see it in job descriptions “Able to multitask”. But I, I then talk about how um–oh, and my other weakness is that I don’t necessarily learn things quickly. That’s another thing that people often say is a strength is to learn things really quickly. But that, um, it’s really important to me that I do a good job In that when I learn something, I learn it really well, and I apply myself to do a really good job. And so, that’s to me, that’s like the flip coin, the other side of the coin of those two weaknesses So, I don’t really see it as a weakness, I just see it as…] A style [yeah]. So a couple thoughts on those two different things So with the multitasking, do you have an example that you give of that? Or else the potential negative effects that that can have sometimes on how you manage those? [Um, I don’t have a for sure example…] Okay, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, I’m just curious, like how you tease it out. [Just in general…yeah, I don’t know] So what I might do, is come up with an example, like: “That can be frustrating, sometimes, for folks that I work with, you know, on a team or employees who who come to me an kind of need me to juggle multiple things at once, and it has the possible bad side effect that they can feel like I’m asking them to wait when they really want me to be able to cue in on something right on the spot. Um, but I find that, I tend to then not be able to give good attention, or accurate attention to that, if they come in while I’m trying to do something else. So, I tend to compensate for that by, you know, having scheduled times of availability, I make sure I schedule paired meeting with them on a weekly basis, and I do feel then that it evens out because the employees experience me as being incredibly tuned to what their issue is when they come to me. So they might have to wait a little bit, but I’m clear up front about that when we’re going to schedule a time to talk about it, and then I really focus in on that issue. And it seems to work in the long run.” So that might be how i would, you know. And then just noting that so what that means is I need to be a tuned to how many things you’re juggling at a given time and have a plan for addressing those sequentially, and prioritizing the time-sensitive and really important ones versus the ones that are less important So that you canmanage that kind of multitasking challenge issue So I might tease out, briefly, some of those things. Um, with the “it takes you a long time to learn”, I might not give that as a weakness. Cause that off hand without knowing you might come off as a little alarming. But flip it as like, what is your approach to whatever, like depending on how it comes up. Note that you tend to be really..about areas that you don’t know rather than diving in quickly and just trying stuff out and thinking that you have insight based on just a little bit of information you really like to be pretty deliberate about it and consultative. So you like to talk to a range of different stake-holders about certain important issues, check your understanding, whether with clients, with subordinates, with other managers, to get a sense of your familiarity with the issue. For example “When you were a ____, this is the approach that you took.” So I would give that more as a personal style type of example than a weakness. And it’s only because I think that unfortunately it can be misconstrued if you give it as a weakness. And I think actually it could be a strength. So, how we doing? Any questions? Okay, um, let see here. Then you want to come up with some questions, cause they may ask those, So you know, “Tell me more about what direction do you see this job heading?” if it does come up, “What are you really hoping to achieve with this position in the short term or the near term?” Like “Are there particular visions that you have for us?” They may or may not have an answer to that really, um “What’s a typical day like for this position, if there is one?” Um, “How does this position interact with other ones that work along side it?” “What have been some challenges and some successes of the folks that have worked in this position previously?” Those are all pretty savvy questions, right? That really make them feel like you are genuinely interested, and fairly insightful about the natural start-up challenges that that position and its holder would have. Okay, so um, so prep some of those. So now let’s move to the process, if we’re ready. So we’re going off the table now. all of us have different reactions to context
and have nerves dealing with things like this. I tend to be fairly sensitive to it, so that’s
why I bring it up in talking through this, so understanding where the interview’s going
to be, the building, making sure that we have a sense – inevitably, there are times,
and MapQuest often does this to me, where the directions are wrong, or I have assumed
a certain location in my head, and I kinda go there, and I make the directions fit, and
I realize, “No!” or the famous time, I don’t know, well I was like, eight and a half months
pregnant, and I had an interview. It was an interview, but it was an appointment to collect
data at an organization for my dissertation, and I literally just started driving north
in the state, and this place was south, so I had to call and reschedule. I mean, it was
just – who knows, I was not thinking. So, just you know, again, sounds silly, which
is being sure, and even if it helps you to relax, if it’s in town, driving by the place
in advance, getting kind of sure you know where the room is, what’s the parking thing
going to be like? Are you going to take a bus? Just you know, kind of knowing the set
up. If that kind of thing doesn’t throw you, whatever. Who it’s going to be with? So it’s
fine to ask, “Who can I look forward to meeting with? Like how many people?” So, in public
interviews, especially, typically it could be a panel of folks. The other dynamics there
is that it’s tricky. It could feel really overwhelming, but it’s all for a good reason.
Those folks, you know, often there will be a panel. You’ll be sitting in front of it,
and they are stone-faced. And that is designed purposely to equalize the experience and opportunity
that the interviews provide across candidates. Public sector employment has been a boom of
opportunity for folks who are, you know, socio-economically shut out of the labor force, historically,
and things like that is kind of silly or cumbersome, as they strike us often, are actually there
for a good reason. But it can feel like not knowing that in advance, it can feel overwhelming,
or there are other interviews that I have been in as well as done with people, called
a “Fish Bowl,” where you have folks sitting in a circle in the middle, and then you have
interviewers on the outside. It might be that one person’s asking questions only, or they
may rotate question asking, and then it’s a group thing, where you’re sharing. You’ve
got to navigate together, the answers, and that’s why because they want to see how you
interact as a person in a group, which is kinda cool, and also, incredibly alarming.
Right? But so, asking that in advance, “Is it me? Is it multiple candidates? How many
folks will be there? Happen to know what their titles are?” Because is there going to be
an HR person and your prospective boss? Will it be prospective colleagues? So, you know,
obviously if they’re – “I don’t know” – or if they get somehow testy or disinterested
in answering that, then just, you know, just ask a bit, and then drop it if you’re not
getting much and just then, kind of be prepared, for it could be a lot of things, but potentially
may get the information – they can be helpful. [Audience member: “How do you – I’m just trying
to envision how you ask that question. Because there’s times that the HR person is just setting
up the interview and completely, and they they have no idea – that answer. And also, there’s
times where no HR, you’re not getting a phone call, you’re getting invited by email. Would
you send an email back?”] Yeah. Yeah, or if or there was a – they may give you a link to
someone you can call for information. So you can try it. So, try it. Don’t panic if you
can’t figure it out, but it’s worth a little try. Yeah. No, yeah, it can be – and when
you get there, I mean, it’s a little late in terms of emotional prep, but you can ask
too if you don’t know at that point, who else is going to be there Getting a sense
of how folks dress there – although that can be risky because you’re familiarity with how
they dress may be based on a different context, and it may be that for interviews, they up
it several notches. So, if you – if you’re trying to match what you’ve seen in a non-interview
context, you may be under dressed. So, I, in general, especially for younger females,
and females period, but especially younger females I vote for definitely more formal
than you would day-to-day work even. And that and we’re not talking about Taffeta, but a suit,
or separates, would not be too much, and kind of, on the conservative side, again, I mean,
this is getting into all kinds of crazy, you know, gender stereotyping things, but not
– stuff that’s, you know, in good shape, stylish, but not vampish, not you know…practical.
What does that mean? Maybe not stilettos, maybe not kitten heels. I feel gross – I – this
is the point in this where I always get a little gross feeling because it’s – again,
it’s impinging upon creative and personal freedom, and yet, in reality being, where
they don’t know you at all. You want to be able to have a competent but relatively neutral
impression, so that they can – so what speaks for them is what you’re saying versus the
visual. And so, kind of that sense of attention to detail comes into the visual as well. Getting
your hair off your face is good – if you kind of play with it, like, just putting it in
a way that it’s not going to get in your way. You’re being comfortable, so you don’t have
to be pulling at stuff a lot, that it just – you feel comfortable, but it’s reliably,
it looks like you’re having respect for that process – and how that’s going to be. Does that
sound good? OK. And for women, it’s harder. Men have much more limited options in terms
of what they’re going to put on, and women, there can be all kinds of ways to do this,
so that requires more thinking, I suppose. OK. Yeah, so make sure your professor, your
former supervisor, and your mother would all approve, or other family member if need be.
Let’s see here. Oh, what materials do you need to bring with you? It would be good to
bring your resume and cover letter – just as a back up, so you can give it to them if
they don’t have them handy, which you think they would, but they may not. The job posting couldn’t hurt. Blank notepad to take notes – that’s just fine. I wouldn’t become – in
the interview, I wouldn’t become obsessed with writing a ton of information because
that will interrupt your eye contact when you really want to be personally engaged,
and if you get to a point of negotiation – we’ll talk about that next time – there, you’re,
I think, you have to take notes because it’s impossible to keep that stuff if you don’t,
you know, keep it in track. But keep that down, and you can jot notes, but this is more
important. How you get there, we discussed that. Thinking about a smooth opener, like
if you’re not – if you don’t excel at small talk or like it, just literally envisioning,
don’t practice a joke because then it seems really canned, but envision how, unless the
person is just able to bring you into it verbally, if they’re not doing that for you, how will
you verbally start this? Like, how will you greet them, do you have a quippy, just a little
toss-off thing you might say, whether it’s you know, about the weather, or what a great
building, or – just something so that you’re not caught, “Hi!…” You know, just – and
some of us are great at that, but others need to think, “How am I going to get this going?”
Right? Because it is about what academics joke about with academic job searches, and
those are intense. It’s a two-day interview. You fly in the night before, 8:00am all the
way to 6:00pm the second day, in half hour increments, but for the job – the research
presentation, which is like an hour and a half, you are on the entire time, and we joke
that what we’re kind of assessing – yes, there are all the actual research and teaching skills
– is, do we want to have coffee with you? Because potentially, with tenure, which we
hope you keep, it’s a lifetime gig. And so, it’s, are you, for us, for our students, for
our community partners, for the rest of the university, are you someone who we’d enjoy
having coffee with? It’s actually not, I mean, it’s silly, but it’s not a bad standard. So,
it’s similar. They want to get a sense of the – your personability and your engage-ability,
and so, things like a silly little starting – can you start a conversation in a smooth
way? And don’t freak out if it doesn’t go like you stutter a bit, or – I mean, it’s
fine. You’ll recover. But thinking about it is ok. Ok, let’s see about time. We’re good.
OK. So, any other thoughts on this? [Audience member: So…I’m just wondering if you think that it’s necessary to ask, like a lot of times when I go in I’ll be like, “Yeah, I brought writing materials. Do you mind if I take a few notes during the interview?” Or, is
it just a given now that people are taking notes? Because I feel like I don’t want to
disrespect them by writing a few things down here and there. Is it necessary to ask?”] Yeah, you know what you can do. I don’t think it’s – you don’t have to. But let’s say, I wouldn’t formally
ask upfront. I would say, at the point when you feel like you want to jot some notes down,
then you could say quickly, “Is it okay if I take down a few notes on this?” I think
if you do it as a summary thing at the front, then it seems a little bit like, “Okay, may
I take notes now?” versus as needed, just checking in. It shows that kind of, just check
in, and you know, sensibility. [Audience member: “And then the other thing is, I usually prepare five different questions because I’ve noticed that they always seem to cover two of them…]
Okay. [Audience member: in the middle of interviews, and they say, “Do you have any questions?”
and it’s like, I’m stumped because you answered all my questions! And so, I also right them
down.] Yeah, absolutely. I think writing down is great. [Okay.] Because you won’t remember
them. Chances are you’ll forget them. And five, I mean, you may not, if you can’t come
up with five, don’t sweat it, but I would say, yes. Inevitably, some of them would – will
be answered through the course of the interview, so a little two extra, three even, would be
good. So. There’s the handshake. Right? So why don’t you guys shake each other’s hands.
Let’s take one minute. Stand up, turn around, shake hands. So you want to come in so that
you’re not like, budging into the person, but you want to make contact with the web,
right? That’s the full, and then it’s – so, this is not good. And this is the good positioning.
Then, it’s the issue of the amount of grip, right? So, if you are too firm, it’ll be painful
if it’s someone who’s older, who has arthritis, then literally, regardless of where you squeeze,
it’s gonna hurt, or it will be annoying. So, if you do it too close up, and it’s too hard,
that’s actually quite painful as well. So you want like you mean it. You wanna have
a good enough grip that it – it’s there is something there, and a little, kind of firm
elbow and then a shake. But not the kind of wet fish where you’re slipping off here, where
they just know you’re not in far enough, and it’s loose. So, a good, firm, that kind of
exudes whether it should or not, a sense of confidence, all that good stuff. [Audience
Member: Isn’t the point of a handshake, like reaching out to meet somebody? It’s about
like, connecting with them.] Yeah, it’s connecting. Right. So, literally, honestly, it’s the web-touch
is that connection if you fall short of that, and don’t freak out if you don’t pull it off,
but if you’re way out here, that sense of connection is not met. It has to be at the
web, in a gentle, firm, connection there, but women do, they tend to dis-proportionally
grab up in here, and but the connection can really hurt someone who’s got arthritis up
in this area, and then it doesn’t feel connected. It feels kind of shy and tentative. Yeah?
[Audience member: So, something I’ve noticed, over the last few months, is that people seem
to be going away from the handshake.] Are they germaphobic or? [Audience member: They’re
doing this now.] What! No, this? [Audience member: This is what they’re doing!] I mean,
Michelle Obama could pull it off. [Audience member: And I was like, kind of, caught off
guard because I go like this, and these are adults. These are professionals, and they’re
going…] Maybe it’s a germ concern thing. Where you’re not…no…so then again, these
are critical skills where you’re starting, you’re matching with a client so to speak,
so if that comes at you, I guess…[Audience member: Well, I was going to say, I actually
have a condition where my hands and feet sweat a lot, and like, that’s kind of like something
that…] Yeah, so it’s a way of avoiding that problem, yeah. So absolutely. That, if you
meet that, you know, if that’s what you get, I’m not sure that it’s established enough
that if, for you to generate it, I might hold off and then wait, and then just do a quick
you know, wipe, you know, beforehand. It sounds like you have a strategy for addressing it.
Yeah, okay. Okay. Alright, and then pairing that again, with your intro, you know, small
talk is good. So. Okay. Alright, so next, let’s talk about question types. So, the ones
I want to talk through are, “Open-ended,” “Closed-ended,” and “Prose.” Okay? And I am
teaching in 40, I talked to students that had to handle these and use these as interviewers
as well as interviewees. Here, it’s just for interviewees. But, let’s think about “open-ended”
questions. So, let’s think of an example of one. So, tell me, tell me about your top three
qualifications for this position. Or no, I’m sorry. Tell me about your, you know, strongest
qualification for this position. Okay? That is tricky, and whether they mean it to be
or not, it’s kind of a set up because you have to – that assumes that you really understand
what, both, what the top responsibility is in their posting, that you know for sure which
one it is, and that you understand their take on that further. And maybe, so community needs
assessments. Who knows what kind of angle they have on that? That’s a huge, broad topic,
or you know, working with families and kids. Who knows how they, what their philosophy
is to that, right? So, but it – even aside from not knowing the specific sensibility
of it, it’s a very big area. So, my -that there’s a couple thoughts on those, the open-ended
questions. So, one is to fork it, which means you want to – this does require thinking on
your feet – you can try to anticipate some of these and prep the fork. If you can’t anticipate,
then you’re going to have to do it, you know, on the fly. But what fork means is, “Wow,
that’s a great question. That makes me think of my qualifications in A, B, and C.” Or A
and B, you know, you can have two if fork or three times. Fork. Where…because you’re
not sure, “Wow, that’s a big category.” Working with families and kids, right? Community assessments,
whatever. And if you feel like you, again, it’s a broad topic, lots of your stuff fits
into it, it’s going to make for a really long answer that you’re not sure is going to be
on target, alright? Then you fork it to narrow, you say, “Ah, that’s a great question! Makes
me think of A and B, or A, B, and C. Would it be helpful for me to start with one versus
the other?” To talk about. So you actually give them the opportunity to weigh-in, “Oh,
why don’t you talk about such and such.” Or, they may just say, “Oh, whatever. You decide.”
That’s fine too, which means that they don’t really care, either one is of interest, but
it gives you the chance to save yourself from going off on some wild goose chase down this
line with, where what you’re talking about is not off interest, not relevant. Alright?
And then, the critical other key, which is again, the key for any answer that you give,
but especially with the “open-ended” where we tend to just because we’re so nervous,
“Oh gosh, am I getting at what they wanted?” We have this instinct to just keep talking,
and maybe we’ll hit it at some point in all of our words, right? So, not doing that. Keeping
with that arch, that perfume metaphor. Right? So, “Oh, why don’t you start with such and
such.” So, the such and such, you say, “Well, so I have, as indicated, I have this depth
of experience in such and such,” then you give some examples, “When I was in the position
of blah, I got to do this and this and this, and that made…when I was…another position,
I got to do…and also, as an MSW student, as a graduate student, I was fortunate enough
to take a class where I, you know, learned about…and I was able to independently conduct
an assessment or you know, do a project that allowed me to blah blah blah. Can I, you know,
I’m happy to elaborate – do you want me to talk about this other area that I see as relevant
to this skill?” So, chopping it down. So, it’s showing 1. That you’re great at self-awareness
and self-management generally as a person, so good for coffee. That you’re not just going
to go on and on and on, that you’re analytical, that you’re able to kind of diagnose a big
topic and break it down managably, and it does a much better job and ensuring your answer.
Does that make sense? That “forking” thing? Okay. Again, I’m happy to offer further take
– detail if that would be helpful. Again, art, not science, you don’t want the answer
to be so abrupt that it seems mysterious or just kind of awkward, right? But you don’t
want it to go on and on and on. So really, you can prep that even if you don’t know for
sure what the answers are going to be, like, you could, you know, with your – with the
column A, column B prep, you know, you could prep the really major-seeming job responsibilities,
and then go ahead and prep all the others. If you’ve got this long list to provide, then
go ahead and prep those, too, and if some of those job responsibilities seem like a
really broad category, like setting you up for this broad open-ended question, then
create the fork. Sub-prep each individual responsibilities – I’m sorry, qualifications
that you have in each of those sub areas you create. So that will allow you to go right into that specificity nicely. Um Close ended questions So if you’re asked, especially if you’re asked a closed question that doesn’t favor you’re qualifications. So…um. Let’s see…um They prefer three years of supervisor experience So you know Do you have three years of supervisor experience? And you’ll say you only have one at most Um…what do I have here as an example? Uh..I have…I have just one year of supervisory experience but in the two positions I have held in the past as X and Y I had the opportunity to develop human resource management skills by collaborating with my supervisor to plan the duh duh duh right? So it’s very important not to be hedgy or padding or misrepresenting your experience. you want to answer that as is and then within reason not padding..not stretching too much but if you think you have some…um..supplementary or complementary experience then you could illuminate that closed question on, then briefly note it. All right? And there I wouldn’t ask if “Would you like me to elaborate?” I would just kind of give the brief elaboration, because they might cut you off mid-note. (Audience speaking) [What happens if you have some skills, but you did not list that business as part of your resume?] Uhm..switch up in your resume…you should not have done that. [But there might be reasons why you don’t want to list it on your resume] But then–[like if you have conflict with the owner…] But if you–but then I’m confused why, if you don’t want to list it on your resume, why do you want to bring it up in the interview? [Because if you had three years of supervisory experience at that place but you really don’t want them to contact the employer Okay, okay. So that goes to, you know the practice of talking to references Ideally, hiring folks should not cold call folks who are not listed as references If they’re concerned about a given job not having an associated reference given, Give the employee the opportunity to maybe ask them “Why?” in the interview And give them a chance to respond to that, that’s just kind of shenanagins otherwise. And it is complicated. It could be something bad, where the employee did something that’s not appropriate. But chances are it way more complicated than that. It’s a two sided street, and then you listen to the employees response, and you make a decision as to whether that seems like a good response Um, so..I think it’s tricky to not do it in the resume and then do it in the interview. I think it’s better–its still a risk. I can’t–you know, you’ve got to be comfortable with it– But I would still probably list it on the resume and then hope they don’t call. And then need-be discuss it if it comes up in the interview. Because three years especially, that would seem– it would renounce itself as a major issue that suddenly commands attention that they discover–Whoa! You had three years? What?!–you know? I don’t think you want that. But yeah, is it a risk if they decide to call and track the person down? Yeah Again that kind of–who does that really? Alright. But, ultimately, with all these sessions, all this kind of stuff It’s your experience, your material, and you have to be okay with that decision. There’s no one way to do things. How was that answer? You’re looking very contemplative right now. (Audience member)[I was just thinking of taking the ex-owner out to eat to a nice restaurant] Hahah oh okay. Someone gets a nice meal out of this deal, out of this conversation, thats excellent. Okay. Okay so close. And again, if its close and not just about non-favor of your experiences But it makes you think of this other thing, Like “oh, that’s close to this other thing that I think is relevant to this job that’d be interesting to talk about.” You don’t want to dive off into that. But you can answer the question, and then you can note quickly oh yeah, that make me think of… A little bit like a fork, you’re adding a time. Right? Like a time being a piece of the fork. Or you could say, that actually makes me think of this other area of my experiences in such and such, I’d be happy to talk about that at some point. If that seems helpful. But then drop it. So they can take you up on it, and if they don’t, don’t feel embarrassed or awkward. It’s that, for one thing,the interviewer, if they’re good, they have to have comparable data across all the interviewees. And so, it that is bringing you way off, and they somehow feel like “Ugh I can’t, I don’t know what to do with that information” or “I’m limited on time, this person’s clearly great” There’s a reason they’ll move you on, so don’t sweat about it. But just, I think being helpful, but then you offer a suggestion and then stop- rather than diving forward, that good. And then there are probes. So, you rely on these to clarify questions you’re not sure you understand. But in a humble way. I stress this moderately for interviewers to– –my angle on interviewing is: not to do the “got ya”, not to stress people out. You know, put them on edge, test them out. But rather, to support them in doing their best Being encouraging, using nice non-verbal cues, that eye contact, a “that’s really interesting, could you tell me more about that?” On the employer side, I stress that. I’m not into the “got ya”. In terms of you all as employees interviewing, or perspective employees, You may not be clear about questions. Rather then diving in cold, or not seeing, not sure You want to ask for clarification, so a probe to the question that was posed to you. So ” I can imagine that a really central issue, a really important consideration to this position, Would you mind giving me a little more information about..what you mean by…blah blah?” ” I want to be able to focus my answer appropriately.” So if you’re really not clear, don’t dive off. If you’ve managed to dive off without checking, Give something–and in general whenever you give an answer you do want to have again, that lead sentence, a concrete set of details, and then a… if you dove off without the probe: “I’m not certain that that was answering your question,” “Can you–if not–can you give me a little bit more detail?” Again, better that be at the beginning of the question but not end, But whenever you answer, you want to have that summary, some concrete information or details, and then wrap it up. So that each answer, even if it’s a a little off, it’s a quality answer that a media they can map onto. Um…What else? Specifics. Show them, don’t tell them. So give them details about your experiences. Amounts. kinds or types of clients, types of programs, durations of facilitated groups, how long each session was, what your role was in it, Again, I’m saying this, but then you’re not allowed to go on beyond the paragraph. But as you structure the tight, succinct, paragraph-shaped answer, keep in mind that it’s those details that are really important. Right? Rather than getting gloupy, and summing things up– Cause they’ve got the sum-up from your resume So here they want to have the mapping experience. How you map onto the job, and then some concrete details Okay? Yeah? (Audience member):[If you’re doing an interview over the phone or on Skype, is there anything you would recommend that we do differently…?] Well you get to wear your pajamas on the bottom, so that’s awesome! (Laughter). And your fuzzy house shoes! Umm, so this is the whole..glubby…with Skype especially.. the delay factor, so that’s unnerving. So I would try–as awkward as it might feel–to talk a little slower. And have more gaps. And try to defer, like, wait a bit longer than you normally would and try to defer to the other speaker or speakers. So that you’re not constantly cutting them off. Umm… What else?… The visuals that you get on Skype may be funky, like not accurate, because people may forget that they’re visual that they’re–I’m sorry–that they’re *see-able or being seen. So they may be more quizzical looking, or have less socially-appropriate facial expressions because they’re forgetting that we can see each other, or forgetting that they can see us-sort of thing. Or..Does that answer your question? Phone is tricky too because you don’t get any of the visual stuff. Right? So like trying to read an email and trying to glean the tone, you just need to take a breath, and try to retain confidence in spite of thinking maybe in a moment that things aren’t going well. Or that they’re being negative, or cold, or abrupt. It could be that there’s all kinds of (recognition) in the background when you answer even though the verbiage or the tone seems abrupt. It’s about giving yourself the interpersonal–or the intrapersonal pep-talk as you go. with your fuzzy house shoes on. Hows that? I know we’re almost out of time. Final points. So following up, I think a quick thank-you note is really nice Years ago, I would say emails were premature and they should be written, but now written is like goosey, like whoa “They’re kind of over-eager” So an email. If its a couple or–I’d say if its two different people, individual emails to them. If its more than that, a group email is fine cause they might compare each others and..whatever. And its important with that, with a good thank-you note: a general thank you, a sentence that’s got a specific reference to something that was talked about, and then you know “I hope we get the opportunity to talk further in the future. Thanks so much for talking the time to speak with me, about the position.” Yeah? (Audience member): [So I agree that a follow up email is very important, however, I feel it’s sometimes really hard because when you go in for an interview and there’s four or five people sitting down at the table, you get their first names, but you don’t know how to find people’s last names and how to figure out who they are, and what their email address is.] So yeah. So that being the–if that how it was set up, where you weren’t really given the names formally, Then I think it’s okay to email the main, the lead person and say “Please convey my appreciation to the other people who were there.” And the may well not do that, and that’s fine, whatever. It’s more if you were formally introduced, or one of them took you around for a tour, then you should be sure you have their name, so you can get the email address. Like if there was a personal contact with any of them beyond the interview, then that’s different. Um…is it a disaster if you don’t send an email? No, cause plenty of people don’t. But it’s a nice touch. Again, its the attention to details. Ummm And then chill out and wait. Cause in this job markets, but in general with non-profits who don’t have extra money or time for any of their hiring processes, things take ridiculously long. It isn’t ridiculous, it’s just a reality. They may honest think it’s gonna be a two-week process and its two-months or even longer. So there’s no counting for that. I would say no sooner than a month, maybe about a month in, you could send a very quick note just checking in on the status of your application. And that’s it. And then providing how you’re reachable. But beyond that no. To make it feel any better, article that we have to write, research articles, that are the core part of our job–other than the teaching– they take sometimes years to write, certainly months. Um, and the norm is that you may not contact the journal that you send it to for publication until three months in. If it’s before the three-month mark, you are considered a pest and it may actually interfere with the chances of acceptance. So, its pretty important, people often with a cover letter they’ll say, at the end like “I hope to hear from you soon”, “I’ll call you back in two weeks to check in.” Like no you won’t, noooo no no no. No, thank them for their time and effort spent reviewing materials, you’ll be delighted to hear from them when they have a chance. Right? At most. Okay. Alright..? (Audience member): [Can I ask you one more question?] You can. [Um, so one question–an open-ended question that I really don’t like to answer is “Why should we hire you over someone else?”] Ooooh yeah [I don’t know the other people…] That’s so hard because it’s so gender-y. Women have such a hard time touting themselves In general, i think But in a human services context it’s true, team building, team work being what it is that to promote yourself above others, especially unknown others can kick back in your face So… At some point a student doing a role-play had a nice take on that it was just–“Obviously, I bet you have a really outstanding team here that I don’t know them yet, but I look forward to the opportunity to. What I can say is I think I bring a couple of particular strengths for what it seems like what you’re looking for in this position after our conversation. And I would be thrilled to jump off into this position, as my next step after school I think it’s a great fit with my long-term interests but I think I also have the really good skills to bring to it.” So I wouldn’t actually get too nitty gritty. I mean, you can touch on some specifics that then riff off of greater detail you gave earlier just kind of a reminder rather than more deep detail because otherwise I think it gets, then it can get a little haughty. Like ‘I’m all that’. And it’s true. Realistically, while I think women should be way better at touting themselves, there is that sort of human-services cultural thing about modesty as an employee. And we’ve got to push back on that in general, but the interview is not the time to do that. Right? Yeah. Okay. Thank you guys very much! Good luck!

Author:

8 thoughts on “Job Interviewing Strategies for Social Workers, with Anna Haley-Lock, Ph.D.”

  • Omg, to much body movement from what appears to be sign language, to HER head gobbling back and forth, she lost my interest well into the first 2-3 minutes, I stopped watching it at 4 minutes, couldn't take
    Her no more…She also does not seem to be very well versed in her speech, every 30 seconds SHE is checking her paper for reference……..BORING ,!

  • This is a great and informative interview. As an LICSW, I've been through many interviews in the public arena (schools) and private (clinic). This information is spot on and also validating.

  • Do you have tips for an MSW who never got fully licensed, only limited license, before staying home for 18 years to raise children? What types of jobs could be available?

  • Edward Robinson says:

    I have an interview for a social worker position on Monday, and i really feel like you gave me some great strategies to prepare. Thank you.

  • CPS needs investigators/caseworkers who will kidnap kids from good parents without the slightest twinge of conscience. There's actually a specific identifiable kind of person who will do that gladly. Texas CPS recruitment knows what they're looking for and their recruitment video has the subliminals in there to grab that demographic and make others decide they don't want the job.

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