Before we look at some of the nuances of interviewing for a specific job in forensic social work, we will explore job interviews, in general.
When an employer grants an interview, this is a significant step. Up to this point, you may have applied and submitted your resume online. In turn, the company probably waded through many applications, rejecting those whose experience or education does not match their qualifications. A select few attain the good fortune of sitting down and discussing you.
There is a host of helpful information online to prepare you for an interview. You can learn about the standard questions regarding your strengths, weaknesses, experience, education, goals, and many more. Most of the advice recommends that your practice with a friend or family member. This exercise should boost your confidence and settle any jitters. Being prepared to answer questions with little hesitation bodes well for your success.
It is also imperative to know what the job entails and be familiar with the company, organization, or agency. Learn about the demographics of the area in which you will be working. What type of clients will you have?
As you know, forensic social workers provide many of the same services as a regular social worker. The difference lies in the added component of the legal system. Forensic workers interact with clients whose conduct, behavior, or situation has put them in front of the law, in some capacity. Therefore, your college education must consist of classes in criminal justice, American legal system, or criminology. Unfortunately, schools don’t offer a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Social Work. You have to enroll in a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).
Depending on the job criteria for the position you apply for, you may need a Master of Social Work (MSW). Before completing your application, read the list of preferred and required degrees. At the graduate level, focus your college search on programs whose MSW has a concentration in forensic social work. This specialty degree is difficult to find. As an alternative, you may want to review institutions whose curriculum takes a clinical approach. For example, a series of courses dedicated to the study of trauma-related behavior, substance abuse, intervention techniques, and mental health issues. Students who lack experience need to augment this with an education tailored to forensic social work.
The following is a sampling of interview questions you may encounter:
- Why did you select a career in this profession?
- What types of clients would you find the most challenging to work with?
- Presented with the situation (example given by interviewer), how would you handle it?
- Tell me of an incident when you were successful in resolving a contentious matter with a client? (this one requires experience)
- What resources in the legal system do you think should be involved concerning alcoholic parents with young children?
- What are your views on the corrections system?
Applicants with experience will have different questions than recent graduates with no work experience. You can boost the chances of being hired by taking a summer internship in social work. There are numerous paid and unpaid internships available at this link. Other valuable internships are at law firms, district attorney offices, department of corrections, and district courts. Completing one of these sessions for a summer or more can reap benefits during your interview. They provide a taste of the justice system, which is integral to the forensic social work profession.
Any interview is an assessment of your personality. Someone who appears indifferent, flippant, or unprofessional will not receive high marks. Social work demands patience, empathy, altruism, organization, resilience, and communication skills. During the interview, be mindful of the qualities required in the profession. Your soft skills play as important a role as your education and experience.
By learning all you can about the discipline, you will impress the interviewer and you will create a more dynamic resume. Something you read in the Journal of Forensic Social Work may help answer a question or during the interview. More importantly, the extra-curricular efforts demonstrate initiative and your dedication to this line of work.
A source of information is the National Organization of Forensic Social Work. It offers memberships to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in a full-time accredited program. Cost is $40 annually. The dues include access to their journal mentioned in the above paragraph.
More is better when it comes to embellishing your credentials. A certification or more available at the National Association of Forensic Counselors (NAFC) is another resource. The organization has post-graduate standards and guidelines for professionals working in mental health, criminal justice, and forensic counseling. One noteworthy item, which may impress an interviewer, is The Certification for Forensic Counselor and Criminal Justice Specialist offered by the NAFC.