I live in an extremely rural area where my options for employment, especially without a social work license, are extremely limited.  I wanted to work for Community Outpatient Mental Health (a Medicaid Vendor), and there are just two agencies within a one hour commute.  One agency wasn't hiring.  The other, a miracle!, was.

I'm not sure if this post will be helpful (what kind of "n" is one interview?), but to graduating MSW students, here's a little of what you can expect in the job interview process (at least for a mental health agency!  I'm not so sure this will be helpful if you're interviewing for community building positions ...)

1.  I interviewed with the clinical supervisor, the HR director and the Executive Director.  I only had one interview, but I hear from my friends who have entered the field that completing two interviews is common.

2.  Be pleasant to the front office staff when you arrive.  Seriously.  This is not a group of people with whom you want to start off on the wrong foot.

3.  Know your therapeutic approach.  My own therapeutic approach is rooted in social constructivism / narrative therapy; however, the agency I work with is a cognitive behavioral therapy clinic.  I researched this beforehand and, thus, it wasn't a surprise. I was able to speak to when I found CBT most helpful.  However, the agency is also open to creative work with clients (an excellent thing in days of limited resources and funding!), so I felt free and confident in explaining when and how I use narrative therapy.

4.  Be able to speak to an ethical dilemma you've faced in the field, and more specifically, how you addressed it.  What was your decision making process?  Who did you consult?  Whose interests were you taking to heart?

5.  Be able to address a DSM dx.   I mean, really address it.  It depends on the agency, I suppose, but I was given free reign to choose a dx, speak to the criteria and explain when I might diagnose a person appropriately.  This means knowing the criteria fairly well (no worries if you don't know it exactly, remember, the DSM is only supposed to be a tool for the clinician and it's impossible to memorize it!), being able to speak to how functioning would be impaired, and being able to speak to differential dx.  Here's the bottom line:  Do you know how to use the DSM?

6.  Know your values.  What's most important to you?  When I was asked to tell a little bit about myself, I confidently spoke to my belief in the change process and my investment in anti-oppressive practice.  As a social worker, I felt this was imperative to commit to early in my days as a therapist.

7.  Know how comfortable you are with ambiguity.  That might sound a little odd, but I was given several hypothetical situations in which there clearly was no "right answer".  I knew I hit the nail on the head when I wrapped up my response with, "There's not always going to be a clear cut answer, but you do the best you can do with the information you have at the time.  You commit yourself to the client and doing good work, and in the end, the power you yield over any given situation is somewhat limited."  Smiles and furious scribbles all along.  We can't control the outcome.  We can only contribute our best to the process.

8.  This one isn't actually mine, but I have several friends who have completed interviews in which they were puzzled over the seeming simplicity of the interview questions and wondered if they had responded fully.  I remember when I used to ask fairly basic questions to potential Guardian Ad Litems; I wanted to see their response style.  I wanted to get a feel for their ability to use common sense.  If it seems too easy, take a deep breath.  Don't get arrogant or over confident, but rest in your abilities.  You're letting your interviewers know who you and what your style is.  Be comfortable that that's more than enough.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment here.  If you have any ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment here, too!  And please know that I'm so grateful to be able to call you a colleague in working to the empowerment of others.  Be blessed!


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