Soft Skills of Successful Social Work Candidates

Social workers dedicate their career to helping others. These individuals work with clients to address and overcome major challenges in their life, so it’s important to take extra care when filling an open position.

On paper, many candidates will look like a great fit, but simply having the right hard skills — i.e., those that can be taught in the classroom, through independent study, or on the job — won’t cut it. The best social workers have the perfect mix of soft skills — i.e., personality traits — that allow them to effectively connect with and help clients.

Here’s a look at soft skills top candidates should have and how to identify them in an interview.

Active Listening

A social worker can’t help a client if they don’t know what’s going on. Active listening skills are a must because it builds trust and makes clients feel understood. Gauge a candidate’s active listening skills by carefully observing them in the interview. If they repeat things you say and are otherwise engaged in the conversation, feel confident they have this ability.


There’s a lot of paperwork involved with being a social worker. From maintaining a schedule of client visits to documenting different cases and keeping them in order, social workers must have excellent organizational skills. Without this ability, they won’t be effective in their jobs. During the interview, determine their ability to stay organized by simply asking how they successfully manage a large caseload.


Many clients assisted by social workers are struggling personally, professionally, or both. These people need someone to lean on who truly cares and will treat them with the utmost kindness. If the social worker comes off as harsh or unsympathetic, they won’t open up to them. Establish a candidate’s sense of empathy with this question — “Tell me about a time a client came to you for help with a difficult situation.”


Serving as a social worker is all about helping clients solve problems and improve their lives. Every client has their own challenges, so the right candidate must be able to think on their feet. Learn more about the candidate’s problem-solving skills by asking “How do you react when faced with an urgent problem?” and/or “Describe a tough situation you were in with a client and how you resolved it.”


It takes a special person to master the art of persuasion and really get through to people. However, part of the job of a social worker often involves helping clients change bad behaviors or motivating them to work toward a certain goal. Learn more about a candidate’s ability to persuade with the question, “Describe a time that you successfully convinced a client to change their ways. How did you do it?”

Choosing the right social worker for the job will impact both your team and the population served by your organization, so don’t take this decision lightly. To learn more about how we can help you find top behavioral health talent, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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