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The total number of posts in adult social care in England, including filled posts and staff vacancies, was 1.79m as at 2021/22. This was 0.3% higher than in 2020/21. It is estimated that there are currently 165,000 vacant posts in the care sector. The number of vacant posts has increased by 55,000 or 52%, since 2020/21.
The adult social care workforce continues to be made up of around 82% female workers; the average age is 45, with 28% aged 55. Skills for Care forecasts show that if the number of adult social care posts grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population between 2021 and 2035, an increase of 27%, some 480,000 extra posts would be required by 2035.
For anyone who is looking for a varied job where no two days are the same, then care work could be your perfect career.
The candidate interview is a vital component of the hiring process for people to work in the care sector. With careful preparation, HR and hiring managers can make the most of employment interviews to obtain all the information that they need to make informed hiring decisions to recruit the right people for these challenging but rewarding roles.
Why is interviewing care workers important?
The search for quality staff can be a real challenge for recruiting organisations across the care sector. As well as having the right attributes and skills for a role, jobseekers must want to care and support others to be a success in the role. Interviewing is an important step in the employee selection process. If done effectively, the interview enables the employer to determine if an applicant’s skills, experience and attitude meet the job’s requirements. Interviews also help the employer assess whether an applicant would likely fit in with the organisation’s culture.
When an employer is hiring staff, there are three things that they want to establish at interview:
- Can the candidate do the job? – Do they have the appropriate qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience to do what the employer wants them to do?
- Will the candidate do the job? – Do they have the right motivation and enthusiasm? Are they really keen on this job or would they rather be doing something else? If they enjoy the job, they will work hard and the employer will get value for money.
- Will the candidate fit in? – Do they have the attributes to make a positive contribution to the organisation or would they seriously damage morale?
The interviewers will have prepared interview questions designed to gain this information from the candidates that they are interviewing and will rate the candidates’ answers by how well they meet the criteria that they have set for the role.
How to prepare for an interview for a care worker
The most important thing to being offered a job is to ensure that you are fully prepared for the interview. By preparing, you will feel much more in control, you will have anticipated what will get asked in the interview, you will have learnt so much about the organisation and you will feel calm and relaxed knowing that you have fully prepared yourself.
There are different types of job interviews. In some cases, you will only need to succeed at one of these to land the role:
- Telephone interviews – these are often used by employers early in the application process to filter large numbers of applicants. If you are successful you will typically be invited to a face-to-face interview or assessment centre. Expect a telephone interview to last around half an hour.
- Video interviews – these are increasingly popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are often used among large employers. Video interviews can be live or pre-recorded, and tend to last around half an hour.
- Face-to-face interviews – these are the most traditional and still the most common form of interview. You will attend the employer’s workplace and be questioned on your suitability for the job usually by an interview panel of two or three people, and most often including the hiring manager. Face-to-face interviews usually last between 45 minutes and two hours, and may be preceded or followed by tests and exercises.
- Assessment centres – these enable employers to compare the performance of lots of candidates at the same time. You will attend an assessment centre with other applicants and take part in tasks such as presentations, team exercises and psychometric tests. Assessment centres usually last a full working day and have more recently been adapted to be held online.
Telephone and face-to-face interviews are the most common formats used in the care sector.
To prepare yourself for a job interview:
- Check the organisation’s website or any information that they have given you to find out more about the organisation, its services and its plans for the future.
- Read the job description and person specification carefully. Be clear on the skills and qualities the employer is looking for, as they will be asking questions at interview about these. Don’t assume that they already have this information in your application form or CV. Go over your CV or application form and think about things the employer may ask you about.
Prepare some answer examples that show you have the right skills, personal qualities and experience. Use the STAR method, that is:
- Situation and Task – describe the situation that you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished and set the context. Make it concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. For example, if the question is asking you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, explain how you came to meet that person and why they were being difficult.
- Action – this is the most important section of the STAR approach as it is where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did. In doing so, you will need to remember the following:
– Be personal, that is, talk about you, not the rest of the team.
– Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean.
– Steer clear of technical information and jargon, unless it is crucial to your story.
– Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.
The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling some important skills. For example, you may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress etc.
- Result – explain what happened eventually – how it all ended. Also, use the opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you learnt in that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills. This is probably the most crucial part of your answer. Interviewers want to know that you are using a variety of generic skills in order to achieve your objectives, so you must be able to demonstrate in your answer that you are taking specific actions because you are trying to achieve a specific objective, and not achieving it simply by chance. If the interviewers feel that there are areas that you have failed to address fully, they may help you along by probing appropriately.
You may worry about not possessing previous work examples to showcase your skills, so think about your transferrable skills. For example, skills gained through looking after sick or elderly friends or relatives, young siblings etc. Skills developed at school and/or college, through any hobbies or interests. These can also be relevant to your application.
- Ask someone you trust to help you practise answering questions.
- If you have been asked to prepare a presentation to give at interview, practise your timings and keep a backup copy.
- Think of 2 or 3 questions of your own that you can ask at the end of your interview, to show that you are enthusiastic about the job.
- Check where the interview is being held. How will you get there and how long will it take? What time do you need to arrive and what is the name of the person you need to see? Plan to arrive 5 to 10 minutes before the interview starts, and make sure you know who to call in case you are late for any reason.
- Pick out something suitable and comfortable to wear.
- If you have a disability you may need adjustments to make the interview accessible. Make sure that you inform the organisation in good time so that they can make arrangements.
When you arrive for your interview, make sure that you:
- Use breathing techniques to calm yourself; try to remember, a few nerves are normal.
- Turn off your phone or if it needs to be on, then turn it to silent.
- Smile and greet your interviewer(s) with confidence.
- Ask for some water if you need it.
Types of questions to expect in a care worker interview
Questions used at care sector interviews are usually competency-based, that is questions which aim to find out how you have used specific skills in your previous experience and how you have approached problems, tasks and challenges.
- Competency-based questions are designed to test one or more specific skills or competencies. The answer is then matched against pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly. For example, the interviewers may want to test the candidate’s ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to provide an example of a situation where they have worked under pressure. The interviewers may then probe further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate’s behaviour or skills.
- Scenario-based questions are used by some interviewers. These questions feature an everyday situation that you may face in the role that you are interviewing for. Before answering a scenario-based question, take a moment to fully understand what it is you are being asked. For example, when asked “What would you do if….?, if you have a real experience of this situation or something similar, draw on this rather than giving a hypothetical answer, using the STAR method. If you have not experienced this situation before, try to think about why the interviewer is asking the question, and what information they are looking for in your answer. Is the interviewer looking for evidence of your organisation skills? Do they want to find out how you work as part of a team?
Care worker interview questions and answers
Most interviewers begin with a general question to put interviewees at ease, something like “Did you have a good journey?” “Did you find us easily enough?” The only answer to these questions is YES. Even if there were problems with traffic or the bus didn’t turn up, don’t mention these as they will only put concerns into the interviewer’s mind about whether you will be reliable if you are offered the job.
In an interview you can never be completely certain what an interviewer is going to ask you about; however, some questions crop up time and time again:
“Why are you applying for this job?”
Show that you have done your research and preparation. Reassure them that you want this job and not just any job by giving examples of how the work might utilise your skills, for example, “Your advertisement stated that you need someone who can ….” Give examples of where you have used these skills in the past.
“What do you know about the organisation?”
They want to know whether you are interested enough in the job to find out some information about the organisation. They don’t want a long report, just well-expressed points to show you are interested in them as a future employer. “I did notice from your website that the organisation is ….”
“What skills and qualities can you bring to this post?”
This is your opportunity to really ‘sell’ yourself and show that all your preparation and research has been worthwhile. For example, are you a good listener? How do you put people at their ease? How do you support other team members? Choose a couple of core soft skills and a couple of practical skills that you possess and talk about how these skills will benefit the role and the organisation.
“Tell me about a situation where you have had to deal with difficult people.”
Questions like this require specific examples, so be concise and use the STAR method. Interviewers are looking for your experience of, for example, your interpersonal skills, communication skills, team-working etc. If you haven’t worked in a care environment, think of an example from a previous job or a personal situation.
“Can you describe a time when you have dealt with an upset or confused person?”
This question will require examples of how you have put clients at ease, ensuring you can work safely and effectively. Perhaps how you have liaised with your colleagues or managers to gain more information on how best to manage the situation.
“Tell me about a situation when you handled an emergency situation or an event which required quick thinking.”
The interviewer is looking for evidence that you can use your initiative when required. Examples may include providing first aid response or organising people in a fire evacuation. The hiring manager needs to know that you can stay calm in an emergency while taking the necessary steps and following procedures.
“Can you tell me about how you have implemented safeguarding into your work?”
Safeguarding is the protection of a client’s health, wellbeing and human rights, keeping them safe from harm, abuse and neglect. The interviewer is looking for examples of how you have applied your expected duty of care as outlined in the Care Act of 2014. As a care worker, it is your responsibility to protect vulnerable people, and you will be expected to demonstrate your expertise in this area.
“How have you implemented Equality, Diversity and Inclusion into your role?”
The interviewer is seeking commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in your day-to-day working practice. Try to think of an everyday example rather than saying that you treat everyone with respect. Working in care will require the ability to respect your client’s need for privacy, autonomy and independence, ensuring practices do not discriminate against or are not unfair to people with particular protected characteristics. What did you do to contribute to achieving this?
“Please give an example of a time you went out of your way to help someone.”
The interviewer wants to hear about a time when you went the extra mile and really cared for someone. You might have previous experience in care which will also be great to draw some experiences from or if you have not worked in care before, perhaps you went out of your way to run errands for a vulnerable neighbour.
What are the stages in a care worker’s interview?
Any job interview can be broken down into five general stages:
- Introductions – this is normally a common exchange of names, small talk and casual questions as you are escorted to the place of the interview and is your first chance to impress. Topics may include weather, traffic, hobbies, etc. These are designed to make you more at ease and relaxed.
- Broad questions and answers – the interviewer will begin to ask you questions about yourself, why you are applying for this role and what you can bring to the organisation.
- Position-related questions – the interviewer concentrates more on the details of the job and how your skills, knowledge and experience match with their job and person specification.
- Your questions – towards the end of the interview the interviewer will ask “Have you any questions?”. Be prepared to have a few questions to ask. We will look at some examples next.
- The conclusion – the interviewer will summarise what has been said. They should also explain the next steps in the recruiting process and how and when the next contact with you will be made. If the interviewer doesn’t do this, ask them for the information before you leave. They may also explain any pre-employment checks necessary, such as carrying out an enhanced check with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a mandatory requirement in the care sector.
Care worker questions to ask the interviewer
It is generally best not to ask about pay and benefits at this stage. Instead ask questions that show you have thought about the job and the organisation.
Some areas to include are:
- The job – anything not covered in the job description, for example career development, assessment, appraisal, training, the team, working conditions, the management structure, who you report to.
- The organisation – ask what the interviewer likes about their job and working for the organisation; future plans, anything you have noticed in the media e.g. new initiatives, projects.
- The interview – what the next stage in the process is, if you haven’t already been told.
It’s never too late if there is something that you feel that you should have said during the interview, or something you feel could have been expressed in a more positive light; now is the time to clarify anything that needs further explanation. There is nothing wrong with referring back to a question you feel you may not have answered as well as you could have, as once you leave the interview, it is too late.
At the end of the interview, reiterate your interest in the job and the organisation and thank the interviewer(s) for their time. Leave them with a positive impression of you.
How can you secure a role in care work?
A care worker is a paid professional who supports those with health conditions and disabilities, from children to vulnerable adults and the elderly. For anyone wanting to work in the care sector, there are many different roles that help people to live fulfilling lives. Health and social care jobs are some of the most important in our society as they play a vital role in providing support and care for those who need it most, and carers make a real difference in people’s lives. A care worker is someone who provides practical and emotional support to people who need assistance with their everyday lives.
Working as a carer can be an immensely rewarding experience, and there are many different types of care jobs available. Whether you want to work for the NHS, in a private hospital, at a residential care home, or in a community setting, there is sure to be a role that is right for you.
One of the largest employers of carers in the UK is the NHS and there is a wide variety of roles available. These roles require different levels of qualifications and experience.
They include but are not limited to:
- Nurses – who play a vital role in the care of patients, working closely with doctors to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
- District nurses – who provide care and support to patients in their own homes.
- Health visitors – who provide support and advice to families with young children.
- Healthcare assistants – who provide basic care and support to patients and may also carry out administrative tasks, such as booking appointments and taking blood pressure readings.
Outside the NHS, health and social care services are numerous and you could work with children in care, adults with physical or learning disabilities, addiction issues, mental health problems or those with other social or emotional needs.
Here are some examples:
For most roles in the care sector you don’t necessarily require any formal qualifications such as GCSEs or A-levels to become a care worker, although some employers may find them desirable. Some employers might look for an NVQ Level 2 or 3 diploma in health and social care. However, this is something you may choose to work towards when you are in the job. Often, your transferable skills, values and attitude towards the work are far more important.
Care workers don’t generally enter the profession for the money. Rather they pursue a deep-seated desire to give something back to their community. There is currently a huge demand on the health and social care sector, with jobs routinely advertised.
Numerous job boards exist to help care workers find a position, for example but not limited to: