An interview is your first chance to meet a candidate, and the perfect chance to delve into their skills, passions and suitability for the job.
But, when you’re under pressure to find the perfect candidate, knowing which questions to ask can be stressful.
We’ll also look at some examples of good and bad candidate responses to help you understand what you should be looking for in a talented, caring support worker.
1. Why do you want this support worker role?
This question is a good starting point because it gives you a chance very early on to find out how much the candidate knows about the role, the company, and its mission.
It also allows you to ascertain whether the candidate’s career goals and expectations are aligned with the needs of the business. Look out for someone that talks about the role with passion, rather than someone that just wants any job that comes their way:
“I am looking for a company that I can grow and build a career with, and I see that you have outlined lots of opportunities for career development for your support workers. I also see that your services cover a diverse patient population, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with a variety of different people with different needs.”
“I know that I want to care for others and be a support worker, and then I saw your job advert, and it sounded good.”
2. What skills and qualities can you bring to this support worker role?
This question is your chance to begin evaluating the candidate’s skillset and getting to know their personality a little better. It is an opportunity for you to understand their interpersonal skills and the qualities that would make them a good support worker.
Not only this, but this is one of the quickest ways to see if they have the qualifications and skills that fit the job role. If you have the job description in front of you, you can easily identify if they are ticking all the right boxes in terms of skills and qualities.
“The health and happiness of my patients is the most important thing to me, which is why I prioritise listening and strong communication skills, as well as always putting the patient first. I am a very empathetic person and make sure that all my patients get what they need to thrive whilst also living as independently as they can.
“In my last role, I was required to juggle multiple duties such as meal preparation, administering medication and helping around the house, so I quickly learned that organisation is absolutely key.”
“I am a hard worker, and I am good at listening. I am great with patients and have looked after lots of different people in my life.”
3. Tell us about a challenging experience you’ve had with a patient and how you overcame it
This is your chance to start going more in-depth and really finding out about the key skills that make this candidate right for the role.
Now, every job has its ups and downs, and challenging moments can’t always be avoided, but in a support role, handling difficult situations safely and professionally is of the utmost importance.
So, when you ask this question, you are asking the candidate to highlight their problem-solving skills and explain how they would (and have) overcome obstacles in the workplace successfully.
“In my last job, I had a patient who was struggling to come to terms with the fact that they needed extra help and support, and so they initially refused my help. I understood how difficult it must be losing some of your independence, so I took a step back for a while, just doing small jobs for them as and when they asked. Eventually, they accepted that they needed my help, and in the end, we became good friends.”
“I once had a really rude patient who was refusing help even though their parents had specifically asked for additional support for them. In the end, one of the senior team took this patient on instead.”
4. What is your process for assessing and monitoring a patient’s health?
A key part of a support worker’s role is assessing their patient’s needs and ensuring that these are supported and monitored in case of change. By asking this question, you can find out more about a candidate’s practical social care skills, as well as giving them a chance to talk about how they’ve assisted patients in past roles.
This also gives the candidate an opportunity to show what they understand about personalisation in care, so you can determine if they’ve got what it takes to work with a variety of different people with different needs. Look out for those who give examples of how they’ve used their skills in the past.
“Whenever I have a new patient, I like to take some time to speak with them, their family and their doctors to build a full picture of their needs, but ultimately, it’s the client’s input that helps me assess their health and create a plan that works best for them.
“Then, once I’ve begun supporting their needs, I like to take five minutes after each visit to write down some detailed notes. I am then able to regularly update their company file and review this on a monthly basis. This recently allowed me to move a patient to a more independent home as they learnt how to better care for themselves.”
“I know that staying organised is important for assessing and monitoring a patient’s health, so I often make notes after visiting each patient so I can revisit these if I need to.”
5. Do you understand professional boundaries and how do you ensure they’re maintained?
Professional boundaries are essential when caring for others, especially when working with a number of different people who all need varying levels of care.
As the recruiter, you need to determine whether a candidate understands these boundaries and knows how to support a patient whilst also allowing them to maintain their independence. This means you’ll be looking for soft skills such as empathy, professionalism, good communication and awareness in their answers.
“I am very aware that support work requires a level of trust and intimacy between my patients and me, but I also know that when you’re working closely with someone, it can be all too easy for boundaries to be crossed.
“I believe that in order to ensure no lines are crossed, consistency is key, as well as always being truthful and honest with the patient and their family. I am very careful not to do anything that makes me or the patient feel uncomfortable, and we speak openly about this to ensure we are both happy with our visitations and arrangements.”
“I understand professional boundaries, and I ensure I maintain these by trying not to become too friendly with patients and by never doing anything I’m not comfortable with.”
6. How do you continue to learn and develop in this changing field of work?
Health guidelines are always changing, and every good support worker needs to stay up to date with the latest best practices and regulations.
Therefore, you can use this question to find out whether your candidate is happy to continue learning and growing their knowledge, for example, whether they’re taking additional qualifications or keeping up with industry trends.
This will also demonstrate important skills such as willingness to learn, proactivity and a real passion for the industry.
What’s more, those who continue to develop their knowledge are typically able to pick up the job much quicker, develop better techniques and have a better understanding of the industry – all of which is great news for employers – so look out for those who are keen to keep learning.
“I initially got into the industry by completing my NVQ2 in care but have since decided that I want to take my career to the next level, so right now, I am studying for my NVQ3 in my spare time. I would consider taking online courses in the future, but for now, while I’m currently working and studying, I like to read care industry publications and keep up to date on industry news and trends.”
“I got my Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care a few years back and still remember everything I learned then, so I’m still pretty up to date.”
7. Give an example of a time when you worked as part of a team to care for a patient
Lots of support workers will be required to work as part of a team to help care for patients that need additional support. Asking for examples of when a candidate has worked as part of a team in the past gives you a chance to assess their interpersonal skills and teamwork capabilities.
It also gives them an opportunity to back up their claims with examples from previous positions, allowing you to get a better understanding of their previous experience.
“In my current role, I am working alongside a healthcare team in which I am the support worker. I travel with the patient to and from appointments, and I often speak with the doctors and nurses to discuss the treatment plan and caregiving strategy.
“Together, we are able to ensure that the patient is getting all the medical and emotional care they need, both in and out of the surgery. I also speak regularly with the patient’s family to ensure they always know what is going on.”
“So far in my career, I have worked on a one-to-one basis with most of my patients, but I do occasionally work as part of a small team in a local care home when they are short-staffed and need help.”