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What skills does a support worker need?

Support workers change livescould you?

Being a support worker is one of the most important and rewarding jobs anyone can do. But what skills does a support worker need–and is it the role for you?

Read on to discover what support workers do, why it’s such a great career, and how to ace your interview for a support worker role–including the 7 key questions you’re most likely to be asked.

What is a support worker, and what do they do?

Support workers help people, including those who need support with housing, mental health, building useful life skills and financial independence. You'll need to take a person-centred, trauma-informed approach, taking each service user's preferences into account and giving them the respect and understanding they deserve.

Because people’s needs don’t run on a schedule, support workers often need to work odd hours like nights, weekends, holidays or split shifts to make sure service users have support round the clock.

There are lots of full-time and part-time roles available, meaning you can work around your own needs and obligations and will probably be able to find work close to home. The average full-time salary of a support worker in the housing sector is £21,000 a year.

What skills does a support worker need?

  • Compassion and empathy. You’ll need to provide emotional support for service users and their families during tough times.
  • Strong boundaries. Housing support work matters because home matters–especially to people who are struggling. While it’s awesome when you get to say “yes” to someone, you’ll also need the strength to say “no”.
  • Social skills. When a service user has trouble communicating or is talking about sensitive subjects, you’ll need the sensitivity to read between the lines.
  • Organisation skills. You’ll need to juggle the needs and schedules of different service users, and they’ll be relying on your punctuality.
  • A sense of humour. Being able to have fun and enjoy the work even on the most challenging days is vital.

Why become a support worker?

  1. Make a real difference to someone’s life - You’ll be making a positive difference to the lives of others by living a fuller, more compassionate life.
  2. Job satisfaction - The relationships you form, the people you work with, and the sense of personal achievement will give you the motivation you need to do a great job.
  3. Doing something that counts - Being a support worker gives you a sense of purpose. You know your work is important and valued.
  4. Job security - With demand for support workers rising every year, and likely to keep growing, you’ll never be short of work.
  5. Personal development - Being a support worker is a learning experience every day. You’ll learn both practical skills and meaningful life lessons.
  6. Career progression - As the sector continues to grow, you’ll have all kinds of opportunities to grow your career and rise to the top. For example, if you start out as a Support Assistant, you could progress to Support Worker, to Team Leader, and then to Project Manager.

How to ace your interview

When you apply for a job as a support worker (check out our guide to guarantee a winning job application!) an interviewer may ask story-based or behavioural interview questions to find out more about your character, people skills and work ethic. When you reply, try to give a specific example using the STAR method: a Situation, Task, Action and Result from your professional experience.

Here are the seven key questions you’re most likely to be asked–make sure you’ve got answers to them ready before your interview!

1. Why do you want this role?

Think about the experiences that led you here. Use examples from your own life and passions to show what got you interested in supporting others.

2. What skills can you bring to the role?

Go through the job description and our “What skills does a support worker need?” section above, pick a few skills you've developed in your career and through your lived experience, and give a specific story example to demonstrate how you use them.

3. What is your process for evaluating a service user's needs?

The answer to this depends on the role, so look at the job ad and take note of the technical skills required. For example, if the role requires you to put together or follow a support plan, and you have experience with it, highlight that in your answer.

4. Tell me about a challenging situation you’ve experienced and how you overcame it

This is about your problem-solving skills and your ability to follow the process laid out by the specific employer or project, so describe the challenge briefly and then focus on the actions you took to resolve it, including how you followed the process. Keep your response positive to show your resilience and adaptability.

5. How do you continue to grow and develop in this changing field?

When an employer asks this, they want to know you’re committed to continuous learning. Tell them about any professional training courses, research or reading you’re doing or plan to do.

6. Describe your process for working with a service user with complex needs, challenging behaviour or mental health issues.

If you get asked any of these, make sure you showcase your skills and experience in your answer. If possible, give a specific example of how you helped a service user.

7. Tell me about a time you worked as part of a team to help a service user.

This is about demonstrating your personality, social skills and team-building skills. Give a positive example of a time when you collaborated well with others and succeeded as a team.

Have we piqued your interest in being a support worker? It’s a role that demands your whole heart every single day, but the joy of knowing that you’re changing lives is priceless. If you’d like to discover more about this amazing career, get in touch with us today–we’d love to talk about it!