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Interview Tips

Download our interview guide

A job interview is your chance to shine – to show your skills and understanding of the criminal justice sector and the specific role. To maximise your chances, it is important to make an effort and prepare yourself properly before the interview, so that you can present yourself as a professional who is able to really deliver in the role. 

At Sanctuary, we've talked to managers to find out some more information about what they expect from interviewees and what questions they might ask during the interview. It is important to remember that this is not a comprehensive list of questions that you will definitely be asked. It is intended to give you an idea of the type of topics that may come up and how you should prepare.

Remember, preparation time spent researching the company is time spent investing in your future career.


Download our interview preparation sheet.

Find out as much as you can about the role. Talk to your consultant to ensure you have all the information that they can share about the job role itself, but also take the time to research the employer. Has there been any press coverage, good or bad? Are they known for any particular successes or innovations? Has the relevant director or senior managers been interviewed anywhere?

Also think about the particular role and spend time making sure you understand the job description; if possible, try to match appropriate examples from your own practice to each requirement. Check to see if there has been any recent research or new policies in that area of practice.

Think about your own expertise and prepare some examples of successes or complex cases that show your skills, professionalism and practice approach.


 First impressions do count so make sure that you are prompt – or even better aim to be a little early. It is also important that you dress smartly. This doesn’t necessarily mean a formal suit, but it does mean avoiding casual clothes, such as jeans. We would also recommend making sure that your outfit is clean and ironed. You need to send the message that you respect the employer and would like them to give you the same respect.

Remember to take a notebook and pen with you to the interview. Making notes will help you to remember important points and will show that you are taking it seriously. Holding a pen may also reduce any nervous fidgeting, but please make sure you don’t doodle during the interview!

Your notebook could also have a list of questions you want to ask. We recommend making some of these about the department’s approach and workload, rather than just about pay and hours. If all of your questions have been answered in the interview, simply say so and refer back to your notes to confirm the answers.

In the interview

Common questions you can expect in any interview for roles in the criminal justice or substance misuse sector include:
  • Why did you decide to work in a criminal justice / substance misuse setting? This gives the employer an indication of your attitude to the sector and your interests.
  • What do you know about the job? This is an opportunity to show that you are fully prepared, and aware of what the job entails.
  • Talk about why your experience is relevant to the job.
  • Describe a stressful situation and how you handled this. Make sure you give a real example and explain what the situation was, the factors causing the stress, what you did to address it and the outcomes.
  • Have you had to deal with challenging situations in your work? As with talking about stressful situations, remember to be clear on what happened, your approach to deal with it and the outcomes. It is also good to show understanding that challenging situations could be with either colleagues or clients.
  • What is happening in criminal justice / substance misuse policy at the moment that could affect your work? An employer might use a question like this to see how aware you are of national policy, news about the sector or perhaps new research that has recently been published.
  • How would you know that service users are getting a service that is effective and that they are satisfied? Services are becoming increasingly measured on results; it is important to show that you understand issues around monitoring and evaluation, gathering feedback and your own supervision.
  • What are the key qualities of high performing teams? This provides an opportunity to talk about leadership within teams, peer-to-peer feedback, communications skills and having the space to reflect on performance. Think about what led to the success of teams you have been involved in and offer examples.

Service-Related questions

You are likely to be asked questions relating to the specific service you will be working for. Examples of this could include:
  • What is your understanding of clinical governance? This gives you an opportunity to give examples of good clinical governance processes you have worked with and to address topics such as safeguarding, auditing, data and feedback, and training and assessing outcomes.
  • What is your understanding of the recovery agenda? The employer will want you to show an understanding of the main pillars of the recovery agenda and share examples from your own experience.
  • Can you tell us what you think the diagnostic indicators are for Tier 3 services? An employer will want to know that you understand the key outcome measures and how supervision and performance management within the team can help boost service delivery.
Demonstrating your understanding of the criminal justice sector could be key to setting you apart from the competition, take a look at our blog to keep you abreast of all the latest news.

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