Resume Guide for Social Workers

Resumes act as the first point of contact between a social worker and his/her potential employer, so it’s critical for resume writers to detail their professional experience and qualifications as effectively as possible. Aspiring social work employees should use their resumes to showcase their certifications or licensures, plus their supervised clinical hours and work experience. Social work resumes should also prove that a candidate is qualified to work with clients and has experience interacting with the people who will be in their care. On top of that, job applicants should tailor their resumes to fit the position for which they are applying.

How to Write a Social Work Resume

  1. Do Your Research: It’s important for a resume to reflect the skills and work experience required by the position in question. Before drafting their social work resume, applicants should research their potential new employer to learn about which skills they value, and tweak the resume as needed to highlights those skills.
  2. Write Down the Key Points: Start with an outline to organize the resume’s main points. Social work resumes should address a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, and include details on how to overcome the specified weaknesses.
  3. Format Your Resume: These resumes should be professional and easy to read. Start with an online search for sample resume formats, choose an appropriate design, and go from there. Headlines should separate resume categories (work experience, education, and skills, for example). Arrange the categories to reflect the employer’s priorities.

Types of Resumes for Social Workers

Resumes provide an overview of a job candidate’s skills and experience, and there are many ways to organize this information. Some resumes highlight work history first, while others focus on educational credentials. Applicants can alter the format of their resume to best suit the position in question. For example, employers who work closely with the community might prefer to see a resume highlighting experience with outreach programs, while recruiters hiring for clinical positions might be more interested in educational background. The three primary resume formats are as follows:

  • Reverse-Chronological: Reverse-chronological resumes start with the applicant’s most recent work experience, and work down to the oldest. This format is ideal for candidates with recent work experience in their desired field.
  • Functional: Functional resumes focus primarily on practical experience and skills, and less on job history. This format works best for candidates who are changing careers, have taken time away from work, or are just entering the workforce. Volunteer and coursework experience may be included on a functional resume.
  • Combination: A combination resume incorporates aspects of both the reverse-chronological and functional formats. Combination resumes typically lead with a description of qualifications and related skills, followed by a breakdown of work experience.

Required vs. Preferred Qualifications

In job postings, employers often list required qualifications and preferred qualifications separately. Required qualifications are deal-breakers when it comes to being considered for a position, while preferred qualifications give candidates some bonus points in the hiring process. Applicants who have some of the position’s preferred qualifications should make sure to include them on their resume, but even those without required qualifications should still apply if they are otherwise qualified for the role.

What Should I Include on a Social Work Resume?

Education and Training: Social work careers require some level of higher education. Some social work positions only require a bachelor’s, but many call for a master’s degree. Any social work application must show that the candidate has met the minimum education requirements. It should also detail their prior training and certifications. Applicants who earned high a GPA in college may include this information on their resume, but in most cases GPA information isn’t necessary.

Experience: Applicants with relevant job experience should list this information in reverse-chronological order, including the dates of employment, the number of clients seen, the types of treatment offered, and the general client population. Candidates should also break down each job’s specific duties on their resume. Using positive adjectives and action verbs to describe these duties, and highlight how they pertain to the position in question. If a job posting includes a list of required and preferred qualifications, address those points in this section. Use the job listing’s specific wording in case applications are reviewed by a resume-reading robot. Applicants lacking in relevant job experience should follow the functional resume format to highlight their other skills and qualifications.

Skills: Applicants can devote a resume section to their personal skills, which exist outside of work or education experience. It’s important to note how those personal skills can apply to a career in social work. Candidates can use this section to note unique skills that might set their resume apart from the others.

Licensure, Certifications: Most social work positions require some form of certification or licensure, usually at the state level. In many cases, a license is required to qualify for social work positions, while certifications might be optional. Either way, it’s crucial to include all licenses and certifications when applying for a social work job, and beneficial to include their expiration and renewal dates, as well.

Awards, Accomplishments, Affiliations: Members of professional organizations should list their affiliations in this section. Applicants should also list their awards or accomplishments that relate to the job in question.

Volunteer Work: Hiring managers take notice of candidates who donate their time, especially if they volunteer in the same field as their desired career. Applicants with social work volunteer experience would boost their resume by including information on their duties and responsibilities. Applicants who lack professional social work experience might include volunteer social work on their resume instead.

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What Should I Put on My Social Work Resume If I Don’t Have Any Experience?

Some social work careers require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, meaning many applicants have only education, internships, and volunteer work under their belt. Entry-level social work resumes should include educational credentials, certificates, and licenses. Hiring managers might also take interest in unrelated work experience — for example, retail or service industry experience could indicate an ability to work well in high-pressure situations.

What Is a Resume-Reading Robot?

What Is ATS?

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) aim to streamline the recruitment process when employers receive an influx of mixed-quality applications. An ATS simplifies the candidate-screening process by scanning resumes for keywords and phrases that match the job description in question. This helps narrow down the application pile for hiring managers. Some ATS systems are even advanced enough to search a candidate’s social media profiles for relevant information.

Tips for Outsmarting an ATS

  • Simple Headers: Chances are that any ATS will be looking for straightforward terms such as “education,” “skills,” and “professional experience.” Use these terms to boost the chances that a bot will store your information for employer review.
  • Clean Format: ATS systems are more likely to select resumes with simple layouts and basic fonts. Some bots automatically reject certain fonts or added graphics. To be safe, avoid graphics and utilize common fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, or Verdana.
  • Keywords/Phrases: Job postings often include descriptions of duties and applicant qualifications. These blurbs may use the same terms the employer’s ATS system is looking for, so work them into your resume when possible.
  • Industry-Specific Jargon: Research terminology that’s commonly used in your desired position and work it into your resume. Industry jargon may make its way into an ATS system’s screening process.

Resume Writing Tips for Social Workers

  • Tailor Your Resume: In applying to any job, it’s important to list your most relevant skills and experience first, to tailor your resume to the position in question.
  • Save Your Resume Under a Professional Name: To play it safe and keep things professional, follow the format: “Firstlast_specialty_resume.doc” when you save your resume. This format makes sure an employer can clearly make out that the document in question is your resume.
  • Make It Easy to Read: Social work resumes should stick to basic fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Tahoma. These fonts are sans-serif and easily readable.
  • Include a Cover Letter: Cover letters offer applicants a chance to express their personality and writing skills, and allow them to explain how seemingly irrelevant work experience might translate to a career in social work.
  • Keep It to One Page: Hiring managers prefer resumes that are short and sweet, especially if they have receive a pile of applications. If you can’t fit all your relevant work experience on one page, consider including only the most valuable experience. Resumes with a clinical focus may be up to two pages long, since clinical positions usually call for more extensive experience.

Common Mistakes Social Workers Make on Their Resumes

  • Typos: Proofread your resume for typos and grammatical errors, which could come off as laziness or lack of attention to detail.
  • Including Personal Information: Remember to include an email address and phone number so the hiring manager can contact you if necessary. A home address, however, might not be necessary.
  • Including Salary Information: It’s generally inadvisable to include current or previous salaries on a resume. Prospective employers may ask for salary information later in the hiring process.
  • Using Nicknames: Nicknames are considered unprofessional on a resume. Employees may use them after the hiring process, but during recruitment, all documents (including the resume) should use their legal name.
  • Using an Unprofessional Email Address: Professional email addresses should consist of your first and last name or initials.
  • First-Person Pronouns: Avoid overusing first-person pronouns, since the nature of a resume assumes all information included pertains to the candidate in question.
  • Unprofessional Voicemail: If you include your phone number on your resume, make sure your outgoing voicemail message is professional and includes your full name.

Social Work Resume Samples

Applicants can use online resources as a tool for formatting their resumes. Make sure to choose a template that highlights your most relevant experience in the most accessible way possible. The below examples might inspire applicants struggling for resume inspiration:

Sample 1: This social work resume sample is in reverse-chronological format and includes work experience and education. It also opens with a short summary.

Sample 2: The summary provided in this resume focuses more on the candidate’s goals rather than his/her skills. This social work resume sample fuses the functional format with the reverse chronological format, highlighting both skills and work experience.

Sample 3: The resume in this sample includes certifications and licensure as a key feature, placing key skills at the bottom. This format is ideal for highlighting verifiable credentials, work experience, and education.