Resume Guide for Social Workers

A solid resume is critical for success in the competitive social work field. Having an impressive educational background or extensive work experience does not matter if your resume does not inspire an employer to contact you. Professionals can employ simple techniques to differentiate their resumes. Keep reading to learn what information makes your resume stand out from the crowd.

  1. Do Your Research: It is important to tailor your resume to each job, including social work internships for undergraduates. Study your potential employer's website and social media accounts. Determine whether any licenses or certifications are required for the position. Ultimately, research helps you understand if a position is a good fit for you.
  2. List Key Points: After completing your research, create an outline by making lists to organize your education, computer skills, social work experience, memberships, and training. Include any licensees, degrees, social work internships, and volunteer work. Also note terminology, action verbs, and keywords you will incorporate into your resume. While making your outline, consider your strengths and weaknesses, and aim to highlight your strengths.
  3. Format Your Resume: A sloppy-looking resume will detract from your accomplishments and skills. Your final resume should be attractive, readable, and nicely organized. Pay attention to grammar and always proofread your writing. A well-formatted resume is organized with headers, bold font, and bullets. Social work resumes generally use Arial, Times, or Helvetica in 11-point font. Resume length should be one page, unless you are applying for a clinical position, in which case two pages is acceptable. Clinical-geared resumes also tend to feature educational information first, followed by social work experience.

Types of Resumes for Social Workers

To determine your ideal resume organization method, explore these three common resume formats for social workers.

Reverse-Chronological

This commonly used method shows your work history beginning with the most recent job. It is easy to skim and shows your career progression. On the negative side, the date-centered formatting exposes gaps in work history.

Functional

This style begins with a summary of your skills followed by a summary of your professional accomplishments. Your work history and educational background are listed at the bottom. This resume format benefits social workers just out of college or working professionals switching careers. On the downside, this style makes it harder for hiring managers to quickly scan your work background.

Combination

This resume merges the functional resume and chronological resume. It features a small timeline of your work history, but begins with a career summary. It is ideal for recent graduates or working professionals who have held several jobs. As a disadvantage, combination resumes are longer in length than chronological resumes.

Required vs. Preferred Qualifications

When you see the terms "required" and "preferred" qualifications, you may wonder about the difference. Jobs in social work typically require a bachelor's or associate degree in social work. This means before a hiring manager calls you for an interview, you must hold the required qualifications. It is common to be asked to submit proof of your qualifications. For example, an employer may ask for a copy of your degree.

Preferred qualifications are those an employer hopes you have. Professionals with preferred qualifications are often put ahead of candidates without them, but those lacking preferred qualifications are not out of the running. Perhaps you have a lower-level degree, but more work experience. On the other hand, if you don't have all, or most, of the required qualifications, chances are your resume will be discarded. Be sure to include all your required and preferred qualifications on your resume.

Every social worker, regardless of experience, should include certain essential information on their resume. This also applies to professionals wondering how to find social work internships. Here's what to include:

What Should I Put on My Social Work Resume if I Don't Have Any Experience?

Many hiring managers will take a chance on a less-seasoned candidate if they are willing to learn

Instead of focusing on your lack of on-the-job experience, brainstorm your other skills and qualifications, such as completing social work practicum. Consider any social work internships and volunteer work you completed. Though they may not be paid, undergraduates gain valuable experience through social work internships. If you possess licenses or certifications, that is an added bonus. Include any volunteer work or social work internships in separate category. These skills should be listed on your resume higher than your work experience. Skills unrelated to social work should also be included. Simply explain in your summary how you can transfer those skills to social work.

Keep in mind that many employers seek candidates who are motivated and willing to work hard. Many hiring managers will take a chance on a less-seasoned candidate if they are willing to learn.

What Is ATS?

Larger corporations and even some small companies use the applicant tracking system, or ATS, to screen resumes. The software finds keywords and scores your resume to see if you are qualified for the job. ATS also searches your social media account and scans your profile for job-related keywords. Here are a few techniques to get past ATS and get a human to read your resume.

Tips for Outsmarting an ATS

Follow these tips to outsmart ATS and get your resume read by a person.

  • Simple Headers: The first step to avoid getting caught in ATS filters is to implement headers on your resume. Use clear-cut, bolded terms such as "Education," "Skills," and Work Experience" to divide your resume.
  • Clean Format: Choose a simple layout with commonly used fonts such as Arial, Times, and Helvetica. Skip the graphics and opt for a clean look.
  • Keywords/Phrases: Software systems like ATS are designed to find keywords, so the more keywords you include, the better. "Clinical rotations," "coordinate," and "harm reduction" are smart keywords to include in your resume.
  • Industry-Specific Terms: To show your familiarity and experience with social work, write your resume using industry-specific terms. ATS will identify these words and score your resume accordingly.

One small mistake on your resume can cost you an interview. Review the tips below for writing a great social work resume.

  • Tailor Your Resume

    Instead of sending the same template resume to every job, customize your resume each time. Identify keywords in the job posting and include them in your resume.

  • Save Your Resume Under a Professional Name

    It is a good practice saving your resume under a professional title such as: FirstNameLastName_Resume.doc.

  • Make it Easy to Read

    Use basic fonts, a simple color palette, and no graphics. Do not distract from the content.

  • Include a Cover Letter

    Do not overlook the importance of crafting a professional cover letter to accompany your resume.

  • Keep it to One Page

    Write a one-page resume unless you are applying for a clinical-focused job, for which a two-page resume is acceptable.

Common Mistakes Social Workers Make on Their Resumes

Use this checklist to help eliminate resume errors.

Reviewing sample social work resumes gives you formatting and style ideas. You can also borrow social work terminology to include on your resume. Make your resume unique and avoid using standard templates. Here are three sample social work resumes:

  • Sample 1: This chronological sample resume from Rutgers University includes great details such as the individual's licenses, impressive GPA, and skillset.
  • Sample 2: This combination example from the University of Michigan features nice organization with separate sections for clinical skills, administrative skills, and research. The three-page resume works for a clinical-focused candidate, but is likely too lengthy for anyone else.
  • Sample 3: The last sample resume from the University of Texas, Austin features easy-to-read content. The job seeker also makes good use of action verbs. The lack of work experience, however, is clear since the dates are beside the jobs.