Social Work Resumes
This blog was written by Molly Mahoney Matthews, a businesswoman and career expert who is currently in charge of two growing companies: The Starfish Group and Lucky Planet Foods.
A strong resume is the key to an interview and the first step to finding your social work job. Whether you are new to the profession or a seasoned professional, you can prepare a resume that promotes you as a serious, effective and hirable social worker. Expect that preparing an excellent social work resume will take effort and time. Here are five ways to do it right:
1. Start with a clean format. If your resume is flawless and looks professional, you will have a much better chance of getting into the interview pile. Here are the basics:
- Keep it simple and short. Unless you have years of social work experience, a resume should fit on one page.
- Don’t mess with fancy templates. Use a Word document and bold headers, or you will find yourself wasting time fixing pre-designed formats.
- Put your contact information under you name at the top and use a large type that’s easy to read.
- List previous jobs, beginning with your most recent.
- Include a job title and employment dates, but make sure they are not floating in the middle of paper. Keep the formatting tight, with blocks of text to allow for white space, which makes for easier reading.
- Include at least three major sections, such as Objective, Work Experience and Education; others could be Awards, Social Work Licensure or Volunteer Experience.
- Decide on consistent punctuation and formatting (e.g., serial commas, abbreviations, bold/italics, whether to capitalize phrases or headers).
2. Put an objective at the top. You want to let the reader know what kind of social work experience you seek. One advantage of putting an objective at the top is that you can tailor it to a particular position without having to rewrite your resume. The only reason not to start with an objective is if you think it will limit your opportunities (e.g., if you are posting on a job board with different social work positions available). Your objective should be one sentence but use a few words to highlight a particular strength. “Seeking entry-level social work position” is too bland. Add data such as “bilingual honors student” or a phrase denoting interests, such as “NASW credential in gerontology”
3. Use precise language in describing your work history. Use action words to describe your social work experience. Usually you can do this with a verb for each bullet point: manage, promote, provide, lead, design, implement. For example, “Promote outreach programs and services to the local community.” Think back to specific tasks, responsibilities or results you had and, when possible, quantify them. For example, “Led a team of peers to standardize program reviews” or “Improved timely case report filings by 20 percent over a two-year period.” Tell the truth; don’t make up degrees or jobs, but don’t undersell yourself. If you managed a program, even if you didn’t have a manager title, you can claim the capability. Feel free to brag a little too. Instead of writing “They liked my one idea,” try “Consistently contributed innovate thinking.”
4. Edit, edit, edit, and ask others to review. Every word counts, especially if you are aiming for one page. Use phrases, not sentences, and drop personal pronouns: not “I worked with cancer survivors,” but “Managed support programs for cancer survivors.” Ask friends, colleagues, family, professors and job counselors to help you with content. Solicit other social workers to share their resumes with you to pick up phrases to strengthen yours. Hire (or cajole) a proofreader. A resume with spelling errors or typos is unacceptable and will get tossed.
5. Make it beautiful. Print your resume on heavy paper stock, and use white or cream-colored paper. If your resume is digital, send it in a PDF format to avoid format misalignment on the recipient’s end. Once you follow these steps, you have a great tool to network with other professional social workers and apply for any job that looks interesting. Remember, as a social worker, the unique aspect of your skill set is your ability to look at a potential prospect and see the opportunity. Good luck!