Social workers are unsung heroes and we need more of them. Despite higher-than average median pay, the coming years will still see strong growth in demand for social workers. That said, the difference in hours, pay, benefits, and working conditions can vary widely. That’s why you want to get the best social worker job possible.
But getting hired as a social worker presents a unique set of challenges.
You’ll likely be working for a government agency, so you need to understand not just the needs of the community you’ll be serving but those of the agency hiring you. Nailing that balance perfectly is the key to getting hired in the social worker position you really want.
What this guide will show you:
- Resume templates to get you inspired
- How to target your resume to the right audiences
- Everything you need to know about ATS
- Proper formatting for a social worker resume
- How long your resume should be
- Which sections to include
- How to make your achievements stand out
- Which qualifications you should mention
- How to include certifications (and which ones matter)
- Hard and soft skills to include (and how to list them)
- How to write an objective or summary
- How to target your resume for each position
- How to make your resume stand out
- How to prepare for the job interview
- Why a resume builder will help you get hired
Social worker resume template examples
If you’re looking for your first social worker position or haven’t changed positions in years, chances are you haven’t looked at your resume in ages. If that’s the case, one lesson you need to start with is that resumes and untold writing rules have changed. These days, submitting the same old Word doc you’ve been using for a decade will simply scream “I put in the bare minimum.”
Have a look at these social worker resume template examples to see what a great resume should look like now. Notice how the clean and modern design makes them easier to read. If you were a hiring manager at a government agency going through stacks of resumes a day, these ones would be a welcome break from the norm.
Try going through these examples and listing elements you’d like to incorporate into your own social worker resume.
How to write a social worker resume that will get your phone ringing
Creating an effective social worker resume requires getting a lot of things just right (don’t worry, we’ll go over each and every one). But more generally, to be effective it needs to understand its audience and appeal directly to them. After all, you wouldn’t take an identical approach to every case you work on as a social worker would you? Well, sending identical resumes that don’t consider their audience would be about as effective.
Start by considering who will read your resume
One of the worst mistakes you can make starting off is to write your resume now and think about it later. You need to begin with a plan, and the first step of that plan is to know your audience. Easy right? Your resume goes to a hiring manager or recruiter who hires you because they can see you’re a great social worker.
Sadly, it’s a bit more complicated. So let’s take you through what you need to know.
Why you need to consider ATS
Today, a huge number of resumes that get sent out are never seen by a human. The reason is Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). You may have never heard of them, but they’re widely used by all sorts of companies to help sort through dozens or even thousands of incoming resumes.
While there are many different ATS companies out there and each one is slightly different, they all work in the same basic way. They use artificial intelligence to scan your resume for keywords to determine whether your resume should be sent to a human for further consideration. If the ATS doesn’t think your resume makes the cut, it goes straight into the digital trash bin.
So what do you need to do?
- Use the right file format for your resume. You’d be shocked at just how many resumes get instantly rejected because they’re submitted in something like an image format, which ATS are not designed to read. Fortunately, the solution is simple, just use a .doc, .docx, or .pdf.
- Be sure the file is ATS-friendly. That said, not all of those file types are designed to be effectively read by ATS. Make sure you use a resume builder which has been engineered to be easily read by the widest variety of ATS out there to maximize your chances.
- Be smart about keywords. In most cases, an ATS is given a list of keywords and experience to search for. To get past it, you need to make it as obvious as possible that you have the exact skills and experience the ATS is looking for. The best way to do this is to look to the job description. By using the wording you find there, you’re maximizing the chances the ATS will see exactly what it wants on your resume.
How to give recruiters what they’re looking for
Once your resume has sailed past an ATS (or gone to a social work agency which doesn’t use one), it still needs to get a thumbs up from a recruiter or hiring manager. That’s why you absolutely need to take them into consideration when crafting your resume. They are your client, so give them the level of focus you would give a client (especially if you only had one).
So consider what the person who’ll be deciding on hiring you is most concerned about. Frankly, that could simply be hiring a social worker who can handle a high volume of cases without making mistakes (in which case, emphasize working well under pressure and attention to detail). Or, they might be looking for someone who has experience with a specific kind of client, like someone with a disability, people experiencing PTSD, people returning from prison, etc. In other words, your job isn’t to simply be the “best social worker” it’s to be the best social worker for that specific role.
So, begin by figuring out what those needs are. Obviously the job description is your first source of clues, but you can also check whether there have been any news stories about the agency or try talking to current or former workers there. If you’ve tailored your resume well, the person reading it will think “wow, this person is exactly what we’re looking for.” If that happens, you’re as good as hired.
How to target your resume for each application
While this has been implied in the advice so far, it’s important enough to repeat. You should create a single targeted resume for each social worker position you’re applying for. Yes, it means extra work, but that work pales in comparison to the benefits you’ll get when you get a better social worker job.
The reason is that different social worker positions will have their own requirements. By sending an identical resume to each one, you’re communicating that you put in the bare minimum. For a job as important as a social worker, that is not the message you want to be sending. By customizing each resume, you’ll be more likely to get hired and you’ll be making a stronger first impression.
How to format a social worker resume
Once you’ve put together a plan for how your resume will target the exact job you’re applying for, it's time to work out the proper format for your resume. What goes where and what should you include? The main rule of thumb that should guide you is to put the more important information towards the top. The person reading your resume is a human and they might skip over something towards the bottom, so make sure they see what they need to know.
The other reason to do this is to control the first impression you make. You know that the first impression you leave on a client will affect the rest of your relationship and the same goes for your resume. By considering this and writing your resume accordingly, you’re taking control and helping your chances at success.
So, be sure to write your experience in reverse chronological order, as your most recent work experience is more important and should therefore go at the top. We’ll explain more about using an objective or summary to craft a first impression later.
What’s the proper length for a social worker resume?
The honest answer here is “as short as possible.” Again, thinking about the person reading your resume, they don’t want to have to wade through pages of information with little relevance. If you make their experience learning about you from your resume easy, they’re more likely to develop positive feelings towards you. After all, you’ve helped them do their job.
That said, try and limit your social worker resume to one page. If you go long, just use this rule: if something doesn’t make your resume better, it’s making your resume worse. Using that rule, be ruthless and cut any words, phrases, or sections that are holding your resume back to get it to its ideal length.
Which sections should you consider including?
- Resume objective or summary
- Work experience
- Hard skills
- Soft Skills
What are ideal social worker job qualifications and how to list them correctly
Most social worker positions will require you to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. This could be a degree in social work, or something like sociology, psychology, or public health. You may also need a graduate degree and a license. The legal requirements to be a social worker are decided by the state, so be sure to check the laws in your state to see what’s needed.
For educational qualifications, simply list them in an education section like this:
Masters in Social Work
University of California, Los Angeles
2012-2016, Los Angeles, CA
Licenses should be included next to your name or in a summary or objective (more on those below). Just be sure it’s immediately clear to the reader that you have the proper qualifications.
Which certifications should you consider obtaining and including?
Certifications send a powerful message. They tell the person reading your resume that you’ve gone above and beyond to become a better social worker and prove your skills. That’s why you should consider obtaining one if possible. There are plenty to choose from in the list below, but be aware that some are for more advanced social workers.
Even if you haven’t finished obtaining a certification by the time you apply, you can simply mention that you’re in the process (more on how to do that later).
- NASW Professional Social Work Credential
- NASW Advanced Practice Specialty Credential
- Certification in Cognitive Therapy
- Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (BCD) certification
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I or II
- Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)
- Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM)
- Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)
- Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW)
- National Certified Counselor (NCC)
- Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS)
- Accredited Case Manager
- Advanced Social Worker in Gerontology (ASW-G)
- Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC)
How should you list your certifications?
When listing your certifications, simply begin with the certification name followed by the name or the organization granting it and the year you obtained it. For example:
Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), NASW, 2018
How to effectively list your skills
Both ATS and hiring managers will look to your skills to determine whether or not you’d be an appropriate hire for a social worker position. That’s why your skills section has two jobs. The first is to list the right skills. You want to try and list as many of the skills asked for in the job description as possible (while being truthful of course) and phrase them the same way they’re written there. Next, you need to show that you really possess those skills. That’s where concrete examples work wonders.
You can see the difference in these examples:
Capable of handling a large caseload
That’s a great skill to have, but writing it this way doesn’t add much confidence in your ability to really do this.
Capable of handling a caseload of over 40
The difference is subtle, but by being specific you’re giving the reader a much clearer idea of what you can actually do. It also implies experience in handling a caseload that large. In other words, try and be specific with your skills whenever possible and include examples (more on that below under the achievements section).
Hard skills to mention
- Case assessment
- Case planning
- Case management
- Crisis intervention
- Knowledge of relevant social worker policies
- Treatment plan development
- Mandt system
- Record keeping
- Drafting reports
- Organizing and running seminars
- Child counseling
Soft skills to mention
- Problem solving
- Active listening
- Working under pressure
- Emotional intelligence
- Attention to detail
Just remember, the absolute best hard and soft skills to mention will always be the ones originally listed in the job description. So use that as your guide.
How to highlight your most important achievements
Whether they’re achievements in previous social work roles or elsewhere, highlighting your achievements properly can translate into them having a huge impact on a recruiter. They can show you have empathy, can manage complex projects, can get a difficult job done, and more. In other words, this is an ideal place to really show off the critical skills needed to be a great social worker.
I’ve been longtime volunteer at local Big Brothers, Big Sisters
While this is a great achievement to list on a social worker resume, it has a few issues. First, it speaks in the first person, which isn’t the accepted format for a resume. It should be written in the third person. Next, it’s unnecessarily vague about how long you’ve volunteered there and where you volunteered. Let’s see a version with those issues fixed:
5 year volunteer at the Riverside, CA Big Brothers, Big Sisters
Now the reader knows exactly how long you’ve been there and can easily contact them for a reference or to double check the information. Just by adding that information, you made the recruiter’s job easier.
Why your resume should start with an objective or summary
Remember when we mentioned the importance of making a strong first impression with your resume? That’s why it makes sense to start off with an objective or summary. These sections allow you to better control the first impression you make and to provide context for the rest of the resume. So, for example, before the recruiter notices a gap in your work history and wonders what happened, you can explain it in a summary.
But what’s the difference between the two? A resume objective will be a short sentence that simply explains who you are and what you aim to achieve. If your resume has a cover letter, this is all you’ll need because the cover letter will contain any other relevant information. If you don’t have a cover letter and need to include a bit more information, a summary is ideal. It can be a few sentences, but should still be concise and packed with information.
How to write a resume objective
The key goals here are to be concise and to pack in as much useful information as possible. Let’s look at some examples to see how this is done.
I’m an experienced and certified social worker looking to advance my career in a new position.
This example isn’t overly long but it still takes up too much space with vague or obvious information. How experienced is this person? What certification do they have? Why are they bothering to tell me that they want to advance their career? These are all valid questions a recruiter would have after reading this objective. Now let’s see that same objective with those issues fixed.
QCSW with 8 years experience looking to develop child counseling skills working in Fairfax public schools.
This version of the previous objective solves all of the problems it had. We know which certification they possess, how much experience they have, where they want to work (indicating this resume was customized for the role) and even why they want this specific job. After reading this objective, a recruiter has lots of useful information and context that will make the other information on your resume more effective.
How to write a resume summary
A resume summary should follow the same rules as a resume objective. The difference being that it can be a bit longer. Look at these examples to see how a summary can be used to explain something like a gap in work history.
It’s been a difficult few years taking care of my mother, who has dementia, but now that she’s passed I want to return to my previous career as a social worker. I previously worked largely in addition counseling but would be open to changing specialties.
This example certainly provides context, but it goes about it in the wrong way. First, it’s too personal. A recruiter reading this might think you’re trying to pull at their heartstrings and get some sympathy in the hiring process. In any case, these details might make a recruiter feel uncomfortable. It’s also written in the first person instead of the third. Let’s see a revised version:
Social worker with 8 years experience in addiction counseling looking to return to the workforce with a position at the Richmond Department of Public Health after taking several years off to care for a sick family member.
This version focuses more on you as a social worker rather than a caretaker for a family member. It keeps things professional while still explaining the gap in your work history.
How to make your resume stand out
The good news here is that as a social worker, you already have a sense of how your resume should stand out. That’s because, like a great social worker, the way to do this isn’t by being flashy or bragging. Your resume should be focused, diligent, and clear.
Combining modern design, carefully written text which contains plenty of information, while remaining concise, and a single page of content will make your resume a welcome break for any recruiter or hiring manager. When thinking about how your resume can stand out, don’t imagine it in a vacuum. Imagine your resume as the 100th a recruiter has read in a day and it will be clear why the best way to stand out is to simply be easy and effective.
How to prepare for a job interview as a social worker
More good news, as a social worker you should already have many of the skills needed to excel in a job interview. You’re calm, ready to answer questions, and a consummate professional.
That said, you should still prepare for your interview. Use the research you did to create your resume about the specific needs of this employer. What kind of social worker do they want? Are there any specific challenges their office or agency is facing that you could help with? For example, if they’re understaffed, focus on your ability to handle a large caseload.
The message you want to be sending in both your resume and interview is “I will make your job and life easier if you hire me.” If you approach the interview with this mindset, you’ll maximize your chance of success.
Why you should be using a resume builder
With so many things to consider when creating the perfect social worker resume, you need all the help you can get. That’s why a resume builder is a no-brainer. Choosing the right builder allows you to avoid worrying about ATS compatibility, great design, and all the frustrating formatting issues that inevitably arise when you create a resume in a doc.
That’s why using Resumebuild.com’s builder is the easiest choice you’ll make in your job search. With plenty of clean and modern design templates to choose from and expertly crafted social worker resume examples to inspire you, making a resume that will get you hired couldn’t be easier. So before you go on applying for jobs like it’s the 90s, see why a modern job search should be done with a modern resume.
- Identify people who need help
- Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
- Develop plans to improve their clients’ well-being
- Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
- Research and refer clients to community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and health care
- Help clients work with government agencies to apply for and receive benefits such as Medicare
- Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse
- Plan, supervise, and conduct psychological research and write papers describing research results.Explain the origins and physical, social, or cultural development of humans, including physical attributes, cultural traditions, beliefs, languages, resource management practices, and settlement patterns.
- Identify key individual cultural collaborators, using reputational and positional selection techniques.
- Lead field training sites and train field staff, students, and volunteers in excavation methods.
- Coordinate activities of workers engaged in cataloging and filing materials.
- Caseworker on Child at Risk Team
- Counselled individuals and families, regarding issues including mental health, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, physical abuse, rehabilitation, social adjustment, child care, or medical care.
- Interviewed clients individually, or in family groups, to assess their situations, capabilities, and problems, to determine what services awere required to meet their needs.
- Serve as liaisons between students, homes, schools, family services, child guidance clinics, courts, protective services, doctors, and other contacts, to help children who face problems particular abuse and displacement
- Practiced strength based approaches to see cycles of family abuse and poverty broken
- Instruct and assist children in the development of health and personal habits, such as eating, resting, and toilet behavior.
- Administer expenses of the child and report to the authorities.
- Help children to focus on their interests through different activities and games.
- Provide support as needed to other teammates concerning office administration and general support.
- Interviewing people with start up plans.
- send information to supervisors.
- Preparing the beneficiaries to start the project.
- Advocate for and help clients get resources that would improve their well-being