- 28 November 2018
- 13 min read
How to write a CV as a Social Worker
So you've got your Social Work qualification - congratulations! Now all you need is to find a job. Here's how to perfect your CV to ensure you bag yourself that role!
Following on from our blog about how to qualify for and find a job as a social worker, the next step after qualifying and thinking about what path you want to take is writing your CV to ensure you get the job you've worked hard for.
CVs – Start from scratch and showcase your strengths
As you know, your CV needs to be amazing.
To be amazing, it can't just list your job history – it needs to be accessible too and there's a few ways that allow you to make sure yours stands out from the herd.
Take your time and get it right – as a social worker, you need to be able to produce many reports.
Poor English skills will be a problem. This doesn't mean that dyslexics need not apply or anything like that – just that you need to make sure you have strategies in place to produce what's needed.
And remember, it will be read by all kinds of people too: the manager running the job search, HR departments making sure that the company is hiring the right person and, increasingly, a computer scanning your electronic copy for certain keywords relating to the vacancy.
Let's start at the very beginning....
You're likely familiar with the very basics of an acceptable CV – you need a section about the job you're in now and one on your jobs held before, start and finish dates for both and a bit about your qualifications that make you right for the post.
This in itself won't be enough but let's start with these.
Some of you may find it pedantic to start with these basics but it's got to be done – our job boards process hundreds and hundreds and thousands of CVs and it is just amazing how many miss off something even simpler than the categories above: They don't have usable names, telephone numbers or email addresses on them!
You may scoff but are your details correct?
Are you sure?
Is your voice mail message work-appropriate?
Is your email still that one from when you were new online and kittyXXXmeowcat@yumyums.me seemed just about the coolest address you could have?
There are many ways these basics can let you down on the job hunt.
So let's start at the very beginning....check your contact details so you can experience what it's like to contact you.
Is it professional and is it easy?
Whilst we're at this early stage, there's something else we should talk about too...
Is your English good English?
Every word you use must be spelt and used correctly!
If you've ever had any doubt at all about your spellings; if you're ignoring those wiggly red lines on your Word Processor because 'Oh, it's just the American spelling', get someone else to have a look.
If you hated creative writing in school or, conversely, loved to write lengthy screeds of purple prose, get someone to re-read it.
We don't want any mistakes, nor must your reader become bored. And don't use 3 long words where one will do....
Polishing your CV until it gleams
So, we've got the basics of a good CV – job and qualification sections, good contact details and readable writing.
Now, let's take it up a notch.
A really good CV has three extra sections or categories of information that make it exceptionally easy for employers (and computers) to pinpoint you as a brilliant candidate:
Key skills, key words and your previous duties and responsibilities. You've likely heard of key skills.
These are your professional qualities; the things that make you the kind of worker you are.
Every job wants someone who can problem-solve, stay organised and work in a team but also work alone as needed.
These are your 'soft skills'. However, these won't impress by themselves.
And why should they?
Being able to motivate yourself to work by yourself isn't anything special – it's the bare minimum you'd expect from an employee.
What you need to show are your 'hard skills'.
What can you actually do?
Things like: making referrals, patient assessments or familiarity with specialised pieces of software like ICS and SWIFT, particular frameworks, plans and procedures (for instance, ISA procedures).
By being specific like this, it shows you have a genuine understanding of what the job really needs – or at least demonstrates your ability to specialise as needed.
These kinds of details are also useful for getting past the computer stage of application.
As we mentioned before, computers will be looking for 'keywords' – just like you did when you ran a web search for 'writing a social worker CV' or 'social worker jobs'.
Make sure you have 'hard skill' keywords in there as well (that match the job description if possible) as the kinds of soft skills described in the person specification and it'll serve you well!
Next, you need to make sure these are inserted as appropriate into your job history's duties and responsibilities.
Some people like to have a section itself for skills and choice responsibilities near the top of their CV.
This is very much a matter of personal choice – it's still a touch avant-garde in some professions so it's your call.
If you're nervous about getting it right, don't bother – stay traditional.
How should my CV look?
Another crucial step in getting your CV employment-perfect is making sure that those wonderful words you chose are easy to read.
Sometimes, we go down the 'make it stand out' path and this is not what you want! 'Exciting' fonts, pictures of yourself (or any pictures at all!), crowbarring in every last bit of information possible.....these are all things that will get you put in the 'no' pile.
The most important thing you can thinking about for formatting your CV is 'white space'.
You know the bits above, below and around each of these sentences.
White space is good because it allows our brains to process information more effectively – in fact, a study from 2004 found that use of white space in website design increased comprehension by 20%.
This is why your favourite blogs almost certainly aren't crammed with colours and pictures and animations – they're relatively simple and give you (literally) 'space to think'.
To help with this, keep your paragraphs and skill summaries short and sweet. Use simple but communicative English and include bullet points when it looks right.
CVs shouldn't be more than 2 pages long.
The standard used to be 1 page but now we are much more mobile between posts, 2 pages are acceptable.
If you're struggling to get down to 2 pages, then there's things in there that just aren't relevant enough.
It's always tempting to include every possible thing relevant to really hammer your point home but quality over quantity is key here.
Be brutal with your bullet points and trim your talking points.The final part of formatting we must touch on is the file format itself.
Make sure, no matter your word processor, that it's saved as a .doc file.
This is a simple Windows format that virtually every word processor should be able to read. If you use something open-source, like Open Office or Libre Office, it's easy to forget to change this so be careful!
Filling the categories and doing your formatting justice
So, we have the fundamentals – your name, telephone and email address, all appropriate and work-friendly; formatting that makes it easy for the employer to see why you're the best choice and, lastly, the titles (if not the content as well) for skills, responsibilities and duties.
Next, we need to make sure the actual body is both packed with useful information, easy to understand and enjoyable to read.
Before we get stuck in, let us make one thing clear. It's okay to scrap your old CV and just start anew!
In some ways, this may seem like more hassle than it's worth but it can be quite a wonderful focusing activity.
Perhaps, it's all that new white space, just ready to be filled – gives the brain a bit of lubrication!
First – your job history
Start off the job section with your current (or most recent) job with the especial skills, responsibilities and duties that entailed.
Bullet points are a good bet here – they're easily readable and stand out to grab the attention of the reader.
Don't think you have to put every single job in here because you really don't. Applying for work as a social worker?
Your supermarket job at 16 has absolutely no relevance. And neither does your bar work during university.
Employers like to insist that 'every gap in employment must be accounted for' but it's not possible on a modern CV.
If they're desperate to know, they'll ask in the interview. Stick to your most relevant posts with the most toothsome experiences and hard skills.
Sometimes, you'll have something from outside of social work or care work that is relevant but it isn't particularly likely.
After this comes your professional skillsIf you haven't decided to keep your soft and hard skills in your job history entries, next is your professional skills section.
This is the place for the hard skills we talked about before – the real, meaningful things you can do that make you a valuable (and not merely likeable) employee.
What are the specific processes you've experienced in previous jobs?
Make it readable by keeping it simple. Be clear.
Next comes your qualifications
When you're applying for professions – you know, jobs with true responsibilities that impact other's lives and require at least one degree if not post-graduate work – you can leave out the GCSE and A Level scores.
By this point, it's not particularly relevant.
Instead, put in your degree, any post-graduate work (especially if it was the qualification that made you employable in your professional career) and any professional development you've done since.
Don't worry too much about your placements if they're not directly relevant to the job you're applying for – either tease out the exceptionally-related facets of them or leave them out.
If you're a bit further along your career path and you have quite a lot of professional development, you can consider having a whole section for this.
And at the end, references
You don't have to actually provide names and addresses here; just write 'Available upon request'.
Moving on to your covering letter
When it comes to sending off your CV, you need a cover letter to go with it.
It's not merely a formality where you reiterate the obvious (“Here's my CV!”) - it's a chance to really bring home just how wonderful you are by making sure that understanding how and why you are wonderful is as simple as it can be!
Why this job especially?
The first thing you should be talking about is the reason you want this job and no other.
Why did this one catch your eye?
Why are you putting in such effort to apply for it? Perhaps it's the specific history of the organisation, the good things you've heard about them or the systems and techniques they use.
If needed, now is the time to talk about relocation.
Just what it is that makes you so lovely
After this, a bit on soft skills is a nice way to finish.
Whilst soft skills like teamwork, co-operation and dedication are really the bare minimum you'd expect from a professional, it doesn't hurt to get a line or two in.
This personalises the letter and allows for them to want to meet you as well as 'the social worker' that's applying.
Keep it realistic and don't act like you're someone you're not.
Just pull out, say, three of your most attractive qualities and point out why this will make you a lovely match for the job.
Finally, contact details again
Last, end the letter by restating how they can contact you, should they have any questions or queries about anything you've sent.
And voilà, one delightful cover letter to go with your cracking CV!
The CV and cover letter have been sent and I've been invited for interview! Congratulations - of course you have!
Now: to prepare for the interview.
As a social worker, your social skills will be your forte here – after all, they're essentially the most important characteristic you can have as a social worker.
More generally, there's preparation specific to social working and the other stuff that everyone has to do.
You can find out more about interview tips for social workers here on Socialcare.co.uk.