If you’re applying for a role in social work, you need to make a good first impression. Being a social worker is hard work, but also extremely worthwhile. So, what can you do to make sure your application is a certainty for the short list?
If you need some inspiration on what to include in your CV and cover letter, check out our handy examples. (Just remember not to copy them as exact templates.)
Cover letter example:
Dear Ms Name,
As a fully qualified [child/adult] social worker with [number] years experience, I feel I would be well-suited for the role of [job title] at [name of council or organisation]. Please find my CV attached.
The nature of my experience includes successfully managing a demanding caseload, which includes [elderly people/young children/people who have learning disabilities /mental health issues]. I have a [person-centred] approach to my work, which involves calmly and practically responding to service users to achieve the best outcomes. I am also experienced in coordinating care with other agencies, such as primary care practices and psychological services.
In addition, I have a particular interest in [...]. This stimulated me to lead a community project on [...]. As part of this, I had to liaise with [...] meaning that I have developed skills in [...]. I faced some challenges along the way, such as [...] and overcame them by [...]. The impact of the project overall was measured by/ has been evidenced in [...].
As shown by my experience in [social work/social work placements], I am enthusiastic about establishing what is best for the individual and always strive to do the best for service users. I am able to successfully manage a demanding caseload. I also have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of this role.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in future.
CV and cover letter tips:
“The most important thing about your CV and cover letter is that everything you include is relevant,” says Craig Davis, head of social work for Sanctuary. “Don’t start going off on a tangent, or waffling – every part has to be tailored to the role you’re applying for.”
Tom Hawkins, director of Hays Social Care, adds that you should keep your cover letter short. “Don’t over-elaborate, and don’t repeat what’s on your CV. The key things you need to include are: the reason you’re applying, the reason you want to move on from your current employment, and the things that you have in your armoury that make you suitable for the job.”
As social work is a vocational profession, it’s also important that you evidence enthusiasm for the job. “Don’t be scared to sound passionate about what you do – why you do it and why you enjoy it,” he adds.
In your CV it’s also worth including any information that the hiring manager might need as a “tick box” exercise in the application process: such as whether you have an up-to-date DBS check, or registration with relevant social work bodies.
“Be as clear as you can in your writing,” says Hawkins. “So use bullet points to describe roles, rather than long and prosaic sentences. Try and start each bullet point with a verb, such as ‘created, managed, improved’ – this is a good way to focus info on what you did and the difference it made.”
As much as experience is important, it’s not the only thing hiring managers are looking for. “Some managers will look at someone who has less experience but is more enthusiastic – so be sure to get your passion for the work across in your writing,” adds Davis.
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When applying for a social work job, you may be asked to write a covering letter or separate personal statement to accompany your application. More likely you will be asked to complete a specific application form for the employer, which will include a question along the lines of: “Please give your reasons for applying for this job and what you will bring to the team.”
Here are six top tips on how to showcase your ability:
1. One size does not fit all
One personal statement is not suitable for multiple applications – your statement should be tailored to each role you are applying for. Refer closely to the job description, the person specification – including any essential and desirable requirements – and any other relevant guidance provided by the employer. Focus on clearly explaining how your experience and skills will fulfil and exceed their requirements.
2. Demonstrate your knowledge with facts
Don’t just make broad statements. It’s not sufficient to say: “I have a strong working knowledge of child protection procedures.” Instead, back this up with meaningful examples, such as: “I have worked in a child protection team for X months”, “I have completed a placement in a local authority child protection team”, “I have received additional training in recognising signs of abuse and neglect”, “I have held a caseload of X child protection cases”, or “I can conduct section 47 investigations to a high standard.”
3. Be concise and explicit
Avoid waffle and ensure you put your points across in a concise way, keeping your statement relevant to the job in question. Rather than just describing your skills and experience, explain exactly why this is relevant to the organisation and how they will benefit from employing you.
4. Take your time
Draft your personal statement carefully. If you’re filling in an application form, don’t just start writing directly onto the form – plan your answer first. Remember that this is one of your best chances to showcase your skills during the application process. Employers will have to read a massive selection of applications and CVs from potential new recruits, so yours needs to stand out and sell yourself well.
There is a good chance that the job you’re applying for will involve written work (e.g. report writing), so your statement will provide the employer with a very clear indication of your written skills. This is another reason to plan carefully and check thoroughly.
5. Show you care
Express your enthusiasm for the role and use positive language. One of the most important qualities for a social worker is a genuine desire to support other people, so make sure this comes across in your writing.
6. Remember the basics
Read any instructions carefully and stick to the rules set out by the employer. Check if there is a word limit and whether you are allowed to use additional pages for your answer. Finally, and crucially, check your spelling and grammar thoroughly and ask someone else to take a look for you.