Résumé Writing

Be as specific as possible

1. Tailor your résumé to the specialty field or job you want. You can write a general résumé to get started, but as you narrow your interests, you will want to package your experience in a way that will most likely catch the attention of employers.

2. You do not have to list an objective on your résumé. In fact, unless you will be able to change it to correspond to each job for which you apply, you should leave the objective off the résumé and use the cover letter to spell out what you want in a job.

  • If an objective is too general, the employer will think you do not know what you want. If it is too specific and not perfectly in line with the job opening, the employer will assume his/her job is not your first choice.

DO:

  • Use phrases starting with an action verb (see list below).
  • Use language that creates a vivid picture for employers.
  • Keep descriptions brief, but give a picture of the populations you have served; the social, medical, and/or psychological issues with which you have worked; and the social work skills you have practiced.
  • Include issues with which you’ve dealt that would be transferable and of value in nearly any setting (i.e., substance abuse, sexual abuse, etc.). Use quantities, amounts, and dollar values, when possible (i.e., managed a $250,000 annual budget).
  • Use professional terminology when appropriate.
  • Be consistent with use of boldface, underlining, capitalizing, and italics.
  • Send a cover letter with your résumé.

DON’T:

  • Use personal pronouns (I or we).
  • Include personal data (age, gender, race, etc.).
  • Include a photograph.
  • List street addresses of schools, former employers, etc.
  • Have any grammatical errors or typos (hint: read the résumé backward to check for typos).
  • Send your résumé without a cover letter.

Categorizing your résumé

You can use general headings such as objective, education, honors, research, skills, interests. It is best to use specific headings for work experience. This section presents those experiences you believe represent the work you’ve done that prepares you for the position for which you are applying. Examples of specific headings follow:

  • Human Services Experience
  • Community Organizing Experience
  • Administrative Experience
  • Program Planning Experience
  • Clinical Experience
  • Therapeutic and Advocacy Experience
  • Child Welfare Experience
  • Experience with Children and Families
  • Experience in Gerontology
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Experience
  • and so on…

You may have two categories to advertise and emphasize two sets of relevant experiences. For instance, you may be applying for a job that requires administrative experience and experience with children. You may not have administrative experience in a children’s program, but you may have administrative experience from other employment. These are “transferable” skills (from one job to another) and are worth emphasizing.

Education:

If you are just graduating, the MSW is your most recent degree so you will probably want to begin with this section on your résumé to call attention to it. Over time, after you accumulate more experience, you will want to move this section nearer the end of your résumé.

  • Try to keep the educational experience together (i.e., honors, research).
  • If you are comfortable and proud of your GPA, it is fine to list it with your education.
  • Don’t forget to list concentration, degree, and graduation date. Also include dual degree, or certificate program information, if applicable.

Experience:

This is usually considered the most important section by employers, and most will admit that the skills acquired during activities, internships, volunteer experience, etc. are as valuable as paid positions. Those should be listed and highlighted. Under the heading for specific and related experience (i.e., child welfare experience) you can list these experiences along with paid employment in the same field. If you are a new graduate, the name of the agency is generally more eye-catching than your title (i.e., social work intern), so you should list the agency before you give your title.

Skills:
In this section, you should highlight any skills or talents you have that may be useful in the workplace and that separate you from other applicants.
For example:

  • Fluency or proficiency in a foreign language
  • American Sign Language
  • Certifications in CPR or Outdoor Leadership
  • Public speaking training
  • Computer skills, such as use and programming experience

Other Categories:

If you have designed and delivered speeches and workshops or if you have been published, you may want to organize a category to highlight these skills. If you have work experience that does not fit in the “specific” categories you designed and you want to include it, you could add a category called “Other Work Experience.” You can also add categories for specialized training, relevant research, etc.

Length

As a general rule, résumés should be one page long. Human service professionals, however, can afford to have more than one page if the experience included within the résumé is relevant and important to your social work career. Your most important experience should be listed on the first page, if possible. However, if you do choose to have a two-page résumé, it should be a full two pages, not one and a half pages. If your résumé is less than two pages, but more than one page, you may want to consider cutting the least relevant experience, such as non-human service experience. Additionally, undergraduate experience can be removed to make room for graduate experience.

Action Verbs: (Use in present tense if currently using skill.)

Abstracted
Accommodated
Achieved
Acquainted
Acquired
Acted
Adapted
Addressed
Administered
Advertised
Advised
Advocated
Aided
Allocated
Analyzed
Answered
Anticipated
Applied
Appraised
Approved
Arbitrated
Arranged
Ascertained
Assembled
Assessed
Assisted
Assumed
Attained
Audited
Augmented
Authorized
Balanced
Bolstered
Briefed
Brought
Budgeted
Built
Calculated
Cared
Charged
Chartered
Checked
Clarified
Classified
Coached
Collaborated
Collected
Combined
Comforted
Communicated
Compared
Compiled
Completed
Composed
Computed
Conceived
Conceptualized
Conducted
Conferred
Conserved
Consolidated
Constructed
Consulted
Contracted
Contributed
Controlled
Converted
Cooperated
Coordinated
Copied
Correlated
Corresponded
Counseled
Created
Critiqued
Cultivated
Dealt
Debated
Decided
Defined
Delegated
Delivered
Demonstrated
Designated
Detected
Determined
Developed
Devised
Diagnosed
Directed
Discovered
Discriminated
Dispatched
Dispensed
Displayed
Dissected
Distributed
Diverted
Documented
Drafted
Drove
Edited
Educated
Eliminated
Emphasized
Empowered
Enabled
Encouraged
Enforced
Enlightened
Enlisted
Ensured
Established
Estimated
Evaluated
Examined
Exceeded
Excelled
Executed
Expanded
Expedited
Experimented
Explained
Explored
Expressed
Extracted
Facilitated
Fashioned
Financed
Fixed
Followed
Formulated
Fostered
Founded
Gained
Gathered
Gave
Generated
Governed
Guided
Handled
Headed
Helped
Identified
Illustrated
Imagined
Implemented
Improved
Improvised
Inaugurated
Increased
Indexed
Indicated
Influenced
Informed
Initiated
Inspected
Inspired
Instituted
Instructed
Integrated
Interpreted
Interviewed
Introduced
Invented
Inventoried
Investigated
Judged
Kept
Launched
Learned
Lectured
Led
Lifted
Listed
Listened
Located
Logged
Made
Maintained
Managed
Manipulated
Mapped
Marketed
Mastered
Maximized
Mediated
Memorized
Mentored
Met
Minimized
Modeled
Modernized
Modified
Monitored
Motivated
Narrated
Negotiated
Observed
Obtained
Offered
Operated
Ordered
Organized
Originated
Overcame
Oversaw
Participated
Perceived
Perfected
Performed
Persuaded
Piloted
Planned
Practiced
Predicted
Prepared
Prescribed
Presented
Prioritized
Processed
Produced
Programmed
Projected
Promoted
Proposed
Protected
Proved
Provided
Publicized
Published
Purchased
Queried
Questioned
Raised
Ran
Ranked
Rationalized
Read
Realized
Reasoned
Received
Recommended
Reconciled
Recorded
Recruited
Reduced
Referred
Regulated
Related
Relied
Removed
Reorganized
Repaired
Reported
Represented
Researched
Resolved
Responded
Restored
Revamped
Reviewed
Scanned
Scheduled
Screened
Selected
Separated
Served
Set
Shaped
Shared
Simplified
Sketched
Sold
Solicited
Solved
Sorted
Spearheaded
Specialized
Spoke
Sponsored
Stimulated
Strategized
Streamlined
Strengthened
Stressed
Studied
Substantiated
Succeeded
Suggested
Summarized
Supervised
Supplemented
Supplied
Surveyed
Sustained
Symbolized
Synthesized
Systematized
Tabulated
Talked
Taught
Tended
Tested
Theorized
Trained
Translated
Traveled
Treated
Tutored
Undertook
Unified
United
Updated
Upgraded
Utilized
Validated
Verified
Visualized
Weighed
Won
Wrote

Résumé Worksheet

You can use the résumé worksheet to help you gather the information you will use on your résumé.

Résumé Worksheet Pre-Distributed
Résumé Worksheet Distributed


Sample Clinical Résumé

Jane A. Smith
123 Friend Street   ·   Boston, MA 02110   ·   (617) 999-9999   ·   janea@bu.edu

EDUCATION
Master of Social Work           May 2014 (expected)
BOSTON UNIVERSITY, Boston, MA
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology May 2013
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, New York, NY

EXPERIENCE
Social Work Intern 2009–present
MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL, Boston, MA

  • Provide supportive counseling and case management services to patients on the Oncology Unit
  • Conduct psychosocial assessments
  • Cofacilitate a support group for breast cancer patients
  • Participate in multidisciplinary team meetings and family conferences
  • Collaborate with multidisciplinary team members on behalf of patients

Social Work Intern Summer 2009
NEW ENGLAND HOME FOR LITTLE WANDERERS, Jamaica Plain, MA

  • Provided individual and group therapy to adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues
  • Cofacilitated anger management and social skills groups for adolescents aged 13–16
  • Conducted family assessments
  • Developed treatment plans and coordinated with Department of Social Services staff

Counselor 2006–2009
JEWISH VOCATIONAL SERVICE, Boston, MA

  • Provided counseling and job search assistance to individuals with disabilities and dislocated workers
  • Assessed training needs and assisted clients in obtaining federal funding for training programs
  • Coordinated with state agency staff on behalf of job seekers with disabilities
  • Facilitated workshops focusing on interviewing skills and job skills assessment
  • Developed and conducted staff training regarding disability and employment issues

Case Coordinator 2005–2006
MASSACHUSETTS HOSPITAL SCHOOL, Canton, MA

  • Provided counseling and case management services to young adults with disabilities
  • Conducted supported living assessments
  • Developed individualized supported living service plans
  • Coordinated community resources to assist individuals in achieving vocational, educational, and recreational goals

Counselor 2003–2005
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE DISABLED, New York, NY

  • Provided vocational counseling to adults with physical and psychiatric disabilities
  • Developed individualized vocational training plans
  • Facilitated a vocational skills training group

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS                                        2008–present

 

References

It is very important that you locate at least three references you feel confident will speak highly of your work and ability.

  • These references could be a field supervisor, professor, and former employer.
  • These references should be able to speak about how they think you will perform for a new employer and your qualifications for a particular position; it is generally helpful if your references work in human services.
  • You should also ask the references what they are prepared to say about you to prospective employers.
  • Current references, people with whom you’ve had contact in the last couple of years, are best.

Most employers will want to talk to your references by phone, so you must check with the people you ask for references if they will agree to do this. You will then want to prepare a list of names, titles, organizations, addresses, and phone numbers to present to the employer in the interview. It can be very frustrating to a potential employer to be unable to reach your references because they are on vacation or out sick. It can also hold up the hiring process.

It would be to your benefit to ask your references to write a general letter of recommendation for you to present to employers. You can then present the list of names and numbers to the employer and follow-up by indicating “in case one of the references should be difficult to reach, I have given you a general letter of recommendation each has written for me.” Having the letter will also give you a chance to see what the reference will say about you.