How to Write a Social Work Cover Letter

How to Write a Social Work Cover Letter

Updated 3 March 2021

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If you have a calling to help others or a passion for supporting people during vulnerable times, then a career in social work may be right for you.

Social workers are responsible for looking after those who are otherwise unable to look after themselves.

It may be supporting a child or young person who has experienced trauma. It may be helping to secure a suitable care home for an elderly relative. Or it could be helping a person with disabilities (physical or learning) to live as independently as possible.

What Is a Social Work Cover Letter?

If you are applying for a job as a social worker, then one of the first things that you should focus on is your social work cover letter.

This is a document that will be viewed by hiring managers alongside your CV or resume.

It will provide more insight into who you are as a potential candidate and why they should choose to hire you. It should showcase your passion for the job and outline any relevant experience that you have which matches the job description.

It should also showcase that you have the right skills as well as the relevant qualifications to work as a social worker.

What Skills Need to Be Included in a Social Work Cover Letter?

Before you begin writing your social work cover letter, you must be aware of what skills social workers need. These are the tangible attributes that may set you apart from other candidates.

Social workers should have the following skills:

  • Ability to multi-task. You’ll be working with multiple caseloads, so hiring managers will be looking to see how you can prioritize the people in need of immediate support.
  • Be empathetic. You’ll be helping people to overcome significant trauma so you need to show that you care and that you understand.
  • Be non-judgemental and a good listener. A core part of social work is listening to what people are saying. You need to let people open up to you without fear or judgment.
  • Are you a critical thinker? You also need to think beyond what a person is telling you. Can you think of new approaches to help individuals or families?

What Should a Great Social Work Cover Letter Include?

When it comes to your social work cover letter, it’s important to tell a story and ‘sell’ yourself to the recruiters.

Social workers often join the profession later in life or as part of a career change as they feel a calling to help others.

It’s a profession that is based on passion and commitment, and this is what recruiters want to read. They want to feel your passion and excitement which is why it’s important to take your time as you craft your social work cover letter.

You may wish to use this list as a checklist of items to include within your social work cover letter:

  • Your personal history. Many social workers are drawn to the profession after working closely with social workers in a personal capacity. If you have an emotional connection to the job, then say so.
  • What skills you have and how they relate to the job role. Make sure you pay attention to the job description and highlight any key skills or assets that they may be looking for. You should also reference any specific qualifications or professional memberships.
  • Your experience. Use your social work cover letter to highlight any examples of key moments where you’ve made a tangible difference to a person’s life. Make sure it’s relevant to the job description – for example, if you are applying to work with adults, make sure your experience is relevant. Where possible, try to quantify your achievements. If your decision led to a significant financial saving or you worked with a significant number of caseloads, then make sure you reference it.
  • Any personal interests. As well as highlighting your specific skills and attributes, you could expand on your personal profile. If you have any interesting hobbies that you feel could help you with the job then reference them. Perhaps you can speak multiple languages or you have experience in American Sign Language – these are attributes that could be highly sought after by social work recruiters.
  • Finally, why not make use of testimonials and feedback. If you’ve received glowing feedback from a previous manager or an individual that you’ve worked with, make sure you share it in your social work cover letter. Ensure the recruiters want to find out more about you.

Top Tips for Making the Most of Your Social Work Cover Letter

When you are writing your social work cover letter, it’s important to remember that hiring managers only have a limited amount of time to review your letter and your resume. Therefore, you want to gauge their interest and excite them to keep reading.

The checklist above helps you prioritize what you should include in your social work cover letter.

But additionally, it’s worth remembering the following tips which are designed to help you write it:

  • Review the job description. Make sure you are clear on what qualifications are required and what skills they are looking for. Remember to specifically reference these within your social work cover letter.
  • Don’t be afraid of acronyms. Your recruiter will likely be a qualified social worker themselves, so don’t be afraid to use common terminology or refer to specific social work models that you use.
  • Check for specific keywords. Many companies are turning to automation to filter applications. If the job description uses specific phrasing, make sure you mimic this in your letter to help you pass through any applicant tracking systems.
  • Ask a friend to review grammar. Your social work cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression. Ask a friend to review it for grammar or spelling mistakes. Alternatively, use a free tool such as Grammarly to help you identify any unfortunate typos.
How to Write a Social Work Cover LetterHow to Write a Social Work Cover Letter

How to Write Your Social Work Cover Letter

To help you understand how you should write your social work cover letter, we’ve broken it down into individual paragraphs, as well as providing some example phrases that you could take inspiration from.

Section #1 – The Introduction

The first thing you should do is introduce yourself to the hiring manager and explain clearly what position you are applying for.

This should leave no doubt as to who you are and lead nicely into your carefully crafted social work cover letter.

Make sure you are aware of who the letter should be addressed to – getting the wrong name is going to make a bad first impression.

For example,

Dear Mrs Bloggs

I am extremely excited to apply for the role of social worker at the New York regional office for the Department of Social Services. I have spent the last ten years working in similar social work roles across the US and I believe that I have the right social work skills and attributes that you are looking for.

As you can see – the candidate has immediately outlined what specific job role they are applying for and made it clear that they have extensive experience that makes them a good choice.

This opening statement would entice a recruiter to continue reading.

Section #2 – Why You Are Suited for This Particular Job

As you move on, you should start to explain why you are the right person for this job.

Although you want to reference your credentials, remember that the recruiter will also have a copy of your resume, so will not need to have a direct recap. Instead, you should start to tell your story.

Explain to them what it is about this particular job role that excites you and what you can bring to the role.

Although you want to provide enough information, you also want to remain concise. Don’t be afraid to use acronyms or bullet points.

A helpful tip is to see what terminology and jargon are being used within the job description and to subtly mimic their phrasing.

For example,

Over the past decade, I have supported children in Chicago and Illinois, managing more than 25 caseloads simultaneously. I take a person-centered approach to my job role and I am adept at listening to what people are saying, as well a hearing what they are not. My first-class organizational skills mean that I can handle all administrative tasks and I have a strong belief in the importance of social work evaluations. This means that I can learn from what is working, as well as adjusting and adapting social work models to ensure the most positive outcomes for children and young people.

My experience has included:

  • Co-ordinating a wide range of activities designed to excite and engage with children aged 2 to 8.
  • Writing petitions and case plans and working closely with the legal system to ensure that the voice of the children was heard during court proceedings.
  • Ensuring that all case history files were continually updated.

As you can see from this statement, the candidate has shown what some of their tangible skills are (listening, organizing, evaluations) and they have shown some examples of work that they’ve undertaken.

This can show to a recruiter that their expertise matches the job role.

Section #3 – Your Qualifications

It’s important to remember that your social work cover letter will be accompanied by your resume.

Therefore, you don’t need to repeat verbatim what your qualifications are, but it’s good practice to reiterate any additional training or further skills that you have which are relevant to the position.

Remember to be brief – the recruiter will only have several seconds to scan your social work cover letter, so try to be as concise as possible.

For example,

My experience is based upon my practical work experience as well as academic study. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Northeastern State University. I then continued my study through the completion of an online MSW with the University of Denver, with a key focus on social justice.

I was drawn to a career in social work because it’s something that I’ve been passionate about my whole life. My parents were involved in foster care and growing up, I saw first-hand how important the role of a social worker can be in a child’s life. This gave me the drive and passion to do what I can to help others who didn’t have the same fortunate childhood that I was lucky enough to experience.

Immediately, it’s clear that the candidate has the relevant qualifications. By referencing the fact that they have undertaken an MSW, it shows that the candidate has additional insights and experience rather than a straight-forward undergraduate degree in social work.

The candidate then leads into their personal experience and desire to help. This reinforces their passion and explains why they are so keen to make a difference in a child’s life.

Section #4 – What You Can Do for the Specific Employer

At this point within your social work cover letter, it’s time to explain exactly what you can bring to the table as a potential candidate.

Your letter up until this point has focused on what you’ve already done – now it’s time to look ahead to the future and sell yourself as someone who can continue to make an exceptional difference.

For example,

My interest and academic background in early childcare development mean that I can work closely with younger children who may have been affected by a traumatic experience. I can use strengths-based approaches to help children improve their resilience. I’ve continually worked with external agencies such as healthcare professionals, schools, and criminal justice staff and I excel in creating effective new ways of working which allow children to recover from their trauma, whilst still performing in a child-centric way.

In a previous position, I worked closely with a child who was impacted by selective mutism caused by previous trauma. I was able to form a strong bond with the child and help them express their feelings and emotions through the use of art and music. After six months of working with this child, she felt comfortable enough to draw me a picture of the two of us holding hands to symbolize our relationship. This particular child is now living with a new foster family and, as she now has the tools that she needs to express herself, is flourishing in her new environment.

In this final part of the social work cover letter, the candidate has talked about how they plan to make the most of their academic experience and what they can bring to the role. They’ve provided anecdotal evidence of a time in which they’ve improved the life of a child, showing an understanding of what they could do if they were offered a job role.

Section #4 – The Final Call to Action

As you conclude your social work cover letter, you should think about how you plan to sign off and what action you want the recruiter to take.

You may wish to refer back to your resume or your detailed application. You want to sign off in an upbeat and hopeful tone and leave the recruiter or hiring manager with a positive impression of you.

For example,

I am enclosing a copy of my resume which provides further details as to my academic background and employment history. I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you in person about the job position. I believe that we would be an ideal match and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Sincerely,

Jane Name

The final closing statement reiterates that they have provided additional information about their employment and academic history through the provision of their resume.

It also opens up the possibility of talking further in person about the role whilst subtly reiterating that they believe that they have the best skills for the job.

Example Social Work Cover Letter

Let’s take a look at our social work cover letter example in full:

Dear Mrs Bloggs

I am extremely excited to apply for the role of a social worker at the New York regional office for the Department of Social Services. I have spent the last ten years working in similar social work roles across the US and I believe that I have the right social work skills and attributes that you are looking for.

Over the past decade, I have supported children in Chicago and Illinois, managing more than 25 caseloads simultaneously. I take a person-centered approach to my job role and I am adept at listening to what people are saying, as well a hearing what they are not. My first-class organizational skills mean that I can handle all administrative tasks and I have a strong belief in the importance of social work evaluations. This means that I can learn from what is working, as well as adjusting and adapting social work models to ensure the most positive outcomes for children and young people.

My experience has included:

  • Co-ordinating a wide range of activities designed to excite and engage with children aged 2 to 8.
  • Writing petitions and case plans and working closely with the legal system to ensure that the voice of the children was heard during court proceedings.
  • Ensuring that all case history files were continually updated.

Like many social workers, my expertise is based upon my practical work experience as well as academic study. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Northeastern State University. I then continued by study through the completion of an online MSW with the University of Denver, with a key focus on social justice.

I was drawn to a career in social work because it’s something that I’ve been passionate about my whole life. My parents were involved in foster care and growing up, I saw first-hand how important the role of a social worker can be in a child’s life. This gave me the drive and passion to do what I can to help others who didn’t have the same fortunate childhood that I was lucky enough to experience.

My interest and academic background in early childcare development mean that I can work closely with younger children who may have been affected by a traumatic experience. I can use strengths-based approaches to help children improve their resilience. I’ve continually worked with external agencies such as healthcare professionals, schools, and criminal justice staff and I excel in creating effective new ways of working which allow children to recover from their trauma, whilst still performing in a child-centric way.

In a previous position, I worked closely with a child who was impacted by selective mutism caused by previous trauma. I was able to form a strong bond with the child and help them express their feelings and emotions through the use of art and music. After six months of working with this child, she felt comfortable enough to draw me a picture of the two of us holding hands to symbolize our relationship. This particular child is now living with a new foster family and, as she now has the tools that she needs to express herself, is flourishing in her new environment.

I am enclosing a copy of my resume which provides further details as to my academic background and employment history. I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you in person about the job position. I believe that we would be an ideal match and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Sincerely,

Jane Name

Final Thoughts

Remember, the cover letter is not designed to trip you up, and it shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s merely a tool used to introduce yourself to a potential employer and explain why they should review your resume.

Hopefully, this article has given greater insights into what you should include within your social work cover letter. The breakdown of each paragraph is designed to help inspire you.

Although, remember that your cover letter should always be adapted to subsequent job applications, making tailored references to required skills and capabilities.

By Amy Dawson