Guidelines for Writing a Social Services Resume


These guidelines are written as though one were seeking employment. However, it will work equally well when seeking a practicum placement. Just substitute in your mind “practicum supervisor” where it reads “employer.” A resume is a written summary of your qualifications, skills, knowledge and education.  Unlike resumes for a business application which prefers a very brief one page resume, social service resumes may be multiple pages in length. The goal of your resume is to motivate an employer to interview you.  Primarily, a “good resume” must meet the employer’s needs and must also meet your needs. Keeping all this in mind, there is no one right way to write a resume.  There are no hard, fast rules for specific styles, format or content.

  • Cite numbers and specifics whenever possible.
  • Write the way you speak – short sentences in the cover letter and short, descriptive phrases in the resume.
  • Be honest and accurate.
  • Avoid personal pronouns (“I”).
  • Avoid initials and abbreviations (“CPS” and instead spell out “Child Protective Services”)
  • Avoid jargon (“suds” and instead use “seemingly unimportant decisions”)
  • Make it visually pleasing – use margins, bullets, italics and boldface type.
  • Use good quality 8” X 11” resume, bonded paper (for copy given to prospective practicum supervisor or employers; not necessary for copy to the practicum office).
  • Review final draft with a friend, mentor, or advisor to assure there are no typographical or grammatical errors.


  • Chronological – Emphasizes previous experience, which is described in reverse chronological order, from current/most recent to longest ago.   This is the traditional format for resumes, generally accepted everywhere and easily understood.  Since the practice of social work includes the “use of self” and draws on the professional’s own life experiences, even positions held in non-social services are relevant and may be included on a resume. Also of value in social service resumes is a record of volunteer experiences, written the same as for paid employment, but clearly identified as in volunteer status. In the field of social services, resumes may be multi-pages long to capture the full work history of an applicant; however, do be focused and not unnecessarily expressive.


  • Personal Information

o    Name
o    Addresses (Current and Permanent)
o    Telephone Numbers
o    E-mail Address
o    Web Site Address

  • Education (in reverse chronological order)

o    Schools Attended (post secondary only; do not include high school)
o    Location (City, State/Province, Country)
o    Dates of Graduation and/or Dates of Attendance
o    Degrees
o    Major, Minor, Areas of  Specialization

  • Employment Experience (in reverse chronological order)

o    Month/Year employed/participated in internship next to name of agency, organization, company
o    Agency, organization, company (where employed, also include internships/field placements clearly labeled as such)
o    One sentence statement of what the agency, organization, company does and population served
o    Location (City, State/Province, Country)
o    Roles and Scope of Responsibilities; Accomplishments
o    Knowledge and Skills Acquired

  • Volunteer Experience (in reverse chronological order)

o    Community Service Activities
o    Month/Year volunteered next to name of agency, organization, company
o    One sentence statement of what the agency, organization, company does and population served
o    Location (City, State/Province, Country)
o    Roles and Responsibilities
o    Knowledge and Skills Acquired

  • Publications and Presentations (in reverse chronological order)

o    Publications (Include completed works or those in press. Identify those that relate specifically to the duties and responsibilities of the desired position. You may also include pertinent unpublished papers e.g., a major paper for a social work course. Cite your written works in the form customary to social services: the American Psychological Association (APA) style.
o    Presentations (Select presentations most relevant for your desired position. Student classroom and practicum agency presentations may be included.)

  • Professional Associations, Memberships (in reverse chronological order)

o    Month/Year next to name of association
o    Include professional memberships, committee assignments, and leadership positions held
o    Certificates
o    Awards and Honors
o    Licensure(s)

  • References

o    Furnished upon request. List 3 to 5 references, include their titles, addresses and telephone numbers and email address(es).

COVER LETTERS (optional for practicum)

Cover letters are extremely important for seeking employment; NOT needed for seeking a practicum.  Whenever your resume is sent by mail, a cover letter should go along with it.  (This is not needed when applying in person for a practicum placement. However, a student should be prepared to say what interests her/him about each particular agency where the student interviews.) Here is what a good cover letter needs to accomplish:

  • Address someone in authority (by name and title) that could hire you.  Do your homework and find out in advance who this person is at the organization where you are applying and personalize to whom you address your letter. When it is impossible to get that information, use a functional title (“Dear Manager”) even if you have to guess (“Dear Selection Committee”).
  • Tell how you became attracted to this particular company.
  • Demonstrate that you have done some “homework” on the company/organization and can see their point of view (their current problems, their interests and their priorities) and how you will contribute to their interest and priorities to be an asset to them.
  • Convey your enthusiasm and commitment (even passion) for this line of work.
  • Balance professionalism with personal warmth and friendliness.  Avoid using generic, alienating phrases like “enclosed please find” or “Dear Sir”.  This is a personal letter.
  • Identify at least one thing about you that is unique – say, a special gift for getting along with all kinds of people (examples of how you have gotten along with different kinds of people and identify the groups); something that goes beyond the basic requirements of the position that distinguishes you and is relevant to the position.  (Then if several others are equally qualified, there is a reason to pick you.)
  • Be appropriate to the field you are exploring – stand out, but in a non-gimmicky way.
  • Outline specifically what you are asking and offering.
  • Point directly to the next step, telling just what you will do to follow through.
  • Remain as brief and focused as possible.