How to write an effective personal statement for a social work job

Many people incorporate a short personal statement at the top of their CV, but social work employers may ask for more. Jonathan Coxon, managing director of social work recruitment consultancy Liquid Personnel, gives six tips on how to sell yourself.

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.

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