Social work employers use a variety of application methods depending on whether they're in the public, private or voluntary sector. For example, local authority recruiters typically use application forms as this makes it straightforward to comply with equal opportunities guidelines. However, whichever method of recruitment an employer is using, it’s vital to show how you’re the right person for the job.
Make sure you give yourself time
You don't need to complete your application in one go – and in fact, it's better not to. Give yourself time to come up with good examples of the qualities being asked for and to craft strong responses to questions. Work on your answers in a wordprocessing application first so that you can spellcheck and proofread them carefully before pasting them in.
Match yourself to the person specification
The person specification sets out the competencies needed for the role, and you need to address each of these to show that you're a good match. The employer will be looking for evidence that you can do the job and also wants to see that you can communicate clearly and concisely.
Customise every application and never copy across sections from previous applications for other roles. You need to show that you’re the right fit for this specific job and you can’t do that by reproducing old information.
When you review your application, try to think like an employer. Imagine that they have a copy of the person specification and will be ticking each one off as they read your application. Have you included evidence of all of the competencies?
Make the most of your experience
Use your pre-course experience, placements and any work you’ve undertaken since qualification to give examples and evidence that you have the competencies needed to do the job. Even if you’ve been working in a job that is not a social worker post since completing your qualification, you may be able to use it to provide examples. Make sure you spell out how the examples you give relate to the criteria for the job.
Refer to relevant legislation and frameworks
Recruiters will be fully conversant with the Professional Capabilities Framework and may well use it to assess your competencies as you describe them in your application. They'll also be experts in the relevant laws and policies that cover their area of practice – don't be afraid to show your knowledge of these.
Be clear and succinct
Avoid waffle and jargon, and make sure you proofread your application carefully.
Keep a copy
Keep a copy of your application so you can refer back to it if you’re invited to attend an interview.
Keep building your network and your skills
You can increase your chances of success in your job hunt by networking. Keep up with people from your placements and university, as you may find out about jobs that way. Make use of social media to stay in touch and to keep up with employers.
You could consider agency work while you're looking for a permanent position.
You could also consider casting the net wider and applying for jobs in related fields in social care, where you won't need a degree in social work – such as youth justice, housing and probation. Another option is working for a provider of social care, such as in day services, residential care or home care.