Careers advice > CV and cover letter > How to write a winning application form

How to write a winning application form

Write a winning cover letter

They may seem pointless, but application forms are definitely worth your time and attention if you want to get it right.

No clue where to start? Don't worry, here’s how to fill in a stellar application and land that job.





Research the company

Before even putting pen to paper, carefully research the organisation, the industry and the role to determine:

  • The skills they are seeking
  • What skills you have which are relevant to the job
  • What attracts you to the role

Don’t know where to start your research? Instructions to candidates, information about vacant positions and application procedures are usually in the ‘About us’ or ‘Careers’ section of company websites.


Education and qualifications

Most application forms ask you to list your qualifications and education, but sometimes they won’t give you a great deal of space to write them in. If there is limited space you may be able to:

  • Summarise key results or module titles
  • Add a separate sheet
  • Insert details into the additional information box

For non-UK qualifications, you may need to state their UK equivalent. This is usually done by providing details of how many UCAS points they equate to. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has information on the comparability of international qualifications.


Employment history

List your jobs in reverse chronological order. Include the following:

  • Your job title
  • The name of the organisation
  • The name of the town (plus the country if it is overseas)

If the application form is to be used in conjunction with a Criminal Records Bureau check (CRB), you need to list the month as well as the year.

There may also be a box to describe the responsibilities and achievements of previous roles that relate to the skills required for the advertised job. You can aggregate or prioritise some experiences if space is limited.


Interests and achievements

It’s time for the difficult part, the hobbies. Pay close attention to what skills the job ad is looking for, and try to relate your hobbies and activities to them if you can.

Describing your hobbies in a way that shows you are a sociable person also helps too, as it shows you can work well with others. And it's easy to do, “I am a member of a book club, rather than “I am a book worm”, for instance.


Personal statement

Provided with some white space, it can be tempting to go on - and on - but stick to the space provided or the word count given.

Don’t write a highly detailed chronological version of your career to date, (remember, you can elaborate in the interview), just pick out examples of skills or achievements that are relevant to the job. Less is more with personal statements, so stick to delivering the main, relevant messages.

Although don’t make claims you can’t prove. If you make an assertion, always back it up with evidence, such as “customer satisfaction ratings increased by 15% under my management.”

If the application ends up looking a bit too long and you just can’t edit it anymore, use subheads to flag things up and to make it easier to read.



At least one of your two referees should be work-related, including your current line manager, and if you’re a recent graduate one should be an academic at university - most people use their personal tutor. Remember:

  • Always seek their permission
  • Provide their full name and title, postal address, email address and phone number
  • Share your career aspirations and achievements with your referees
  • Keep them informed about the jobs you are going for



  • Print the form and check your work before sending it out. Keep a copy.
  • Carefully check your spelling and grammar, poor English is a common reason for applications being rejected.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs, which are easy to follow.
  • Use one idea or paragraph and state the key information in the first sentence.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Use active verbs.
  • Do not repeat yourself.
  • Re- read over the job advert to ensure the information you include on the form is relevant.
  • Ask a critical friend to read through it


With thanks to Prospects and Directgov

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