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May 19, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Writing for Applications

By Anna Scrivener, Employability Education Projects Officer

For the last three years you have been training yourself to write academically, removing your own voice and backing up your opinions with evidence and research. Then all of a sudden you are writing job applications, a task that requires you to talk about yourself, demonstrate your personality and motivations in a way that comes across as professional, genuine and authentic.

Why? – well if your application reads exactly like the other 99 the recruiter has picked up that morning, what’s going to drive them to put you in the interview pile? You need your application to speak to them, clearly tick the skills they are looking for, and leave them looking forward to meeting you.

It’s a very different writing style and when I review job applications, cover letters and personal statements in appointments, it is clear that it can present a real challenge.

Here are my top tips:

Write in plain English

You may have used complex language and subject jargon in essays but you’re now talking to recruiters or admissions teams, not academics. Imagine your audience and speak to them. There is no need for overly complicated words, they just encourage you to write lengthy sentences and it’s likely you don’t have the word count. You are aiming to make every word count, be concise and make your points clearly.

Write with purpose

Think about the journey you want to take the reader on. Often you don’t have a structure to follow but if that’s the case, plan one. What is the purpose of each paragraph? If you don’t know you can guarantee the reader is going to struggle to follow your points. You’ll end up repeating information. Make a point once, but make it well.

If it’s a job application, what are the top skills that they have told you they want on the job description? Respond to these clearly and don’t expect them to fill in gaps or make assumptions. If it’s a further study application, use the questions on our Applying for courses webpage to help you.

Use confident active language

Using an active voice engages your reader, demonstrates your experience and grabs their attention. For example, ‘I motivated the team’ or ‘I analysed research data’, rather than ‘I tried to’, ‘I hoped to’, or ‘I intended to’. We have a really useful list of action verbs that can help. Remember they don’t know what your intentions were three years ago, if you have or have not met your personal goals, so you don’t need to apologise for things you haven’t done. Focus on the experiences you have had and what you have learnt.

Be authentic

You want to give the reader a real sense of who you are, so you need to add your personality to your writing. That doesn’t mean being unprofessional, but it does mean sharing your true motivations for taking this next step in your career journey, and not trying to make something up that you think they want to hear. There’s no magic sentence you can put in that will guarantee you progress to the next stage. You also can’t copy someone else’s because their journey to this point will be different.

Ultimately, if you are true to yourself and don’t get an interview, maybe it wasn’t the right role for you in the first place.

Remember, you can book a one-to-one appointment through MyCareer to have your application documents reviewed. We recommend you upload your documents at least 48 hours ahead, along with information on the job/course you are using it to apply for. That way we have an opportunity to look and have feedback ready for you. 

In the meantime, check out our Applications forms webpage to help you get started. 

Posted in Applying For JobsCVs and Cover Letters