You’re probably here because you’re about to apply for a new role and want to know some top tips for successfully writing a job application form that will blow away your potential future employers and increase your chances to be shortlisted for an interview. You may be interested in training to become a tutor with us and want to know the inside scoop on our best practices for completing our online application form.

While the stages of the recruitment process vary slightly across different organisations, the way in which employers assess for competencies and skills in their candidates is similar. For example, some organisations may ask candidates to submit their CV in the initial stage, then shortlist applications and ask them to answer a set of skills-based questions at a later stage, before inviting to interview.

At Tutor Trust, we have a simple online application form where you submit all your work experience, education, and then detail your motivations for applying to tutor with us. The reason for this is that we want to ensure that everyone’s on a level playing field during the application process and assessed using the same criteria. Whatever the recruitment process is for the role you’re applying for, it’s essential that you spend quality time on your application, tailoring it to the job you’re applying for.

Our Recruitment Team got together to curate some top tips for writing a brilliant job application. While our advice in this article is tailored to our tutor recruitment process, you’ll be able to apply it to any other job you may be pursuing.


1. Do your research – Not just for them, but also for you!

You should research the organisation you’re applying to work for so you can tailor your application towards the requirements of the role and the industry they’re in. You’d also want to ensure that the company will be a good fit with you, and that their ethos, values, and aims align with both your long-term goals and your personal values.

Start by looking at the company’s website. From there, you should be able to easily find their mission, vision, and values and their latest news and activities. If the organisation has a social media presence, this is another valuable source of information to find out how they’re living out their values on a day-to-day basis and their progress towards achieving their goals. Social media is also a good place to find out more about employee and customer experiences working for, and with the business.

Being in tune with what your potential future employer is currently doing, and what they’re aiming towards, will really impress their recruiters, but equally as important, you’ll gain valuable insight into the experience you may have working with them.

And while you’re online, it’s worth checking if the organisation runs any recruitment webinars or information sessions, as these can be really useful for you to attend. At Tutor Trust, we want our applicants to succeed, so we offer monthly ‘Find Out More’ information sessions where we give an insight into working with our charity and our purpose, offer tailored application and interview top tips, and give you the chance to answer any burning questions you may have.

2. Read the questions

This may sound obvious, but some applicants overlook this step, which may be a result of not giving enough time to complete their application form. Employers phrase their assessment questions in a certain way because they want to assess to what extent the candidate possesses a particular quality, skill, or characteristic.

First, look at the key word of the question, so you know how they want your answer to look. If it’s a ‘How’ or ‘Explain’ question, then you’re going to want to write a bit more than a ‘What’ question.

Second, on some job applications, it will specify the number of characters or words that you should use when answering the question. Ensure that you maximise the word/character count, so you can go into as much depth as you possibly can. At the same time though, you should double check that your answer doesn’t exceed the limit either. If you’re using software like Microsoft Word, there is an automatic word count feature in the bottom-left corner, but if not, you can use a free website that will do this for you. We recommend something like Word Count – but there are plenty out there.

Third, if you encounter a question that is broken down into multiple parts or sub-sections, make sure that you address each element in your response. You might want to draft your answer in bullet-point form, then use connecting words and phrases to link your ideas into a logical paragraph. Also, purely from a tech perspective, you may want to write your answers in a Word or Pages document first before pasting them into the online application form. Don’t be that person who loses all their amazing application responses because of a technical glitch!

3. Explain and elaborate on your answers

Organising your longer responses into a logical structure links nicely to our next handy piece of advice. Once you’ve answered all key points to a question, make sure that you add as much detail as possible. You might remember the PEE structure from your old English lessons – this is useful to present your ideas in a logical structure. You start by making your initial point, such as “I have great organisation skills.” Then, you give evidence of when you have developed or improved upon this skill and explain why it is important for the role you are going for. This structure is useful when answering the questions that require a longer answer.

4. List all your experiences

Employers want to hear about all your experiences, not just paid work, but also any volunteering work, placements, internships, or any extracurricular activities. Listing all of your experiences is useful to a potential future employer because they may want to ensure there are no significant gaps in employment or activity, and useful for you because your collective experiences will make your application unique.

And remember, it’s not just about what you did, but why you did it, and any outcomes.

If you’re unsure of what you could include here, our non-exhaustive list below is a good starting point:

Experiences to include in your job applications:

  • Any jobs that you have held (full-time, part-time, temporary, casual)
  • Volunteering work
  • Work placements and internships
  • Extracurricular activities – such as sports, musical instruments, and performing arts, along with any awards or accomplishments you have for these
  • Completion of any programmes such as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) or National Citizen Service (NCS)
  • Participation in any activity groups such as Scouts, Beavers or Cubs
  • Completion of any training programmes or CPD courses that are relevant to the role you are applying for
  • Participation in any university society committees
  • Any caring responsibilities

Remember that any experiences you list on your applications should include relevant start and finish dates (month and year are fine rather than exact dates.)

And if you’re a current university student, make sure you list what you’re studying, where, and your expected year of graduation in the education part of your application, so employers know what you’re currently doing.

5. Get your references lined up 

Employers will request references from you, normally two, before you start working with them, so they can have evidence that you are suitable for the role. For us, we ask for two references: one academic and one personal reference. Your academic reference could be a university lecturer or academic advisor, or former teacher from college or secondary school. Your personal reference might be a professional from a current or previous job or work experience, or somebody that has known you well for a sustained period. However, your personal reference should not be a family member.

We find that some candidates hesitate to submit their applications as they are either unsure of how to request a reference from somebody, or they’re waiting to hear back from their selected referees, and this could mean that they miss the application deadline. Don’t let this stop you submitting your application!

It’s useful to know that employers will typically only contact your nominated referees at the point that you are accepted for the position. While we’d always recommend that you approach your desired referees before putting their details down on a job application, for us, we don’t want this to prevent you from submitting your application on time. When we’ve had applicants asking us about references in the past, we have advised that they put the details of their intended referees in their application, then get back in touch with us, either at the interview stage or beforehand, if they need to update or change the details for any referee. Again, out of courtesy, you should always check with the individual that they are happy to be a referee for you.

6. Check your application

By now, you might have spent a while on your application, and it’s important at this point to take a quick break. Review what you’ve written with a fresh pair of eyes before submitting, whether that involves taking a short coffee break, a stroll, or coming back to it the following day.

When reviewing your application, go through this short checklist:

  • Use a spell-checker or grammar tool to avoid any mistakes, or, ask a peer to review what you’ve written. There are many useful tools out there – we’d recommend Grammarly.
  • Ensure that your answers are concise and logical, like we explained in our second and third top tips.
  • If you think something requires more explanation, use the PEE structure to support you, while checking you don’t exceed any word/character limits.
  • Make sure your tone and vocabulary are appropriate, in line with the employer and industry.


Which piece of advice are you most likely to use in your next job application? Let us know on social media, by tagging us @TheTutorTrust and using the hashtag #StepsToSuccess.