How to craft a stand-out NHS covering letter & CV How I Made It

Making yourself leap off the page can be difficult, especially when applying for an NHS role. Our friends at GoToJobBoard explain how to make your application a success.

How to grab an NHS employer’s attention when you apply for a role

When applying for any job, you want to establish yourself as a worthy candidate who stands out from other applicants. When going for an NHS role, it is no different. With stiff competition, it can be even more important for your application to be memorable in order for you to secure an interview.

Whilst out-of-the-box ideas can work in other industries, the NHS is well-known for being traditional.  A well-written CV is favoured, which displays the key skills and experiences that you hold.

If you know you’re the right candidate for an NHS job but you’re struggling to make yourself jump off the page with the perfect application, read our guide to help you write a stand-out NHS covering letter and CV.

Making the application

Before applying for any job, you should have a comprehensive understanding of what the role entails, the skills needed and the responsibilities you would have.

The NHS is heavily driven towards picking the right candidates. In most cases, if an applicant doesn’t fulfil the essential requirements, it won’t be taken any further. So, it is crucial that you highlight how you meet the set criteria, and have examples of when you have used such skills should you be called to explain them.

The desired skills section of the job advertisement is not as essential; however you will have a better chance of being called to interview if you can meet a few of these too. Often when jobs receive many applications, only those that meet both the essential and desired specifications will be invited to meet the interviewer.

Often applications to the NHS are electronically stored, so tailor your approach each time to the specific role you’re applying for, and avoid using a template application.

It’s also important to be aware of closing dates. If there is a high volume of applications, a vacancy will often close early. So apply early to avoid losing out on an interview or role.


Your CV is what sells you as the right candidate. In many industries, you can simply email your CV to a prospective employer. However, the NHS uses its own application forms to find quality professionals for its vacancies.

Here’s what to include in each section of the famously tricky form:

Personal information

These are generic details you’d supply for any job such as your date of birth, address and contact details.

This information is kept solely for administration purposes, and isn’t used to shortlist prospective candidates so you won’t be judged on the data included in this section.


This is your chance to demonstrate any studying, qualifications or training you have that makes you suitable for the role, such as a degree, NVQs or HNDs.

You may be asked to produce evidence of these qualifications at the interview stage or at a later date, so it’s important that you are honest. Whilst it can be tempting to embellish or exaggerate skills to increase your chances of being successful, it’s never advisable to lie about a qualification.

This is also an excellent opportunity to highlight any specific training courses you have attended that have increased your knowledge or improved your skills, making you a better applicant for the role.

Employment history

This section requires your full work history. Working from your current or most recent role, you should describe the duties and responsibilities you have undertaken in every job.

Highlighting any extra responsibilities you have had or any key skills you have demonstrated is crucial for showing how you have built up your career so far.

Additional information

This section is one of the most important as it offers you the chance to emphasise that you would be an excellent choice for the role.

When completing this part of your application, ensure you have fully understood the job description. Include examples of how you currently use the required skills and knowledge, as this is likely to catch the employer’s attention and encourage them to invite you to the next stage.

It is also important to include anything you’ve gained outside of your career. If you have completed voluntary work or taken on responsibilities and skills as part of a hobby, include it here. Sometimes, showing an active interest in furthering your interests and skill set is what an employer likes to see.


This is where you can put the details of those that can support your application and comment on your experience, skills, competency and personal qualities.

The required referees are usually your two most recent employers and a contact such as a line manager or someone in a position of responsibility who can comment on you as an employee.

It’s important that you check that your referees are happy to be contacted and that you provide their correct contact details to avoid any delays. Email addresses are usually the quickest and best form of contact.

If you don’t want your references to be contacted prior to your interview you must make this clear here.

The cover letter

The NHS application process doesn’t always require a covering letter; however this is yet another excellent opportunity to sell yourself as a star candidate.

Often you will be asked for “supporting material” rather than a cover letter, whereby you can include information about your duties and responsibilities, voluntary work and relevant skills or knowledge you have. When doing so, look to mirror the language used in the job description.

Finally, ensure your application is clear to understand and without mistakes. Ask someone to review your application before sending, so that you can ensure that it appears professional and shows that you’re the person that the employer is looking for.

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