For three years running, Inc. has celebrated hundreds of companies for being the best: They're the ones that are smart, strategic leaders in their fields. But more than that, the companies on our Best in Business list have heart--and they pour it into the people and communities around them.

Sound like a list your company ought to be on? Here's your chance to get the recognition you deserve. You'd be joining a community full of inspiring businesses: Past years have honored industry leaders including BetterUp, Rothy's, Impossible Foods, Carbon Health, and the Mom Project.

Since we get a lot of questions about what we look for in successful applications, we put together the following tips to give you a clear idea on what makes an applicant stand out.

1. Read the directions.

It's basic advice, but I offer it for a reason: How you answer the prompts is as important as what your answer contains--and it could make all the difference for catching an editor's eye. So for example, if we ask you tell us what your company does in one to three sentences, don't give us three paragraphs. Likewise, we'd like to hear about the positive impact your company has had in your industry and in the community at large, but here's the important part: specifically in the past 12 months. This is an annual list, so timeliness is a critical criteria for screening applicants.

2. Use simple language.

Jargon is not your friend here. If we don't understand what your company does in a few sentences, we're not going to google it to try to find out. Describe what you do in clear, plain language that doesn't require industry-specific knowledge to parse.

3. Show us, don't tell us.

When you describe the positive impact your company has had, it's not enough to tell us you're inspiring employees or the people in your community. Show us by offering specific details, facts, and figures.

4. Don't hide the hard parts.

We know that building and running a company can be grueling. It's infinitely more interesting--and instructive to our audience of entrepreneurs--to hear about the obstacles you ran into along the way and how you surmounted them rather than just jumping to the part where you succeeded. In addition to looking for qualified companies, we especially want to find great stories, so think of your application less like a bulleted resume and more like a mini narrative.

Ready to apply?

Here's a pdf of sample application questions to help you draft your responses. The application deadline is September 16, but apply by today, August 19, to qualify for the early rate ($695, which covers processing and vetting costs). Applications are open now.

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