First of all, be sure to write a cover letter. I guess this doesn’t quite fit the category but just in case you were considering relying solely on a resume, I would encourage you to write a cover letter.
More specifically, write cover letters, but we'll get to that.
The cover letter allows your personality to shine through, gives you the chance to promote highlights in your resume and introduce yourself, allows you to tailor your message to the individual employer, and gives you a chance to describe why you’re a good fit for the job.
This is your chance to display your communication skills and your level of commitment and enthusiasm regarding the open sports career position.
Personalize Your Cover Letter
I have suggested cutting down your resume to a single page, or at the very least shortening it. With the cover letter, you can get into specifics that may not show up in your resume.
If you earned all-conference honors in football and now you’re applying for a football coaching position, the cover letter offers you a chance to talk about that experience. While the resume may be reduced to, “Earned all-conference honors in football,” the cover letter allows the chance to talk about the reasons you were able to accomplish that honor.
If your strength is organization, make sure that shows through in your cover letter. If it’s creativity, let that personality show through in a professional but stylish cover letter.
Target Cover Letter to Specific Position
Ideally you should not have to make many changes to your sports career resume but be prepared to make significant changes to each cover letter. A vastly different cover letter is often needed if one position you are pursuing is significantly different from the previous position you attempted to land.
Focus on the attributes that will help you be the best candidate for the position. If there is an advertisement or a contact has told you what qualifications the position demands, review those qualifications and address each one. Focus on why you are the perfect person for the job as you talk about your qualifications.
If you do not meet one of the qualifications, now is your chance to explain why the employer should make an exception. Suppose they are looking for five years of experience but you only have three years. You may note, “While I have only coached high school football for three years, I played college football all four years and earned all-conference honors.”
Certainly do not lie or exaggerate, as you don’t want to start a job this way, risk losing the job over this issue in the future, or have this as a worry in the back of your mind.
But do talk about your skills, qualifications, accomplishments, and experiences. Go into depth about your strengths.
Highlight Connections with Prospective Employer
If you have some personal connections to a prospective employer, be sure to mention those in the cover letter. This will allow people reading the cover letter to make that association.
Say you’re applying for a sports management job with a minor league baseball team after graduating from college. While in high school, you worked for this team in concessions. Don’t assume that everyone will instantly recognize your name. Remember, positions change and perhaps a person or two in the decision process may not be aware of your past service.
Perhaps your former boss, Mr. Smith, whose opinion is respected, has mentioned that you will be applying. Now when you mention your previous ties to the club, the reader may think, “Oh yeah, this is the applicant Mr. Smith told me about.”
Highlight Accomplishments in Resume Suited to Job
So in college and in your first few years out of school you have piled up accomplishments working in the athletic department at a small school. You’re looking to move onto a new challenge and, to your credit, the list of accomplishments on your resume is a long one.
The cover letter offers you a chance to highlight a few of the accomplishments that best apply to the specific position you are pursuing. If you’re applying for a sports information job, you might write, “I received many honors in school but one I’m especially proud of was being honored by the College Sports Information Directors Association in 2005 for …”
Request an Interview
Once you have concisely told the reader why you would be a great fit for the job, be sure to express your interest in meeting with your prospective employer.
This again shows enthusiasm and will remind the reader to review your contact information.
Besides re-reading the cover letter yourself, be sure to have a trusted friend or two read the letter. If someone in the field you know can review the letter, even better.
Encourage them to not only mark typos but critique your overall letter and suggest any ideas they may have. Perhaps you will agree, disagree, or come to some decision in the middle. But you will be actively thinking about how best to communicate your ideas.
Remember, you are going to be writing cover letters to each specific position so proofread each time.