The Importance of a Cover Letter

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

I was having dinner a while back with a friend who is the president of a professional sports team.  One of his major duties is to hire the administrative and sales staff.  Since I had been an athletic director at the Division I level, and had written a book about the proper techniques people should use during the job search process, I wanted to compare notes between hiring at the major college level and at the professional sports level.

I was truly shocked when he shared with me that many of the resumes that he receives are submitted without a cover letter, and of the cover letters that he does receive, many are addressed with a generic salutation such as – “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager”.  I really shouldn’t have been too surprised because I had received my share of those types of letters during the several hundred job searches I conducted.

As I was shaking my head in disbelief I asked him how he handles the applications that come in with the non-existent letter or with the generic written salutation.  Quickly, without even a bit of hesitation, or a blink of an eye, he said that they automatically go into the rejection pile.  This, too, is how I handled these types of applications at the collegiate level.

An application without a cover letter is almost always rejected.  An application with a generic salutation such as “To Whom it May Concern” has a better chance than no letter, but still you’re fighting an uphill battle.  The purpose of the cover letter is to show the search committee how you meet the qualifications, why you’d be a good fit for the job, and it allows you to sell yourself.  If you don’t properly sell yourself in your cover letter, you are missing a huge opportunity and you’re putting yourself behind your competition.  So next time you apply for a job, take the time to find out who to address the letter to and then sell yourself.  Show the search committee how you’re qualified and why you’re a good fit.  Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is best prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 8 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition.  For more information on our sports careers blog, go to www.SportsCareersInstitute.com.

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