By Dr. Howard Gauthier
Most people tend to place a considerable amount of attention on producing a quality resume, but what about your cover letter? A resume is a relatively static document that only changes when you receive more education or gain additional experiences. The cover letter, however, needs to be adjusted with every new job application.
This constant need to update your cover letter makes this a dynamic document that must be changed, tweaked, adjusted and personalized for every new job application you submit. In order for your cover letter to be effective, you will want to be strategic in how you write the letter. In particular, you will want to understand the purpose of your cover letter, write the letter so it is specific to the organization and the position, and make sure you follow the IBS format for creating a strategic cover letter (introduction, body and summary).
Your cover letter and resume are the marketing materials for your job search. They should be used to sell you to the search committee. In particular, the purpose of your cover letter is to sell you and prompt the search committee to take a closer look at your resume. A quality cover letter can catapult you forward in the job search process. Conversely, a poorly written cover letter can eliminate you from consideration.
Your cover letter needs to be personalized to the person who is in charge of hiring the position. This could be the hiring manager or the search committee. Do not address your letter to “To Whom it May Concern.” If the job announcement doesn’t specifically identify whom the hiring person is, or the chair of the search committee, you will need to do your homework so you can find out who the best person is for you to address your cover letter. This could include addressing your application materials to the athletic director (or the person who the position reports to), the HR manager, or even the search committee – but never “to whom it may concern.”
Your cover letter should be written in a way that introduces you and your resume to the hiring manager or the search committee. It should tell them who you are, how you are qualified for the position, any applicable accomplishments you have, and why you are a good fit for the position. More specifically, you will want to make sure you address how you meet each of the qualifications listed in the job description.
Your cover letter should not be any longer than 1 1/3 pages of 12-point font. Preferably, you should try to limit your cover letter to one page if at all possible. But don’t try to squeeze your letter on to one page by using 10-point font. This font is too small and most people won’t continue to read your letter. If they stop reading your materials, you have just been eliminated from the candidate pool.
Make sure you follow the IBS format for writing a cover letter. This includes having a minimum of three paragraphs and a maximum of five. The first paragraph is considered an introduction and it tells the search committee which job you are applying for and what actions you are taking to apply for the job.
Following the introduction is the body of the letter. The body will range between one and three paragraphs in length. It is designed to show the search committee how you meet the qualifications for the position (education and experience); what strengths, abilities, and traits you possess; and what accomplishments you have achieved in similar positions. The final paragraph is a summary of your interest in the job and it should explain why you are a good fit for the position.
A well-crafted cover letter will help you to sell yourself as a well-qualified applicant. If properly prepared, the cover letter will prompt the search committee to want to take a closer look at your resume and will get you one step closer to an interview. Therefore, in order to move your candidacy from the application process to the interview stage, it is extremely important that you have a properly formatted resume and a strategically written cover letter. These are essential elements that are necessary for receiving an interview.
Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is 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 9 books. Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.sportscareersinstitute.com or his new book Execute for Success at www.execute4success.com.
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