Sell Yourself in Your Cover Letter

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Recently, I wrote about writing a great resume. It is one of the most important marketing tools you can create to help sell you for a job opening. Just as important, however, is your cover letter.

The purpose of a cover letter is to sell you, provide insight into you as a person, and show why you are a good fit for the position. A good cover letter will prompt the search committee to take a closer look at you and your resume.  In fact, a quality cover letter can catapult you forward in the job search process, whereas,  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 (Introduction, Body, and Summary).  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.


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 or his new book Execute for Success at  


The #1 Careers Book in Sports

2nd edition Image

In Getting Hired In College Sports you will discover:

  • The types of jobs that exist in college sports
  • How to plan and navigate your career
  • How to create an effective job search campaign 
  • The proper way to create an effective resume, cover letter, and sales pitch
  • How to properly brand yourself
  • Techniques and strategies to prepare for your interview
  • How to properly prepare yourself for the five types of interview questions 
  • How to properly follow-up after the interview in order to influence the decision of the hiring manager

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“I have recommended this book to many aspiring sports administrators.  This is a must read for anyone who wants to work in college athletics”

-Bill Fusco
Director of Athletics
Sonoma State University




4 thoughts on “Sell Yourself in Your Cover Letter

  1. How about for an informational interview. Should you bring a resume and cover letter? What do you suggest that cover letter look like?

    • Mark,in an informational interview I would bring a resume but not a cover letter. The purpose of the informational interview is to gain knowledge from the person being interviewed and to build your network. I would give them your resume either if they ask for it, or just before you leave the meeting. Maybe saying something to the effect “oh, by the way, I’d like to leave my resume with you in case you hear of any jobs I might qualify for.”

      Please let me know if I can help you in any way.


      • Howard,

        Thanks for the needed feedback and quick replies. You will get to know me by all of my questions. I very much so want to break into the athletic administration industry but on the interscholastic level first.

        I have a couple of informational interviews scheduled for this week and I want to build my network but I do truly want to position myself for an administrative job in one of those districts in the next few years. What is the best advice or tips that you can give me? I want to really sell myself. I feel as though I have new and innovative ideas that are cutting edge and could improve the state of the department but I don’t feel as though I should come in making recommendations. They are gonna know what I want and I truly want to oosituon myself for a job. However, I can’t say that.

        Anyway, I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and using the info to build my network and position myself in Chicago but recently relocated and must start all over in a new place. Please advise.

  2. Mark,

    Please feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like. I’m here to help. In addition to my blogs, I have a weekly newsletter you can sign up for on my website

    You’re wise in not initially proposing recommended changes, unless asked. Keep building relationships, and gain the eduction and experience necessary to position yourself for the job you want. You’ll get a chance to make proposals once you get to know the people better and when they trust you.

    If you’d like, you can ask questions via my e-mail address at That way these conversations will be more private than on a blog. Have a great weekend.


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