Three Strategies For Writing A Great Cover Letter

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Writing a great cover letter is both an art and a science. It’s an art in that good writing takes time and practice, and it’s a science in that you need to know the proper elements for writing a quality letter. When applying for a job, you will want to craft a cover letter that will sell you to the search committee with the hope that they are intrigued with you and your application. This in turn will prompt them to spend more time reviewing your resume.

However, too many people place their complete focus on writing a great resume without paying enough attention on their cover letter. Don’t get me wrong, having a top-notch resume is extremely important, but so is having a quality cover letter. One without the other is like having a team without a leader, you typically won’t be as successful as you would like.

In order for your cover letter to be effective, you will want to be strategic in how you write the letter. There are three strategies you should follow in order to write your cover letter. These strategies include (a) understanding the purpose of your cover letter, (b) writing the letter so it is specific to the organization and the position, and (c) making sure you follow the IBS format for creating a strategic cover letter (introduction, body and summary).

Purpose

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.

Specific

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.

Format

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.

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.

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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 just finished your book.  One of the things that helped me the most was the interview questions. Some of the examples of the questions (as well as some ways to answer those questions) were perfect.
-Jarred Neff
Sports Management Student
Pace University

 

 


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