Kristi Dosh, ESPN's Sports Business Reporter and an advisor to prospective sports industry candidates, offers her guidance on how to produce a cover letter that will enhance a job application.
Tip 1: Prove your passion
A passion for sport is a given when you're applying for a job in the industry. Make sure you demonstrate it.
"The number one mistake I see in cover letters for jobs in the sports industry is saying you're passionate about sports," Dosh says. "Keeping the box score at every Chicago White Sox game doesn't make you cut out for the team's front office. Employers want to hire someone who's passionate about their industry, but just saying you're passionate doesn't set you apart from other applicants. Prove it! What has your passion led you to do? Are you interning in the industry in addition to a full-time paying gig in an unrelated industry? Are you taking time out on the weekends to volunteer at industry-related events? Prove you're passionate!"
Tip 2: Expand on your CV
Don't use your cover letter to simply repeat the details in your CV in a different format.
"Another common mistake I see in cover letters is that it regurgitates information from your resume," Dosh says. "Your cover letter is your opportunity to expand upon experiences that can only briefly be covered in your resume. It also gives you the opportunity to show and not tell about your skills and attributes. For example, your resume might say you developed a new scheduling system. In your cover letter you can explain how when you got to the company they had no scheduling system, leading to problems a, b and c. Then you took the initiative to create a new scheduling system which solved those problems by doing x, y and z."
Tip 3: Highlight your experience
Space is precious in a cover letter. Don't waste it by including unnecessary details.
"Not meeting minimum education requirements might not get you past the screener, but beyond that it's your experience that counts," Dosh says. "An athletic director recently told me he doesn't even look at the education section of your resume, so it's safe to say you don't need to waste time on it in your cover letter. What you should be doing is highlighting experiences that directly relate to skills required to do the job at hand.
This is especially true if you have no work experience in sports. Focus on skills you've gained in other positions that translate into the position for which you're applying."
Tip 4: Keep it the right length
A perfect cover letter is a matter of striking a balance.
"I've seen cover letters that do nothing more than state the job the person is applying for and that their resume is attached," Dosh says. "I've also seen cover letters that span two full pages. They're both equally bad. Keep your cover letter to one page. Don't reduce the font down to 10pt to get it all to fit on one page. Don't make the margins non-existent either. Just be concise. Don't repeat something from your resume if you're not adding relevant information to it. And while you should highlight relevant experience, you don't need seven examples to make your point."
Tip 5: Work your contacts
If you have a contact who may give you the edge in the application process make sure you use it.
"It's all about who you know, so be sure if you've got connections you’re working them," Dosh says. "If you've met the person to whom you're addressing the cover letter, remind them of how you met. If a friend works for the organisation and is passing along your materials, mention it."
Top Tip: Show, don't tell
Dosh adds: “Passion isn’t the only thing you should be showing instead of telling. Don’t tell the reader you’re proficient with social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Anyone can say that. Tell about the internship where you created content for the company’s Facebook page and they gained 300 new followers during your tenure. Every time you use an adjective, be sure you’re giving a concrete example to go along with it.”
Prior to joining ESPN, Dosh was a practicing attorney and a sports business analyst for SportsMoney on Forbes.com, Comcast Sports Southeast, and The Pulse Network. She is also a frequent guest lecturer in both undergraduate and graduate programs in sports management.