Workshop Wednesday – March 28, 2012

Welcome to the first edition of Workshop Wednesday! Each Wednesday I will randomly select a cover letter sent in by sports job seekers and critique the letter. If you want to know more about how it works or how to send in your cover letter, see this post.

I have left comments open, but I will only approve comments with respectful questions or comments.

Please note, names and companies have been changed to protect anonymity.

Dear Malory Smith,

As a side note, I think Ms. Smith works here as well.

This letter is to express my interest in bringing my years of experience as a performer to your organization. As a performer with excellent qualifications and a strong desire to excel in this profession, I am seeking to align myself with an organization positioned for strong growth. The scope of my experience includes involvement throughout the community, organizing and executing community outreach events, performing in character in front of large crowds, and operating social media outlets.

If this cover letter was sent in response to an advertised position, you need to indicate the position for which you’re applying. I would address that in the first sentence. Companies will often have multiple positions open, so be clear about your interest. I would say something like this:

This letter is to express my interest in the position advertised on your website for a mascot.

I think you can substitute that for the current first sentence, as the paragraph gets a little redundant about your performance background.

If you’re qualified for or interested in more than one job listing, check to see if you should send separate applications for each. If you’re sending your materials in unsolicited (there were no posted jobs), your opening sentence would vary based on what you know about the organization or how well you know the person to whom the letter is addressed.

Capitalizing on my employment with several organizations, I am seeking a professional opportunity where my organizational, creative, and management skills can benefit your organization. With this goal in mind, I have attached a résumé outlining my qualifications.

In the second paragraph I always advise people to discuss past job or educational experiences that directly relate to the position for which you’re applying. This paragraph is extremely generic and tells me nothing about your experience or what makes you unique from other candidates. At this point I’m starting to tune out. Your resume will give me your job and educational experiences, but this is your big chance to tie those to the position – tell me exactly what you’ve done that will benefit me and my organization. Give concrete examples.

Here are a few of my significant capabilities:

  • Outstanding management and problem solving skills with the ability to handle rapidly changing schedules and shifting work priorities.

  • Excellent organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills with the flexibility and experience required to remain highly focused and self-possessed in fast-paced, demanding environments.

  • Strong experience of character performing in a variety of venues and adapting to unique circumstances.

  • Superior ability to manage several projects while meeting rigorous performance standards and demanding schedules.

  • A hands-on team member and critical thinker who can quickly learn new systems, develop useful expertise, and produce significant contributions

First, be sure you’re consistent. Either use a period at the end of each bullet or use it at the end of none.

Second, I personally don’t like bullet points in a cover letter. They’re fine for a resume, but a cover letter is the chance to tell me a story – about you. Bullet points are not the most effective way to do that.

Again, this is pretty generic. Anyone could claim to have these traits. Show me, don’t tell me. Give me an example of a time when you had to “handle rapidly changing schedules.” Find concrete examples of things you’ve done that translate to the job for which you’re applying.

Given my organizational skills, professional training, and creative skills, I believe I have the qualifications and enthusiasm that you are looking for. I thrive on challenges and will spend the time and effort it takes to succeed. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to meeting with you.

This is a fine ending. As a side note, if you’re applying for something out of town and will be there anytime soon, be sure to note that.

Sincerely,
John Stephenson

Enclosure

This wasn’t a bad cover letter, it just wasn’t a great one. It is a good illustration of something I tried to explain when I detailed how I made internship decisions. I didn’t receive any cover letters that were filled with typos or blatantly bad, but what I did receive was a lot of generic cover letters that told me nothing unique about the person. In contrast, some cover letters I received were so good I didn’t even feel the need to look at the person’s resume.

Check back tomorrow for an excerpt of a cover letter from an intern I did hire, which I hope will illustrate how you can show instead of simply tell.

Letter republished with permission from author.

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