Workshop Wednesday: August 1, 2012

Each Wednesday I 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. This person is applying for a development position within a college athletic department.

Dear Hiring Manager,

I know it’s not always possible, but try to find out the person’s name.

Please accept this letter, along with my attached resume and references, as official notice of my interest in the Assistant Director of Development Services for Stewardship position at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Currently, I am a full-time intern with the [organization] and its Affiliate Associations.  As an extremely organized professional with a natural affinity for interpersonal and organizational communication, I would bring over three years of internal and external customer service experience to Ohio Wesleyan University.  My time as a front-line membership services contact at [organization] and more specifically, the [affiliate organization], has aided our organization in achieving record membership at all levels, months before the end of the membership cycle.

This paragraph lists a lot of skills without backing them up with specific examples. Anyone can say they’re organized or that they have good communication skills. If I see that in a dozen resumes, how do I know who really has those skills? Show me examples. You start to do this in the last sentence, but it’s vague. What did you specifically do that aided in achieving record membership levels?

My experience with [affiliate organization] has allowed me to understand the importance and role of stewardship in a comprehensive advancement program.  My grasp of the basic principles of reciprocity, responsible gift use, reporting and relationship nurturing will allow me to help your major gift officers gain the trust of donors so that they will support [University X’s] common efforts with their time, financial resources and talent.  My research skills developed through my graduate degree’s analytical projects combined with my ability to articulate ideas and meaning will help me coordinate all special reporting required by this position.

I don’t hate this last paragraph, but I don’t love it either. I’m afraid you’re taking up valuable space in your cover letter with vague descriptions that could fit dozens of applicants. All of the skills you name are important, but specific examples of applying your skills will go a lot further in differentiating you from other candidates.

As a primary communications coordinator with [organization] and [affiliate organization], I authored 13 newsletters this year as well as numerous automated direct emails to our membership, surveys and awards releases.  Furthermore, my experience planning, organizing timelines and administering dozens of calls, meetings and special events for our leadership throughout this year has allowed me to establish a successful method of efficient, direct communication and organization.  This will make certain that all [University X] constituents’ needs are taken care of with the highest degree of excellence and professionalism.

You got into some concrete examples here. I’d love to see more like the first sentence of this last paragraph!

I want to see more examples though, because my gut tells me you’ve got some great experience. You say: “…has allowed me to establish a successful method of efficient, direct communication and organization.” What’s the method? Be as specific as possible. It’s what will set you apart when someone is reading dozens of cover letters littered with vague descriptions of skills.

Finally, my passion for development spurred me to seek opportunities outside of the workplace to continue personal and professional growth with [Company X], as a member of the Strategic Growth Board and its independent Development Coordinator. Ultimately, my experience at five universities and unwavering belief in supporting broad-based opportunities for intellectual growth in higher education lead me to believe that I would be a good fit not only with this job description, but in the Ohio Wesleyan community.  I welcome the chance to expound upon my qualifications in a personal conversation.

I’m confused here: “…as a member of the Strategic Growth Board and its independent Development Coordinator.” Were you the independent Development Coordinator or did you work with this person? The wording is a little confusing.

Love how this last paragraph starts out though – you’re not just saying you’re passionate, you’re showing what you’ve done that demonstrates your passion. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I preach this frequently. You cannot just say you’re passionate. Prove it!

My salary requirement is in the $32,000 – $36,000 range but is negotiable based on total compensation.

I wouldn’t talk salary range unless the application specifically said to include it.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Doe

Overall, this letter is way too long. When I opened it in Word it had 10pt font and 0.75″ margins. Stick to 1″ all around and 12pt font, and make it fit one page that way. I know it’s hard – I sent many a cover letter like yours in the past. That being said, potential employers get a lot of cover letters and it pays to be concise. Pick two or three skills relevant to this job that you can give great examples of putting to use and make those the focus of your letter.


Subscribe so you don’t miss a post
Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Kayla Ramiscal
    August 1, 2012

    I really like workshop Wednesday, but I have a bit of a challenge writing my cover letters. I am working towards my Masters and since getting my BA, have been unable to take on a full time job with a single organization, so I’ve been temping. As a result, I don’t have many things to list under ‘accomplishments’ or ‘examples’ even though I have the skills. Do you have any suggestions?