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Creating the perfect sports resume

An attention-grabbing cover letter and strong work ethic are keys to getting in the industry. Jack Bechta

Print This April 02, 2010, 10:06 AM EST

I received so many emails from my last post that I figured I would keep the momentum going for anyone with a burning desire to work in sports.

I’ve received hundreds of resumes over the last few years, and honestly, not many of them have gotten a response from my office, mainly because the majority are exactly alike. They’re sterile, predictable and average. The ones that stand out may get a response and are put into the “talent file.” If you’re reading this, I assume you’d like to know how to prevent the summary of your life’s work from falling into the trash. This is what I recommend:

The cover letter

It should be no longer than 2-3 paragraphs at the most. It has to be attention-grabbing and memorable. The most predictable ones always say things like “my dream has always been to work in sports,” “I’ve been a sports fan my whole life” and “it would be an honor to work for a firm like yours.” Don’t make yours generic – do your research on the company and customize each letter. It’s very easy for an employer to spot a template that simply has their name plugged in.

I also recommend that you use the cover letter to talk about some of your personality traits and the benefits the organization will receive from having you on board. And mention achievements you won’t mention in your resume, like working your way through school (“I have work ethic”), your ability to keep things meticulously organized (“I can help you operate more efficiently”), that you’re a tech wizard (“I can bring you into the 20th century”), that you raised your little brother or sister (“I’m dependable and will put others first”) and/or that you want to be your own boss some day (“I’m motivated and will watch the bottom line in your business”). Get our attention and show us who you really are.

The resume

When I read a resume, I look for a few things: Did they work while in school? Did they do internships while in school? Did they play a sport or work with a team in college or high school? Do they understand the team concept? Can I sense a blue-collar work ethic about them? Do they seem egoless? Have they done anything that relates to the business I’m in?

I love it when applicants have worked/interned in accounting or bookkeeping, have bartended or waited tables and have hardcore sales experience via cold calling, going door to door or some type of aggressive soliciting methods.

I believe most sports executives are trying to find personality and easily identifiable assets behind any resume. The higher you climb on the sports industry ladder, the more it’s like working in any other high-pressure industry. It’s business – big business – and you can’t be star-struck or happy to just be on board. In sports, you have to have a way about you in communicating with athletes, coaches and sponsors. It’s an intangible skill set that they can’t teach you at any university. You also have to be a rainmaker or be an asset to the rainmaker in order to have a value. So you want to show the benefits you can provide an organization and how you’ll help add to the bottom line. There are no free rides in the sports industry.

Whether you went to an Ivy League school or a state school, let your personality shine through. Whether you went to grad school or law school, show your work ethic. I might not be looking for the smartest guy out there, but I’ll hire the guy who can out-wit and out-work the smartest guy.

Be honest and direct, and show your value. I hope this helps.

A few additional “DOs” and “DON’Ts” to perfect your resume:

• DO perform spelling and grammar checks. Then ask a trusted friend or two to check again.
• DON’T leave the name of another company/employer in the cover letter.
• DO use a resume writing guide and follow the established guidelines.
• DO use powerful verbs to describe your duties for each position you’ve held.
• DON’T be vague. Give examples of projects you have worked on and, where possible, use numbers to show how they benefited your employer.
• DO emphasize references if you know you’ll get a good recommendation.
• DO use resume paper for hard copies and pdf files for email, unless instructed to do otherwise.

Finally, anyone working in the sports industry should understand the importance of negotiation. If you’re in the Philadelphia area this month, you might want to consider attending a one-day seminar presented by the National Football Post and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania on April 16. The topic: How to be a better negotiator. Click here for more information.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta

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