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You may be a pro at introductions and meeting new people in person, but how about your ability to introduce yourself in writing? This can be more of a challenge, particularly in a job search, where your first communication with a potential employer will likely be via email.
This month’s column focuses on cover letters as a key part of a written introduction in a successful job search. We’ll explore ways to capitalize on your written introduction, with the aim of compelling the reader to eagerly reach for your résumé to learn more about you.
Cover letter basics
A cover letter accompanies your résumé and references when you apply for a job. It is your opportunity to give the reader a framework through which to read the rest of your career documents. It should be concise — typically only three or four paragraphs — to keep the reader’s attention.
GCSAA members often ask whether the contents of their cover letter should be pasted into the body of an email when submitting a résumé, rather than attached as a separate cover letter document. The answer is no — it’s a letter, not just a note in an email. The person receiving the email and processing the documents may not necessarily be a decision-maker. You therefore want your documents to be as professional as possible when printed for or emailed to the hiring committee.
Would you want the committee to get its first impression of you based on an email printout along with your résumé and references? Or would you want them to see a letter that is professionally displayed, with the font and overall look matching that of your résumé and references?
When emailing career documents, I also recommend combining them into one PDF attachment so the recipient simply has to print once, and so your formatting is locked in properly. (The format of a Word document can shift depending on what version of the software the recipient has. Best to send as a PDF, which will appear the same everywhere.)
Answer why you want the job
Before jumping right into career successes and achievements, first focus on the target audience and their golf facility. Golfers love their home course, and a hiring committee consists of those golfers along with management members such as the owner, general manager and director of golf.
When we introduce ourselves in person, we instinctively adjust our message based on who we’re meeting. The same needs to be true for a written introduction. By first acknowledging the reader and articulating why you’re pursuing this particular job — and perhaps including aspects you admire about the golf course, staff or facility — you’ll create a memorable introduction and provide a pathway that shows how your career steps have led you to this specific job.
Introduce you — not just your skill set
A cover letter is an opportunity to offer some insight into you as a person, beyond just facts, figures and job titles. In reality, all other qualified job applicants are going to have similar experience and skills, so concentrating on those alone will not differentiate you in this highly competitive industry.
A fundamental goal for an introduction is to be memorable and compelling. Give a glimpse into you: Are you passionate about your work? Are you passionate about the game of golf? What motivates you as you lead your team and work to provide excellent playing conditions for everyone who steps onto your golf course?
Highlight only points that are relevant to your target audience
Select two or three of your career successes that relate directly to the golf facility where you’re applying, and emphasize those aspects. Convey how your achievements relate to the future success of their unique situation.
Research to find out what qualities the hiring committee may be seeking for this role. Is this course planning a major renovation, for example? Is it a private club looking to grow its membership? Are the greens extraordinary and a major point of pride? If you better understand the reader’s priorities, you can identify corresponding highlights from your career to strengthen your introduction — and hopefully prompt them to dive into your résumé for more.
Carol D. Rau, PHR, is a career consultant with GCSAA and the owner of Career Advantage, a career consulting firm in Lawrence, Kan., specializing in golf and turf industry careers. GCSAA members receive complimentary résumé critiques from Rau and her team; résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn creation for a reduced member rate; and interview preparation and portfolio consultation.