The Seven Most Important Tips for Crafting Your Sports Career Resume
Resumes are the piece of you that gets read by every potential employer. They are two-dimensional, they can’t possibly tell the whole story of you, but they are the most essential piece of this process.
Hiring managers may not read your cover letter, they may never look at your portfolio, or your social media profiles, but they will look at your resume.
Let’s make sure we nail it!
In this day and age, many employers streamline information with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and advanced filtering processes, which means less and less real people are reading your entire resume.
As Pink Floyd would say: Welcome to the Machine.
However, this isn’t the case for every employer. During interviews with Mailyhn Vu, Cleveland Indians Assistant Director of Talent Acquisition and Colleen Scoles, Philadelphia Eagles Talent Acquisition Manager, both admitted they and their team go through every incoming resume by hand.
In sports culture fit and skill set is vital, demonstrated by the extreme lengths teams, organizations and agencies put into their staffing.
So how do you prepare your resume to be noticed, acknowledged and respected, while also passing the ATS algorithm?
Here are seven tips to help you craft a resume that will be noticed by the movers and shakers of the sports industry:
1: Focus on Metrics
The vast majority of job seekers approach their resume like it is a list of events. I worked here from 2000-2004. My responsibilities were. My action verbs are. The skills I used were.
Instead of focusing solely on this technique, which may seem tried and true but is also maddeningly dull and doesn’t add anything to the conversation, focus on metrics.
Let your resume answer the question: “How did I tangibly affect this business while I was there?”
- Did you increase social media followers by 357%?
- Did ratings increase by 23% during your years?
- Did you implement an email campaign that led to a 43% increase in customer retention?
- Did customer satisfaction change, if so, by what percentage?
- Did you decrease spending and positively affect EBITDA?
Think in numbers, because while action verbs sound good as you write them, employers are looking for proof you can positively affect the business, and metrics do that.
Data points are tangible and real, and fancy words get glossed over.
Each job you’ve highlighted on your sports industry resume should include at least one tangible, numbers based, crunching data, metric. So while you may have some informational bullet points like:
- Set the content strategy, manage the editorial calendar and author all outbound content.
It would be best if you also had things like:
- Launched the company blog, which resulted in a 58% increase in SEO and direct traffic over the first year
- Implemented an interactive studio show utilizing social media streaming and engagement that increased ratings by 29%
- To combat a high turnover rate, developed a mentoring program which helped train and acclimate entry-level employees, resulting in a near 100% increase in staff retention
That is how you make an impact.
2: Stay Flexible
If you have one resume you send out to every job, you are making a cardinal mistake. Every position is different, with changing emphasis and requirements. You need to adjust your resume to the situation.
Imagine for a second you are applying for two jobs; one is a Production Assistant at Comcast SportsNet New England and the other is a Production Assistant at ESPN. On the surface, you’d determine these jobs are the same, and therefore the same resume would suffice.
However, here’s the deal, often these jobs with similar titles still require different skill sets.
Upon further investigation of the two job descriptions, Comcast wants someone who can run a camera and assist in the graphic design, while ESPN only wants someone who can write copy and edit video. Same job title, different requirements.
Can you see now why each resume should look different? Make sure you highlight the skills you have and the employers need.
Sure it takes more work, but you are trying to get hired right? Don’t you want an HR rep to see right away you have the exact skills they need?
Make every cover letter and resume crafted specifically for that job!
3: Highlight Your Best
A recent study indicated that recruiters only spend 6 seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether you are worth it or not.
Which means, in the time it takes me to walk to the bathroom a recruiter could have already decided I’m about as valuable as what I’m about to leave there.
My suggestion – before you get into the nitty-gritty of your work experience, insert a few bullet points at the top of your resume outlining your skills and proficiencies.
This data is easy for a recruiter or human resources representative to scan in 6 seconds to see if you have what they are looking for (this may or may not be one of the old versions of my resume):
Now, this technique is excellent when actual people scan your resume…but for applicant tracking systems…
4: Master Contextual Search Techniques
Sounds fancy, right? Let me explain.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have partially replaced the work of regular old humans by utilizing technology to search through databases of resumes looking for keywords that match their employment needs.
If 100 people applied for a Production Assistant job at Fox Sports, the ATS might narrow the field to 20 prime candidates for a hiring manager to physically look at, which means 80 didn’t even make it past the computer.
(There is that Pink Floyd song again)
This frustrated the folks applying for jobs who were too often completely ignored. The scrappy humans didn’t take this lying down, they figured the computers out and began stuffing their resume with a plethora of essential keywords just to get noticed!
And then…the machines fought back.
Applicant Tracking Systems, much like Skynet in the Terminator movies, adjusted to current conditions.
They began looking for more than just individual keywords, instead, they now look for “contextual relevance,” which is a fancy way of saying they analyze the words around the keyword to determine better if this is a real match or just words stuffed in randomly.
So how do we handle this?
The most important part of being hired is having real experience, so be active! Volunteer, intern, job shadow – whatever you need to do to gain experience you can highlight on your resume.
After you have experience, make sure you intertwine your keywords with actual accomplishments. So while we highlighted the need to emphasize individual skills in #3, which is how humans scan and read, you also need to balance that with the contextual relevance significant to the computers.
For example, look at a bullet point like this:
Manage all aspects of the social media strategy and grew Twitter followers by 143% year-over-year.
It is contextually relevant, contains keywords perfect for a job involving social media, shows experience managing projects and uses metrics to define your accomplishment.
5: Don’t You Dare Include a Photo
In speaking with many human resources executives, there is nothing more insulting that including your photo on a resume. You are telling the recruiter, I’m handsome or I’m pretty, so you should hire me.
Recruiters and HR people don’t like that.
Every hire they make or recommend to hiring managers, they put their reputation on the line. They are actively seeking the best of the best, not the prettiest or the best dressed.
Spend every inch of the limited space you have highlighting your skills and accomplishments, not your winning smile.
6: Don’t Fluff
This is a straightforward concept, but one that is too often ignored: Don’t overdo it.
- No colored paper
- No fancy fonts
- No over exaggeration of your skills
- No spelling mistakes
- No more than two pages
Over my career, I’ve received resumes where people spelled their name wrong, included an email address that was [email protected], cut out the paper to look like a TV screen and even had a resume that included a quote from a candidate’s mother.
If you have a shred of concern something is too much, it probably is. Gimmicks and tricks don’t get you hired, experience and professionalism do.
If hired you are going to represent this company - they want to know you are up to that task.
7: Nail the Cover Letter
The cover letter is still your secret weapon.
This is your one chance to tell a story rather than just highlight skills and experiences. However, the biggest mistake I see people make on their cover letter is that they rehash their resume in paragraph form.
Wrong! Instead, use your cover letter to tell an accomplishment story.
Tell a story about a time you ran a project and had to manage across groups towards a singular goal. Or how you started a mentorship program that helped train entry level staff, making them more valuable assets. Or how you wanted more experience in sports public relations, so you job shadowed the VP of Communications for the Seattle Mariners and learned more about the inner workings of a professional team.
Share your passion and excitement, without just saying I’m passionate and excited. As my 6th-grade Literature Arts teacher told me 1,000 times - “show me, don’t tell me.”
While the computer tracking systems won’t read your cover letter and feel your enthusiasm for the industry, when an actual human does, you’ll stand out.
Check out some amazing sports career advice from former MLB General Manager Dan Duquette: