Advice for Young ATs – Cover Letter and Résumé Help

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February 25, 2019

By Karen J. Taylor, MAT, LAT, ATC, OTC

The athletic training profession is ever-growing. Along with the well-known secondary, university and professional sports settings, many Athletic Trainers (ATs) are employed in physician practices, rehabilitation clinics, occupational health and public safety. As a young AT, this can make job hunting feel like a daunting task. Understanding how to create a cover letter and résumé that matches your desired employment setting can help to relieve some of this stress. Before you begin applying to several jobs with a standard cover letter and résumé, here are some tips that will make your cover letter and résumé stand out to a hiring manager.

Beware of the Applicant Tracking System

The most difficult part of the application process is getting your cover letter and résumé into the hands of a hiring manager. Many companies require applicants to complete an online application, which filters each applicant through an applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS sorts cover letters and résumés based on formatting, keywords and grammatical errors. Keep the following tips in mind as you prepare your résumé for ATS.

1. While you may want to make your cover letter and résumé “stand out” with pictures, charts and atypical fonts, the ATS may not recognize these symbols and automatically reject your application.

2. The ATS can have difficulty with the file format in which documents are saved. Therefore, cover letters and résumés should be submitted as a Word document, rather than a PDF, so that information is easily transferred into the online application. Many applications will specify the suggested file format that applicants should use, so pay close attention to the application instructions.

3. There are many keywords that also help to push cover letters and résumés through the ATS. Reading the job description can clue you in to many of these keywords. While you should never copy a company’s job description directly into your cover letter and résumé, you should change the verbiage of your cover letter and résumé to match the job description and highlight your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that are required for the job.

4. Grammatical errors can also hinder the application process when applying for a job with a company that utilizes the ATS. You should always pay close attention to spelling errors and punctuation. Even if these errors make it through the ATS and into the hands of the hiring manager, the errors will highlight your lack of attention to detail, landing your application into the nearest receptacle.

Customize Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is often reviewed prior to scanning an applicant’s résumé. Your cover letter is important as it can often set the first impression for the hiring manager. Keep the following tips in mind.

1. It should be limited to 1 page and immediately capture the hiring manager’s attention.

2. The tone of your cover letter should be positive and provide interesting details that highlight why you are the best candidate for the position.

3. As previously mentioned, there are several employment settings in which ATs work. Therefore, the cover letter should include your contact information, why you are applying for the job, your unique qualifications that match you to the job and your past accomplishments and experiences that set you apart from other applicants applying for the same position.

4. The cover letter should not be self-serving; it should maintain a focus on the employer. Employers are seeking an exemplary employee who will appropriately represent their missions and values and maintain a high quality of care. The ability to identify your personal mission and values can help you align yourself with a company in which you can feel connected to the work you will do as an AT.

Build Your Résumé

As you write your résumé, it is important for your résumé to be organized and concise while highlighting your KSAs and accomplishments. Most studies show that résumés are scanned for 15-30 seconds when determining whether the applicant is a potential candidate for the position.

1. The top portion of your résumé’s first page should be used to catch the hiring manager’s attention.

2. Your résumé should include your contact information, education, licenses, certifications, professional memberships and relevant work history.

3. Your work history should be listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent place of employment listed first. For each employment company, I recommend a brief paragraph explaining your job duties.

4. Under each paragraph, you can create a bulleted list that highlights your accomplishments at each job. As a recent graduate, you may not have relevant work experience, but you can substitute that with the clinical rotation experience that you gained while in school. Recent graduates and individuals with less than 5 years of work experience typically do not need a résumé longer than 1 page.

Although the search for the right position can seem like an insurmountable task, it is something that you can overcome with the appropriate cover letter and résumé that has been customized to the job for which you are applying. However, while your cover letter and résumé may land you an interview, don’t forget to adequately prepare for the interview. Seek out opportunities to practice your interviewing skills with your professors, classmates, mentors and preceptors. There are also several online resources that may help you prepare answers for questions that you may be asked during the interview. After you have sought help from other resources, I also recommend that you practice in the mirror so that you are aware of your facial expressions and body language. Good luck, and I wish you all the best as you begin your job search!


About the Author

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Karen J. Taylor, MAT, LAT, ATC is an Athletic Trainer in Atlanta, Georgia, where she has resided since August 2014. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science degree from the University of Mississippi in December 2009. Taylor continued her education the following summer at the University of Arkansas, where she received a Master of Athletic Training degree in May 2012. Taylor will graduate from South College in June 2021 with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. She has served as an Athletic Trainer in the high school, collegiate and orthopaedic clinical settings. In 2014, she was named Arkansas Athletic Trainer of the Year. In her free time, Taylor enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, watching movies and attending some of the many concerts and festivals that Atlanta has to offer.

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