Does Anyone Read Your Cover Letter? (And a Bunch on NIL Rights)

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

Before we get into the stat line -- I want to whet your appetite for January podcasts. December continues to be the Best of 2020 -- this Wednesday, Tim Duncan Athletic Director for the University of New Orleans… a great guy and a great interview. 

For January, I’ve lined up multiple talent acquisition executives, a co-founder of one of the biggest sports tech companies ever, a global partnership activation manager in the NBA, a manager of inside sales in the NBA who is hiring staff and gearing up... January will be huge.



Also just a heads up - this Wednesday my good friend and former guest Chris Grosse, who is Associate Athletic Director for Marketing at Penn State has asked me to be part of a panel discussion on sports industry resume’s -- if you are interested in checking it out, connect with Chris on LinkedIn and he’ll share info with you.

So with that in mind let’s get into the stat line...

Alright, we’re taking a bit of a left turn with the stat line today, data as normal, but instead of highlighting three jobs, we’re doing to discuss a major news story that will change the future of the #sportsbiz. 

First the data…. Three data points helping you understand what’s happening in sports employment right now...

#1: 16,508 active sports jobs on the leading job board for the sports industry -- that is a decline of 1% from last week, a slight drop, but this is the time of year when orgs are gearing up for the new year, so no surprise here.

#2 -- we added 1508 jobs in the last week, that’s a decline of 10% week over week. 

#3 - which is still an average of 215 fresh new sports jobs every day of the week, which actually seems pretty good considering the time of year. Expect big bumps in January.

Ok, as I mentioned, instead of giving you three jobs that caught my eye this week, I want to discuss a major change happening in the world of sports that will fundamentally change our business moving forward and that includes jobs and opportunity. 

I try really hard not to speak to specific events, or newsy items because it makes the episode content dated and somewhat irrelevant in a month’s time… but this is important and represents a massive sea change in the industry.

We’re talking about Names, Images, and Likeness legislation.

Quick primer -- throughout my life and longer, student-athletes can’t make money off their name, image, and likenesses. They can’t hire agents and negotiate endorsement deals with sneaker, apparel, merchandise, video games or summer camps. They can’t do social media deals and rake in ad or sponsorship revenue. When it comes to athletes making money and leveraging their brand -- they can’t.  

BUT - schools can absolutely use a student-athletes name, image, and likeness to make money. So the school’s profit, but the student-athletes don’t.

Finally, this is changing.  

Now, this get’s tricky, and there are details and nuances I am going to leave out for this discussion. If you want to learn more, I suggest you visit and check out the great write-up from my legal go-to guy Michael McCann.

We’re going to take a high-level stab at it, and really the point here isn’t just to keep you aware of changing trends but to consider what this means for you as far as career opportunities. 

Ok, so where are we? 

Well, Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi is sponsoring the Collegiate Athlete Compensation Rights act. Wicker’s bill would create a federal NIL right - which is important because if this is rolled out state by state, or just by the NCAA, there are going to be problems. 

For example -- Let’s imagine California and Florida pass state-sponsored NIL legislation that is wide open, and Texas and Alabama pass something more restrictive. That would change the competitive landscape massively. Student-athletes would flock to UCLA and the University of Florida while bypassing Texas and Alabama. Hell, Florida State may even become relevant again. 

Low blow, I get it, that was totally for some of my FSU friends...sorry Jake, I couldn’t help it. 

Ok, back on track. 

A federal law would ensure consistency and maintain competitive fairness - I see that as a very important detail. Wicker himself says “ It’s unfair for Universities and TV networks to earn millions off the NIL of college athletes who are denied such opportunities”

And, in other breaking news -- I agree with a politician! He is right!

Two last details I want to hit on -- the bill proposed also stresses the need for college athletes to earn “market value” compensation for use of their NIL. This is different from what the NCAA proposes -- they’ve talked about including NIL “guardrails” which sounds like they still want to control the marketplace. Allowing athletes to earn “market value” is a big distinction.

Also, Wicker added another stipulation -- educating college athletes on what NIL actually means. Now, this idea is important, the proposed execution, I’m not so sure about. Wicker wants to include a threshold for the student-athletes to gain their NIL rights, they have to have completed 12% of their credits required for graduation.

Now, how does that look in practice -- it means a student-athlete wouldn’t be NIL eligible until after their 1st semester of college courses. This seems arbitrary to me. So you think they will be smarter and more able to handle their own marketing deals if they take Biology, History of World Wars, and Trigonometry?

[I think that was my first semester freshman year]

I’m all for educating the student-athletes and setting them up for success -- but this should be like the rookie symposium in the NFL. Incoming student-athletes should have to take a 1-credit NIL focused class the summer before their freshman year. That ensures they are getting an applicable education, not just an arbitrary 12%.

Now more importantly, what does this mean for you? Job opportunities open up wide with this. 

Athlete marketing -- so many more athletes to build their brand and expose to sponsors.

What about on the brand side -- product brands like Adidas,  video game brands like EA sports -- and others connected to sports already will grow their sponsorship and marketing teams to work with college athletes. But, other brands that aren’t necessarily sports-focused but want to use the youthful athletes to build their market --  youthful product brands, food brands, beauty products and more will develop sports-focused departments within their org. 

Tech side -- look at former guest Neeta Sreekanth COO of INFLCR -- that’s what they do! NIL marketing for schools and athletes. 

Sports agents -- opportunities to recruit and work with agents start earlier than ever and a huge market opens up too. It’s not just the top-flight athletes in need --- now it’s the most interesting and creative athletes that can stand out too. 

You don’t have to be Trevor Lawrence to leverage your brand - as FiveThirtyEight researched, annual revenue for college athletes can vary from Haley Cruse, University of Oregon Softball player making $117,000 a year - to Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee making $26,000.

Oh and Trevor Lawrence, they postulated he’d make about half a mill a year. 

Now, what does Spencer Lee building his brand do? It helps the schools too. It markets them, it builds their audience, plus it builds up some of the smaller sports -- wrestling, field hockey, softball, soccer, water polo -- if the athletes are incentivized to market themselves, they also market the sport and the schools  -- literally, everyone wins. 

This is good, this is very good. 

I’ve gone on long enough about this, but I hope you understand the importance of this discussion.

And that is a very long version of the Stat Line…


Into today’s question… 

Alright, this is actually my question, and it was sparked after I interviewed Matt Resnick for an upcoming episode of the podcast. Matt spent the last 5 years as the Director of People Acquisition for MSG -- MSG madison square garden company, we’re talking Knicks, Rangers etc. Matt knows his stuff and is an incredible interview I’ll be bringing you in January. 

I don’t mean to give away part of the interview… but it was only a one-liner he threw out there that intrigued me. Matt said, and I’m paraphrasing here -- I look at tens of thousands of resumes, and I don’t really like or read cover letters. 

The question this week is… “does anyone still read cover letters?”

Well Brian that’s a great question thanks for asking it.

Look my feelings on this are just a data point of one, which can’t be extrapolated out to represent the entire workforce… to get to the answer to this question I need to reach outside of my own brain.

Thankfully, there is research! 

ResumeGo is a company that provides resume writing services, and they conducted a field experiment involving 7,287 job application submissions and a survey of 236 hiring professionals to get down to the bottom of exactly how integral cover letters are to job search success and what exactly employers value in them.

I was turned on to this research by a very well-written article by Regina Borsellino at -- want to make sure I give credit where credit is due. Attribution is key. 

Ok, so let’s dig into the research:

The big headline -- 

87% of the 236 hiring professionals they interviewed said yes, they read the cover letter.

That’s enough right there to say “Ok this is a valuable part of the process, no brainer, must do it, give it your all, cover letters are important.”

But wait, there’s more. 

When asked  “Do cover letters materially influence your decisions on who to interview or hire?”

65% said yes, they materially influence their decision to interview or hire.

Here’s my FAVORITE data point -- how much time do you spend reading someone’s cover letter:

16% - 1-5 minutes

32% -- 0-10 seconds

52% - 10 seconds to one minute

0% - over 5 minutes

That may sound like a lot of numbers so let me break this down for you -- you better make your cover letter interesting in the first sentence, first paragraph -- or they are moving on. 

This is so much fun -- OK, next data point,

If you are someone who doesn’t read cover letters, why don’t you read them?

52% of respondents say Cover Letters tend to just be a rehash of the resume.

I have been telling you this for YEARS! If you are taking your resume and just putting it in paragraph form, that is a waste of time! Hiring managers HATE this!

Why do they read cover letters?

59% said because they hope they provide additional insight. 

OK, I’ll stop with the data -- I’ve listened to podcast that talk analyutics and data a 13th ranked this, and 23% that...and it gets confusing after a while, 

Suffice it to say -- recruiters WANT to read your cover letter. 87% said they do. BUT, most of you are doing it wrong so they skim it and move on.

So what should you do?

#1 every single time write a specific cover letter for the job you are applying to. You may have a base version of your cover letter, but put some effort into customizing for the specific job you are applying for. applications that included cover letters tailored specifically to the job at hand had a 53% higher callback rate than applications with no cover letter at all. Again all signs point to -- cover letters matter, and specific ones matter even more.

#2 tell me a story that starts to give me additional insight into you are as a person, how you work, your drive, your ambition -- and relate it to this job opportunity.

#3 Hook me early. If your first sentence is something like “ I started in the sports industry in 1996 at CNN/Sports Illustrated and it was a really great experience.”

I’m bored, I can get this info on your resume, so I move on.

#4 It can be a tool to better explain you -- if you are transitioning careers, have a gap on your resume if you are applying from out of the area, if you have a personal connection at the org. Use this space to inform the hiring team about this information.

#5 Focus on quality and pay attention to detail -- 73% of respondents said a poorly written cover letter reflects very poorly. Think about that a second, you read someones cover letter and it’s poorly written -- that is a bad impression and doesn’t scream out hire me. Take the time, write well.

Write a good cover letter - it matters. Thanks for the great question Brian!

And thanks to you for listening! This was an episode with a lot of meat on it. Be safe everyone -- still wear a mask. 

By Brian Clapp | December 14, 2020
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