5 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Strength and Conditioning Jobs


Prove you’re good! What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you possess?

The time has come again for me to review intern strength coach applications. This is usually good and bad, depending on how you examine the situation. Good, because I am able to review some of the resumes for young coaches who may go on to do great things. Bad, because some of the resumes I get are horrendous!

Note: I am NOT an expert on resume-writing. I am just stating below what I feel are some key issues that I come across when I review resumes for our potential interns.

Use the following as a guide to refrain from the mediocre or, even worse, awful, resumes that I see come across my desk. You would be amazed at how quickly you can “turn off” a potential employer by committing the simplest of mistakes.

1. Unorganized Resume

This should be obvious to anyone looking to get a job, but many applicants that I see have no regard for a neat, clean-looking resume. White space (blank spaces) are good…to an extent. Clutter and irrelevantĀ content in a resume; not-so-good. You want to be very organized from the order of importance of job tasks to the order of jobs in which they happened to everything in between.

2. Unimportant Content

Many applicants think it necessary to tell their life’s story, including things that are not even remotely related to the job for which they are applying. Drop all of that nonsense and clean it up! As an aspiring strength coach, your potential employer does not need to know about your time as a sales clerk at Hollister, or your time as a garbage man. Sorry, folks, we are looking for your related experiences, not unrelated. Yes, you should take away knowledge, skills, and/or abilities from every experience, but make sure that the experiences you include are transferable in some way…just like training to sport šŸ˜‰

3. Related Class Work

This goes along with #2, but I wanted to be specific here. All of us know the basic courses that are included in Kinesiology-related degree course work. Again, we are looking for your practical experiences in strength and conditioning. Where have you worked; who have you worked with, both sport and strength coach; what is your niche in the field? These are the types of questions we’re looking at when we try to get a “feel” for a potential candidate.

Choose your references wisely

4. References

This is a big consideration when reviewing resumes. As everyone says, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Unfortunately, this seems to be true in many professions, including strength and conditioning. You may be one of the greatest coaches out there but, if you don’t know anyone or have anyone to vouch for you, you’re dead in the mud. Again, this is unfortunate, but it’s the world we live in. If this is the game we all have to play, play it well.

Unto that point, use your references to your advantage. Professors can be great resources coming out of college, but try to use strength and conditioning professionals, exclusively, if you’re applying for a job as a coach. Again, if it’s “who you know,” this doesn’t just apply to you as the applicant and applying to a specific position. This also applies to the references you use and if the potential employer knows them! Play the game. Use your references to your advantage.

Note:Ā Always be sure to ask permission to use someone as a reference and give them a heads up that they might be receiving a call from so-and-so about position X. The past few times I’ve applied to positions I’ve repeatedly asked the same people if it was alright to use them as a reference, even though they said it would always be fine. I just feel it is the appropriate protocol.

5. Cover Letter ConundrumsĀ 

When you write a cover letter to a potential employer, always lead with the best foot forward. Be confident in your wording. Address the letter to a specific person if you know who will be the reviewer. Tell them a little about yourself as a person and your interests, but not too much. It should be brief and to the point. Then, discuss your experience in strength and conditioning; what were your responsibilities at your most-impressive job sites? What athletes did you work with and did you program for them? Discuss why you should be hired. What sets you apart? Lastly, thank the reviewer for their time and the opportunity to apply.

BONUS – 6. Grammar and Punctuation

As a self-proclaimed writer šŸ™‚ this one is my biggest pet-peeve. Misspelled words and improper grammar, to me, are a sign of laziness. Every word should be as it is meant; no misspelling, no confusing, out-of-place words or sentences. When trying to present yourself in a way that says “I’m intelligent and know my “stuff,”‘ you need to write it as such. If you’re not great at writing, have someone check it for you. Read and re-read your copy before sending off. And DO NOTĀ copy and paste cover letters from other jobs for which you may have applied. We usually can tell becauseĀ many of you forget to change the workplace or employer’s name!

There are many others I can go over, but these are the most common. Follow some of these tips to improve your chances of earningĀ that next position.


The ideas, comments and materials presented hereinĀ are solely those of the author andĀ do not necessarily reflect the NSCAā€™s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion or otherwise.

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