DIY Cover Letters for Military and Veterans
As a service member preparing to transition out of the military or a veteran seeking to change professions, you’ve spent countless hours to perfect your military to civilian resume. However, one aspect of the job hunt that you may not have given much thought is writing cover letters.
Sending a cover letter along with a military to civilian resume seems old school, but even in the age of point and click to apply for jobs online through LinkedIn or Indeed, a cover letter can set you apart from other candidates.
At Empire Resume, we care about the career success of servicemen and women, veterans, and their spouses, so we’ve compiled a few tactics that will help you to write a killer cover letter.
What is a Cover Letter?
Think of a cover letter as a formal way to introduce yourself. It accompanies your resume and tells the decision maker who you are, what job you’re applying for, where you found the vacancy, and what skills you have.
Always remember the 3 W’s of cover letters – who, what, and where. These three will never steer you wrong.
Do-It-Yourself Cover Letter Strategies for Success
While there are several methods and techniques for writing a cover letter, we’ve included five of our best tips below:
- Letterhead and format matters. Even though your cover letter may be sent electronically, it’s important to format it correctly. Be sure to include your contact information at the top such as your name, city and state, phone number, email, and LinkedIn profile.
If you have a well-crafted resume, simply copy the contact information from the resume and paste it into the header of the word processor of your choice, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Or, you can take advantage of the letterhead templates in Word and the graphic design tool, Canva. These are free and simple to create.
Next, list the date, followed by the contact information for the hiring manager. Finally, begin your letter with “Dear Mr. or Mrs.”
For example, here’s what your cover letter should look like:
May 6, 2020
Director of Development
123 Shoe Street
Office Space, NY 11234
Dear Ms. Smith:
Introduction paragraph: Here is where you say who you are, what job you’re applying for and where you found the ad.
Body: Use the body to connect your background to the job description.
Closing paragraph: Close with stating your interest in the position by requesting the opportunity to discuss your value and thank the manager for their consideration.
Sign off: The best sign off is sincerely. It’s formal and perfect for cover letters and any other type of professional or business writing.
- Keep a professional yet positive tone. It’s not about what you say but how you say it. Make sure your cover letter doesn’t come across as arrogant. Being relatable and personable is the key. Also, you should address the hiring authority personally as Mr. or Ms. A rule of thumb is to use Ms. for a woman, even if you know she’s married.
- Write a narrative. Don’t be afraid to tell a story. Hiring managers don’t want to see the same information that’s listed on your resume. Show how you overcame a challenging task or how you solved a problem for a previous employer while incorporating your talents. This is a great way to brag on your accomplishments without boasting.
- Tailor your cover letter to the job. Make sure your cover letter speaks to the job, not the company. Tell the hiring manager how you’re the best candidate for that specific role, not the organization. You want to make it easy for the recruiter to choose you for the position.
- The shorter the better. Remember, the recruiter is reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. It’s best to keep your cover letter under one-page in length. If you’re a numbers person, we’d say keep your cover letter under 300 words.
For more cover letter ideas and direction to help you craft your own, we’ve created three sample cover letters that will put you on the right track.
If you’ve reached this point of the article and you’re still not sure why a cover letter is necessary, you’re not alone. Next, we’ll discuss the issue with cover letters, show you why they’re needed, and discuss the types of companies want them.
The Cover Letter Dilemma
The problem with job seekers is that they believe the resume is the star of the job search. Unfortunately, people equate the resume to being a lead singer, while the cover letter sings back up.
This is not true. The resume and cover letter work together as one to show why you’re the best match for the job.
According to Ladders, studies suggest that 56% of employers request cover letters from applicants. And, when they performed their own analysis of tech companies, they found:
- Only 48% of tech giants such as Google and Amazon want cover letters;
- While 55% of medium-sized companies want cover letters; and
- 65% of startups demand cover letters.
Essentially, the smaller companies value cover letters the most during the application process. But no matter the size of the company, you can see that cover letters matter.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.