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Military veterans: create the perfect cover letter for civilian jobs

Jaynine Howard USMC (Ret), PhD (ABD) Dream Catcher - Business & Career Coaching

Your cover letter is the first item that will get the hiring manager's attention. Yet most people don’t bother attaching or sending a cover letter when applying for a job. A well written cover letter will get your telephone ringing. The person reading your cover letter will not need to read your resume when you follow this simple advice for preparing the perfect cover letter. The person will know you are the right person for the job.


Do actually complete a cover letter

It is tempting to skip the cover letter. Many websites make it look like the cover letter is an optional item. Always make time to prepare a cover.

Do research the company and job announcement

The first step to writing a perfect cover letter is to research the company. Identify the company culture. Ensure the company aligns with your values before you proceed further. You do not want to work for a company that does not support your personal values and ethical standards. If you do not see a name on the job announcement you may find the name of the hiring manager or human resources manager on the company website. You will also want to use the complete mailing address if possible in the address block when preparing your perfect cover letter.

Do identify key words

You must review the job announcement for key words. Ensure these keywords are in your cover letter so that it is picked up by the crawlers and by the person skimming the cover letter prior to sending it to higher ups to read. The person reading the cover letter may not be familiar with other terms used, therefore he or she may not forward the cover letter and resume onward. Do not make the person reading the cover letter guess whether or not you possess the skills the company desires.

Do highlight and quantify skills

In the body of the perfect cover letter you will want to list the skills that the company is looking for to hire, and then how you have that skill. You will want to give an example and a quantified accomplishment to show that you meet that requirement or skill.

Do use spell check

Lastly, do not forget to use spell check and grammar check before you send your cover letter. Attention to detail is mandatory. Do not let a typo or poor sentence structure send your resume and cover letter into the trash can.


Do not make it generic

One size does not fit all. Each resume deserves a well written cover letter. Do not just change the names and date to your cover letter. Make each one personalized for the job that you are applying.

Do not address it to whom it may concern

Look at the job announcement and see if there is a person listed that you should email the job. If not, look at the company website or call and ask for a name. This little step in attention to detail will speak volumes about your professionalism.

Do not use sloppy formatting

If you are not familiar with a business letter format, get assistance. In the ‘To’ block, you will want to put the complete mailing address of the company. This can be found on the company website or possibly the job announcement.

Do not forget to include your phone number and email address

Remember to include as a last sentence how the person can contact you. Do not make the person scan your cover letter for identifying information.

Do not forget to send or attach a cover letter

This is one step that will set you apart from many other people applying for the job. Make sure that you attach a cover letter to your application, whether they ask for one or not.

Jumping cartoon

When you implement this advice for writing the perfect cover letter, you will know that your cover letter will get read. Just as it takes only about 10-15 seconds for someone to sum up an opinion of you based on your appearance, it only takes a reader about five seconds to sum up an opinion of you based on your cover letter. Your cover letter must pass the five second rule. The cover letter will open or close the door for you and your resume. Write the perfect cover letter by implementing this simple advice.

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Photo Credits: Medal of Honor - SSG Salvatore Giunta - United States Army by Flickr: U.S. Army; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Jaynine HowardUSMC (Ret), PhD (ABD)

Jerri Jaynine Howard is a well-known business and career coach, author and trainer. Jaynine’s experience as a leader and motivator stems from her 20 year military career where she served honorably in the United States Marine Corps. Jaynine ...

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