Many online applications allow you to choose whether you want to include a cover letter along with your resumé. If you are given such an option, you should always attach your cover letter. You are, in essence, communicating to the hiring manager that you are taking the application process seriously and you wish that he/she take you seriously as well.
But What is a Cover Letter?
When you apply for a job, your employer or hiring manager may want you to send in a resumé to get to know a little bit more about you. The resumé, however, will give the person reading your application a simple and broad overview of your skills.
He or she will simply not know the specific details of what you did and learned while you were in Company X or what your MOS means. If you wrote an informative resumé, your employer may have gotten bullet-pointed glimpses of your abilities, but the cover letter is where you can show the hiring manager the specific details of your past experiences that you would like to highlight.
In short, a cover letter is a one-page document sent with your resume to provide extra information on your skills and past experiences. Hiring managers like to use cover letters to supplement what you tell them in your resumé, so writing a good and informative cover letter can go a long way to help your employer see how you'd be a good fit for the team.
One question you might have is, why send in a cover letter if you already have a resumé? What's the point?
We'll review some more details about why to include a cover letter, what to include, and we'll finish by going over some sample cover letters.
Why Include a Cover Letter?
You should consider including a cover letter when you apply for a specific job to make it easier for your employer to see what position you are interested in, how your military experience is transferable to the workplace, and to see how you would qualify for the job opening. Recruiters also look for key information that is necessary to contact you for an interview.
For starters, you need to:
1) introduce yourself
2) mention the job you are applying for
3) explain how your past experiences and education have led you to develop skills that are relevant to the job
5) show how and why you think you'd be a good fit for the position
6) thank the recruiter for taking the time to review your application, and express your interest in speaking more in an interview or a phone call.
It's important to detail these things in your cover letter, as it will make it easier for your employer to match your skills/experiences/education with those required by the job opening, and perhaps even consider you for a different role that may be a better fit for you and the company.
Tips on Writing Cover Letters
You should never use one cover letter for the different jobs you are applying for. Let's review some of the ways you can customize your cover letter so that your recruiter or hiring manager can see the personality in your application.
Here are some simple ways to make your cover letter stand out.
1) Find the Name of the Person Receiving Your Application
Avoid the general "To Whom It May Concern." If you found the position you're applying for online or on an ad, you will most likely find the name of the recruiter who will receive the application. Address the letter to that person.
If you can't find the name of the person who will be reviewing your application, call (don't e-mail) the employer or the recruitment agency and ask who would be receiving the application, so know how to properly address the letter. It's a gesture that goes a long way and can easily set your application apart from others. If you couldn't find the name of the recruiter receiving the application from the job posting, others probably haven't either. And if you take an extra step to find out who you're addressing, your application will stand out from the rest.
Remember to use "Mr." or "Ms." to address the person. Don't use their first name. Cover letters should be professional and formal.
If all else fails and you can't get your hands on a point of contact, refer to the company's name and add a modifier, such as "Team."
For example, if you were applying for a job at eBay and you couldn't find the name or contact information for the person who posted the job (even after you tried reaching out to the company and asked for a specific addressee), you should try to address the letter like the following:
"Dear eBay Talent Acquisition Team," "Dear eBay Recruiting Team," or "Dear eBay Recruiting Manager."
2) Do Your Homework: Know What You're Applying For
Before you actually send in your application materials, you should brush up on some of the facts about the company, what they do, where they're going, and what they need.
If You Attended a Career Fair
If you attended a specific veterans career fair, speak to one of the representatives to find out more about the company and the type of work they do. Try to see what interests and needs align before applying so that you have a clearer picture of what you'd like to see yourself doing and how you and the company would both benefit with you in the workplace.
If you went to a veteran jobs fair, or had the opportunity to speak with the recruiter in other capacities, ask some questions to find out more about the company. Knowing more about the company will naturally help you write better and more tailored cover letters for the application.
Some things to ask the recruiter may involve a mix of both general and specific questions so that you can find things to mention in your cover letter. Let's review some helpful questions we can ask when meeting the recruiter in person:
- What can I expect to do on a day-to-day at your company?
- What does the job specifically entail?
- What type of candidate would be ideal for this position?
- What's the company's culture like?
- What type of company should I expect to see in 5 years?
Meeting the recruiter before sending in your application has an additional perk. You can mention your conversations with the recruiter in the cover letter, mentioning the things you've learned or picked up while speaking with him/her and how and why those things interested in you in a specific way.
If the person reading your application is not the same person you spoke to in person, mention the name of the representative you spoke to at the career fair and include some of the things that interested you in the conversation. Anything to indicate that you've shown effort in learning about the company can go a long way in showing the recruiter that you are the right fit. For example:
"Dear Mr. Riley,
I spoke to Jim Stone, one of your company's representative at last week's Veterans Career Fair in Detroit, and was happy to see that your company has some vacant engineering positions. During our conversation at the fair, I learned that your company was undergoing some major changes, and Mr. Stone informed me about the renewed emphasis the company is placing on quality engineers with experience using heavy machinery. I also learned that the focus of the company's culture seemed to revolve around teamwork and transparency, two qualities that typified my experiences throughout my years of service in the military..."
If You're Applying Without Meeting a Recruiter in Person
If you haven't met anyone from the company to speak about the position or ask questions regarding the job, don't worry. There are still other ways to do "homework."
You can learn a lot about what the company does and what major departments are in charge of at the company's "About Us" page. Poking around there website to get as much information about the type of things the company is involved in can help you learn more about what you'd be interested in doing.
Find the company's specifics by Googling it. The job description of the posting by the ad/recruitment agency may not be enough for you to have a grasp on what the company is all about. If you want to know more, dig deeper. If you are interested in the company but still have no idea what the company does on a day-to-day (even after looking around their website), you might want to consider picking up the phone and calling their office number to talk to an operator or a Human Resources (HR) representative about what the company is all about.
If the specific company is on RallyPoint and you find its company page, reach out to fellow service members and veterans and ask them about their experiences about their time at the company you are interested in. Arming yourself with as much information about the company and about the position that you are applying for will help you recognize what type of experiences and skills you should spend time explaining to the recruiter. If you find out that the company is placing a heavy focus on software development for the next couple of years and has many of the similar positions, mention how you see that your particular skills align with the company's need. Show that you did your homework, and your recruiter will recognize that you are a serious candidate.
What Information Should You Include in the Cover Letter?
Now it's time to make sure that you know what type of information you should include in your cover letter. Like your resumé, the cover letter should include:
-Your phone number
-Postal address (optional)
1) When including this information, ensure that the phone number you listed is one that you can be reached at. There is no reason to put in your home phone number if no one can reach you. The phone number is there to give your recruiter an easy access to call you and inform you about his/her interest in speaking with you about the job position.
2) The same goes for your e-mail address. Make sure you include an e-mail address that you check so that you can respond to your recruiter if he/she is interested in interviewing you. Make sure your e-mail address is professional and doesn't reveal unnecessary information like your date of birth, religious/ethnic identification, etc. For a name like John Doe, "john.doe," "j.doe," or "john_doe" are appropriate e-mail addresses. Refrain from "johndoe1982" and other personal e-mails.
3) Your postal address (if you choose to include it) can inform your recruiter that you're in the area or that there's a recruiter in your area so that you can meet for an in-person interview or meeting.
4) Also remember that you should mention the name of the position you're applying for at the start of your cover letter. For example: "I am writing to express my interest in applying for the Business Development position at [your company]."
5) Make sure you're directly answering the qualifications that were listed on the cover letter and how your skills, experience, and education align with those qualifications. But do not simply list your skills or experience. You want to make sure that you explain how you've used those experiences and skills in the past in whatever position you were in. If you had marketing experience, explain in specific detail what you did for a previous job or position. If you have leadership qualities, explain how you were able to lead a team. Be careful to not go too deep into any graphic combat experience. Highlighting what you did in a particularly stressful time during deployment and the skills and lessons you learned are great details to include, but including too many details about the operation itself is not necessary in helping the recruiter know what you've learned.
6) Try to speak the job's lingo to show your experience with the type of work that the job entails. For example, if you know that the company is looking for a specific engineer or computer programmer, mention your familiarity with the type of machine tool that is used frequently in the workplace or your fluency with the language that is being used for programming.
7) Include a "Call to Action." This is a brief statement to encourage your recruiter to do something simple like checking your resumé or reach out to you at the recruiter's earliest convenience. Something short like "I've attached my resumé for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you."
What Information Should You Not Include in the Cover Letter?
You want to make sure that you eliminate typos and mistakes you made in your cover letter. Always re-read your cover letter to make sure that you haven't made a typo that wasn't caught by your document spellchecking application.
You also want to make sure that the name of the company that you are applying to is on the cover letter. When sending multiple letters, one common error is to accidentally forget to change a phrase that included the name of a company you were applying to before, leading to a very awkward situation.
The trick with making sure that you revise your cover letter so that it does not have any awkward phrasing or other areas of error is to go back a day or two after you've written your work and re-reading it. You will often find areas that can be worded better and clearer when you take some time off and go back to your writing.
You may want to consider finding someone like a peer or family member to read it and proofread your letter. An extra pair of eyes can go a long way in helping you detect mistakes.
Additionally, do not suggest or hint at the fact that you have other job applications. You want to try to persuade the hiring manager that the application that you are submitting for the particular company is important and serious. It's difficult to convince the recruiter that you want the position if you are looking for other positions elsewhere.
E-mailing/Submitting Cover Letters
At times, you may encounter an employer or hiring manager that wants you to send the cover letter as an e-mail instead of a attachable document.
In this circumstance, you should write your name and the position you are applying for. For example, "John Doe - Business Development Role."
Sample Cover Letters
We'll look at three examples. The first one of the three that we will see blow is a civilian cover letter that one might send to a fictional "Company X."
John Doe(999) 999-9999123 Wall St.Happyville, CA 99999Dear Ms. Granger,I am a second-year student at the University Z pursuing a bachelor’s in Marketing and am writing to convey my deep interest in being a Marketing Analyst for Company X. I am optimistic that my passion for business, outreach, and data analytics as well as my love for working with others, and my persistence in finding creative solutions would make me a good fit for this position.My strengths lay in attention to detail and clear communications. As an executive leader in the university's Business Group, I have had the opportunity to refine my skills in understanding market trends, data analytics, and using softwares like Omniture to create a dashboard of important statistics that enabled our team to make accurate extrapolations for future business decisions.
My current involvement with the Business Group is only one of several experiences that has equipped me with the background to work effectively at your company. This past summer, I worked at the Marketing Company Y, where I performed a wide variety of high-impact work. One of the projects I worked on involved projecting cash flows and customer trends for the company. Based on my analysis, I was able to firmly show with high statistical confidence that a new strategic marketing position would benefit the company. Over the course of the summer, I also helped build lasting relationships and partnerships with companies such as Company A, Company B, and Company C in an effort to boost our mobile and web traffic and gain more visibility for our product.
Furthermore, my academic interests in Statistics provide me with an extremely well-versed technical background that would benefit me at your company. In addition, I have significant programming experience, which undoubtedly will give me a versatile technical framework in my job function. I believe the skills I’ve developed through my years of studies and prior internships position me well for the type of market analysts that Company X is seeking to hire.
Thank you for your consideration. I am assured that my experiences working with Company X will help me grow as a student and as an dedicated employee. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you. I have attached my resumé for your consideration.Sincerely,John Doe
Another example with elements of your military history is shown below. This is an edited sample provided on the American Military University's website. If you are interested in the American Military University, check out their RallyPoint page.
Jamie Jones111 W. Congress StreetCharles Town, WV 25414(123) email@example.com
Dear Mr./Ms. Hiring Manager:
Please accept my application for the Contract Specialist position as listed on USA Agency’s website. Through my previous experience serving in the military for over 10 years I demonstrated an exceptional success rate reworking and negotiating contracts on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps, which will greatly benefit your organization. USA Agency’s dedication to providing quality business assistance to help clients achieve their goals aligns with my professional vision of helping those develop services and support to maintain and achieve success.
Recently, I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration with American Public University System, where I researched complex business strategies and examined business plans. Coupled with my experience in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have experience negotiating contracts, keeping the best interest of the client in mind. Utilizing in-depth price and cost analyst techniques, considering all factors and process, I have made recommendations to upper management within the Marine Corps regarding the best interest of the organization with respect to contracts and providers. Through my recommendations, I have managed to save the organization over 10% over the original contract price. These skills will benefit USA Agency as I will keep the client’s interests in mind while working as an advocate for them in my negotiations.
Additionally, as a government agency liaison, serving with the United States Marine Corps I communicated with many different people and worked with various types of contracts. While working as a Quality Assurance Representative, I communicated with vendors to order materials and parts needed based on careful calculations of need and inventory. In addition, I was solely responsible for evaluating the unit’s current contracts and renegotiating with contractors in order to reach the best outcome for the unit. With my knack for details and evaluation of present and future needs I will be conscious of the need of USA Agency’s clients while achieving the best results.
My proven experience in the U.S. Marine Corps and educational accomplishments make me a great match for the Contract Specialist position with USA Agency. I welcome a time to meet in person to discuss my experience and qualifications in more detail at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time and consideration in advance.
A third example provided here is a shorter sample that mirrors a military transition to a civilian job cover letter for a technician position for a fictional company.
Jane Doe(111) 111-1111123 Generic Address St.
City, State 00000Ms. Bristol Berry
000 Bland Ave
City, State 11111Dear Ms. Berry,I am a transitioning veteran and have had nearly 15 years of air conditioning and heating training through my years of service in the U.S. Army. My experience and skills in this technical area make me an ideal candidate for the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning technician that your company is seeking.I am fully certified to work on residential, commercial, as well as industrial heating and cooling systems. My professional training throughout my years of installing and repairing these types of systems has been both a rewarding and worthwhile experience, as I have learned the ins and outs of the planning and implementation of the process, including blueprinting and using schematic representation.Additionally, my years of military service have honed my abilities to perform customer-centered work. Certainly, my commitment to servicing others, colleagues or clients alike, has and will continue to guide the work that I perform.I am proud of the past success that I have had, and I know I will deliver the same results to your company. I am definitely excited to discuss the possibilities with you.I've attached a resumé for your consideration and look forward to hearing back from you to discuss anything you may have in mind.Sincerely,Jorge Nedvins
Like writing resumés, writing cover letters should be an activity that requires constant revisions. You should always be going back to update your cover letter with up-to-date information and making sure that you can word things concisely but powerfully.