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  • Jay Hicks

Virtues of a Cover Letter

Veterans often fret over their resumes, spending hours translating military skills, seeking advice and tailoring for a specific job. Significant mental energy is dedicated to this critical job seeking essential. However, when it comes to the on-line application, often exhaustion sets in and there is little energy left for their meager and neglected cover letter.

When pondering the cover letter question, you may contemplate the following:

• Do I really need a cover letter?

• Is anyone going to read this?

• Should I just use a generic cover letter format and get this task over with?

• With my relevant information in the resume, do I need to spend much time on this?

Experts in the staffing field say that a well-written cover letter, not a resume, will land you more job interviews. As a transitioning service member, it would be a tragic mistake not to spend the time and effort necessary for a personalized cover letter, each time you apply. Here are a few pointers:

Be brief. Do not overdo your letter. A short, pithy, excited and to the point cover letter will get read. Human Resource (HR) folks are not going to read through a long boring document when they are quickly scanning for the right candidate. Often, less is more.

The layout is important. Address your cover letter to someone. Find out who will receive the cover letter and address your cover letter to them. If you cannot get this information, open with a subject line with something like: “Cover Letter: Your Name, Your Credential”. Remember, “Dear HR Team Member” is lame.

Try to open the letter with a hook. The first sentence must grip the reader. The hook will almost guarantee your cover letter and resume get a much closer look. You can do this through one of several methods.

• You can express your excitement for the job opportunity. This translates to motivation and dedication. This can make HR want to find out more about your qualifications.

• Use Keywords - Knowing that scanning or applicant tracking systems are widely used, another approach to the opening line is to make it keyword-heavy.

• Do not be afraid to use names or a connection. This is a foreign concept to many service members because we do not do this in the military. If someone in your professional network refers you, do not hesitate to drop the name, straight away. This is done all the time in the civilian world and people often receive referral dollars for doing so. Remember, time is money and this method helps HR rapidly fill positions with quality candidates.

• Your opener can impact employers by demonstrating your knowledge of recent news associated with the company. Associate the knowledge to the position in which you are applying. Let them know why you would be the best candidate as relative to this news.

Make sure your cover letter communicates what you can do for the business, how you will benefit the company and its bottom line. You may need to take a few minutes and perform some internet searches to relate your added value in clear terms.

There is only one purpose of the cover letter; to get job interviews.

Ensure you have an enthusiastic ending and request something. Ask the employer for some kind of action. Go ahead and request an opportunity to interview this week or earliest convenience. You do not get what you don’t ask for. This is often a great way to end your cover letter. Thank them for the opportunity. Your closing should assume you are going to land the interview.

You want to be able to rapidly reuse your cover letter repeatedly. You need to create a folder for cover letters. This will enable you to quickly tailor the opening and cover letter to relate your skills to the essential elements of the job announcement. Do not forget to save your cover letter for quick modification and future use.

Remember, the cover letter is your marketing sheet.

• Have you put together a cover letter? • Are your transitioning peers using cover letters? • Does your cover letter reflect your personality?

Virtues of a Cover Letter - From Jay Hicks' newest book, The Periodic Table of Military Transition. Coming to Amazon in March. Pre-order today on Jay's Website or email him at

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