By Shane Christopher, Editor-in-Chief, G.I. Jobs Magazine
Do you discard junk mail before fully reading it? There's a pretty simple and logical reason for this: Most marketing is bad marketing. Good marketers know that precise targeting of a message is paramount to convincing consumers to respond. Similarly, the cover letter is your pitch to potential employers. Here are three important elements:
Provided that you possess the basic qualifications for the position and fit the basic profile that the company is looking for, your cover letter becomes very handy. It should articulate how your experience, education and skills translate into a great fit for the position being offered. This will require some work on your part.
2. Tie your strengths to the company's needs.
Search the company's website. Read articles. Figure out what the company's needs are and how you might fill them through this particular position. If you're applying for a sales position, talk about how your service in Iraq was sales-oriented. Perhaps you had to negotiate cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites in an Iraqi town. Or if you're applying for a cable installer position, explain how your job as a Navy torpedoman was very electronics-oriented.
Most of all, the cover letter should enable the employer to visualize you working for his company in the position available.
3. Make it easy for the employer.
Hiring managers are busy; they have to pore over many resumes to find the best job candidate. Don't make them work harder. Make them understand how you are a fit for the position. The cover letter is the most effective way to do this.
Though companies found on the Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list have gone above and beyond to understand and recruit military talent, the company you're applying for may not be so kind.
In the end, a great resume without a cover letter is like cake without icing or a star-studded baseball team without a closer.
OK, you get my point. The resume is 95 percent of the work, but the cover letter makes 95 percent of the impact -- don't skip it.
Shane Christopher is editor-in-chief of GI Jobs Magazine.
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