How To Write a Cover Letter for a Military To Civilian Job
Updated July 28, 2023
Serving in the military can prepare you for a wide variety of civilian job opportunities. When making this transition, you want to capture employers' attention and prove that your military background makes you an ideal candidate to support their business. To do this, you submit a cover letter detailing your most relevant and transferable skills.
In this article, we explain how to write a cover letter for a military to a civilian job with tips for writing an effective cover letter. Plus, we provide a template and example to help you write your own.
What is a cover letter for a military to a civilian job?
A cover letter introduces you to a potential employer, aiming to explain why you're a qualified candidate for the job. A military cover letter demonstrates how your military service enables your transition as a veteran into a civilian job. It adds context to your resume, allowing you to provide specific examples of military experiences or skills that prove your abilities. You can also use the letter to explain why you're making the transition into civilian life.
When you apply for a civilian job, some employers require a cover letter. Even if the employer doesn't, writing a cover letter can help you show more interest in the role and give the hiring manager or recruiter more information about yourself that helps them decide whether you're a suitable candidate for the role.
Transitioning from military to civilian employment
When you transition from the military to civilian employment opportunities, there are many skills you can highlight. Any service member, regardless of their length of service, has soft skills such as communication, leadership, time management and organization. Beyond these skills, many service members also pursue training in a specific area as part of their initial military training. Through this training, you develop technical skills based on your military job that you can also transfer into civilian roles.
For example, if you were trained in military law as a paralegal, then you can transfer the technical skills of being a paralegal to a civilian paralegal role. The same is true for other specializations within the military.
How to write a cover letter for a military to a civilian job
When transitioning from the military to a civilian position, explain why your background makes you a qualified candidate. Use these steps to write a compelling military cover letter:
1. List contact information
At the top of your cover letter, list your contact information to ensure the employer knows how to reach you for further conversations. Include your name, physical address, telephone number and professional email address. Then add the date, followed by the recipient's information. List their name, title, the name of the company and its address. If you're sending your cover letter via email rather than a hard copy, you can skip this step.
2. Use a personalized greeting
Next, address the specific person to whom you're writing. This provides a more personal interaction and shows the recipient that you took the time to research the company. Use a formal greeting such as "Dear" and use a title, such as "Mr." or "Ms.," followed by their last name. If you're unsure of the proper title to use, you can address the recipient by their full name.
Try your hardest to find the recipient's name so you can personalize the letter. For example, you can conduct internet searches, search the company website or contact the company. If you still don't have a specific name, avoid using generic, overly formal greetings such as "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam." Instead, try to address them by their title or to the department to which you're applying, and if all else fails, address your letter to the "HR Manager."
3. Introduce yourself
Start your first paragraph by expressing interest in the job you're applying to, along with how you found it. You also want to capture the reader's attention, so briefly introduce yourself and your military background. Describe it in a way that connects to the position to show you have relevant experience. For example, you might mention your experience using a specific technology or employing certain behaviors mentioned in the job description.
4. Detail your background and skills
In your body paragraph, connect your prior experience to the job requirements. Use the job description to determine what qualifications the employer is seeking, then write about the most relevant skills or tasks from your military role. Describe how these skills can enable your success in this position. You can also list significant, relevant achievements from your time in the military. These accomplishments offer the demonstrable benefits you bring to employers.
Make it clear how you add value by researching potential problems facing the company or department. Then use the rest of your body paragraph to describe specific examples of how you solved similar issues in the past. By doing this, you show the employer that you have relevant experience creating solutions and can do the same for them.
5. Write your conclusion
In your final paragraph, thank the employer for their time and consideration. Restate your interest in the position and further impress them by mentioning how you specifically hope to help the company or team if hired. If you haven't yet left the military, you can provide details on when you're making the transition.
Finish by letting the employer know that you're excited to discuss the opportunity further with a job interview. You can also offer to answer any additional questions or provide anything else they may require, such as a list of references.
6. Include a sign-off
Always finish your letter with a professional sign-off, such as "Sincerely," followed by your full name. When sending a hard copy, leave a space between the sign-off and your typed name for your signature. If you're sending the letter via email, you don't have a requirement to include a signature but still list your contact information below your name.
Tips for writing a cover letter for a military to a civilian job
Consider using the following tips to create an optimal cover letter for your military-to-civilian transition:
Customize each cover letter
Always tailor your letters to each opportunity by using keywords and language from the job descriptions. You can use a template to help yourself start writing, but avoid sending the same document to a variety of employers and positions. Customization shows employers that you understand their specific needs and how you can support them.
Keep your letter concise
Your cover letter is no longer than one page, ensuring that the employer has time to read through it. You can play with formatting by listing three to five relevant experiences or accomplishments as bullet points within the body paragraph. This can help quickly attract the employer's eyes and provide your qualifications in an easy-to-read format.
Related: How To Write a Cover Letter Outline
Go beyond your resume
Your resume offers a brief overview of your experience, so use your cover letter to more fully introduce yourself and your abilities. Through specific examples, you can create a narrative on how your military background taught you the skills to succeed in this civilian job opportunity. You can also go in-depth on why you want to make this transition or work for their organization.
Include relevant training or education
As part of this transition, you may have received specialized training to pursue your new career. If so, mention these qualifications within the body paragraph to prove you have gained additional or technical skills that help you accomplish the responsibilities of the role.
Avoid military jargon
When applying for civilian jobs, be sure to explain your military background in plain language that anyone can understand. Explain your experience in terms of both technical skills and soft skills such as leadership, organization and team-building. Additionally, if you use acronyms, spell out each word of the acronym during its first usage and then use the acronym throughout the rest of your cover letter.
Military cover letter template
Below is a template you can use as a guide for writing your own:
[First name] [Last name], [Degree or certification if applicable]
[Phone number] | [Email address] | [City], [State] [Zip code]
Dear [Employer's name],
[In two to three sentences, express your interest in the job opportunity and briefly describe your relevant experience. You can also mention how you discovered the position, particularly if it was through a referral or job assistance program for veterans.]
[Body paragraph(s): Build upon the relevant experience or background mentioned in your introduction by including specific examples of skills, responsibilities or accomplishments from your military service that align with the job. In the same or a separate paragraph, describe how you add value by providing an example of how you have previously solved problems similar to ones the company faces.]
[Closing paragraph: In two to three sentences, thank the employer for their time, reiterate your enthusiasm and let them know you hope to discuss the job further during an interview. Consider including a specific example of how you hope to support their company if hired.]
Military cover letter example
To get a deeper understanding of how to apply the above template, refer to the following sample military cover letter that applies each of the points discussed:
853-193-0012 | email@example.com | St. Louis, Missouri
May 16, 2023
Dear Kris Strickland,
I am excited to be writing to you to apply for the position of network/system administrator at Ritzer Industries. For the past five years, I have served as a cyber network systems administrator for the U.S. Marine Corps. This experience, along with my proficiency in various platforms (including Linux and Windows) and my Cisco networking certifications, makes me an ideal candidate for this role.
I understand you want a candidate to maintain your data security along with the installation, troubleshooting and testing of your systems. I have the hands-on experience of leading a team that created quality solutions to streamline and automate our network processes, along with enhancing security. I spent significant time testing and troubleshooting network connectivity issues and setting up routers, which led me to improve system efficiency by 40%.
I understand the importance of secure data, so I am eager to ensure Ritzer Industries' data and its communication networks are safe and trustworthy. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I'm hoping to discuss this opportunity further during an interview. Thank you for your time and consideration.
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