Do you discard junk mail before fully reading it? Do you keep the TV remote in-hand, switching channels within seconds of the next bad commercial? Do you skip over boring magazine ads? There’s a pretty simple and logical reason for this: most marketing is bad marketing! But, you’re looking for a  civilian job after your military transition, so you are a marketer and you need to understand the importance of an effective cover letter to give your civilian job hunt a better chance of success.

Know the Difference Between Good Marketing and Bad Marketing

Good marketers know precise targeting of a message is paramount to convincing consumers to respond. Said another way, a bad marketing message will tout the attributes of the product or service. Example: Yummy cereal contains Vitamin E. A good marketing message will translate how those attributes benefit you. Example: Eating Yummy cereal helps eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.

Your resume is not your marketing message. Go back to my previous comment about bad marketing messages. Sound familiar? It should sound like your resume. It touts the attributes of you.

The cover letter is what translates those attributes into benefits for your potential employer.

An Effective Cover Letter Requires a Little Research

Provided you possess the basic qualifications for the position and fit the basic profile 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.

Search the company’s website for ways to tie-in your strengths to the company’s needs. For instance, 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!

Don’t Make Your Employers Figure it Out on His or Her Own

Hiring managers are busy and have many resumes to pour over to find the best job candidate. So 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.

In the end, a great resume without a great cover letter is like cake without icing or a star-studded baseball team without a good 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.