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How to Write a Cover Letter to Move from Military Service to a Civilian Job (with Template)

Moving from military service to the private sector requires a cover letter when applying to jobs. Here is how to build an effective military to civilian cover letter and a template to get started.

Military experience can prepare you for a great career. To make this transition you will need to build a cover letter to use when applying to jobs. This cover letter will go beyond your resume to tell your story and explain why you are a good fit for the role. Here is how to build an effective military-to-civilian cover letter.

How is a Civilian Cover Letter Different?

To build an effective cover letter for your transition to the civilian sector it is important to first understand why it matters and how they are used. On the civilian side, cover letters actually matter less than they used to. But, many companies still require a cover letter when applying to a job.

The purpose of every cover letter is to introduce you to the potential employer and to provide the story about why you are a good fit for the job. You don't need to repeat your resume in your cover letter. Instead, you should use the cover letter to connect the dots between your military experience and the position that you are pursuing. Read more about what goes in your resume and what goes in the cover letter here.

Connect Your Military Service to the Civilian Job

Use the cover letter to go beyond your resume to explain how your military service is relevant to the job that you are applying to. This means connecting the dots between what you did in the service and how that relates to the specific position that you are applying to.

This means translating your military experience to the particular requirements of the job that you are applying to. You can do this in a few sentences by explaining exactly how you meet the requirements outlined in the job description. You can also provide a few examples of how you demonstrated those requirements to obtain results in the service.

Focus on Your Skills

Employers in the private sector are focused on cultural fits for their company and teams as much as they are qualifications for the position. So, make sure that you include an explanation of your skills in your cover letter to transition out of military service.

You likely gained a number of relevant skills in the military. And, most employers recognize the benefit of these skills and want to hire veterans. But, to stand out amidst the competition, your cover letter needs to explain what your skills are and how they relate to the job you are applying to. These skills could be substantive, specific skills outlined in the job description. Or, they could be soft skills that make you a better candidate. And, make sure that you connect these skills to the results listed on your resume whenever possible to help illustrate how you use those skills as a professional.

Eliminate Military Jargon

A lot of the military lingo simply doesn't translate to the civilian sector. So, you will need to strip out the military jargon as much as possible so that the person reading your cover letter can understand your message. You can do this by focusing on the skills you gained as explained above. You can also reframe these experiences by using the language from the job posting to customize your cover letter. If you do that, then make sure that you can honestly speak to everything that you include in your cover letter. And, be ready to answer any questions about what you include on your resume or cover letter in the interview.

Include the Basics

An effective military to the civilian cover letter will include all of the basics. This means including all of the following:

  • Your name

  • Your contact information (mobile and email)

  • The job you are applying to

  • Name of the company that you are applying to

  • Personalized greeting

  • Explanation of who you are and why you are a good fit

  • A few sentences explaining why you want the job

  • Sign-off that closes the letter


Below you will find a template to get started in building your military-to-civilian cover letter that applies all of the advice above:

[Your name]

[Your address]

[Your phone number and email address]


[Employer's name]

[Employer's title]

[Company's name]

[Company's address]

To Whom it May Concern:

This letter is to express my interest in this position as found [online or include a description if it came through a job assistance program for veterans]. I am a strong candidate for this job because [include a few reasons here that are relevant to the job].

My enclosed resume reflects that I am qualified for this position. [include a few sentences about how you meet the required and/or preferred qualifications listed in the job description. This will help the civilian to understand how your military experience translates to the job that you are applying to.]

My depth of prior military experience would also prove invaluable if selected for this role. For example, I [include a few notable achievements here and explain them to help the person see how you compare to other candidates]

I was honorably discharged from military service and I am now actively looking for the right role. I am looking for a role where I can apply the skills I gained in the service in a new way where I am also continuing to grow professionally. This role appears to be a good match because [include a few sentences to explain why you want this job and why you think it is a fit.]


[Your name]

Need more help building your Military-to-Civilian Cover Letter? Our team of experts can help. Claim your Military Veteran's Discount today.