Best Practice Number One:  Always, always, always follow the directions provided by the potential employer. If they tell you not to write a cover letter, then don’t waste your time. If an employer tells you they want a specific format (including something uncommon or even a little bit wacky), then make sure you do it that way.

Best Practice Number Two:  If you are not going to put any real effort in, don’t bother. Cover letters weed people out, so don’t give the potential employer a reason to say no.

Now for the other best practices:



  • Proofread your cover letter to ensure it is without error. A study shows 77 percent of employers find typos or bad grammar to be an instant deal breaker.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Show some personality.
  • Be brief: keep it to a half page to one page, and shorter is better.
  • Edit ruthlessly. Every single piece of it should answer the question “so what?”
  • Write a new cover letter for each job.
  • Do your research.
  • Whenever possible, address your cover letter to a specific person by name. If you can’t, try “Dear Hiring Manager
  • Use caution when using a template or sample cover letters as inspiration.
  • Explain employment gaps in your cover letter.
  • Use a .pdf to preserve formatting when providing an electronic document.
  • Send yourself a test email when providing your resume as an email attachment and your cover letter as an email.
  • Do not regurgitate your resume.
  • Do not re-state your education.
  • Do not apologize for missing experience.
  • Do not expect your first draft to be your final draft; self-edit, and have another person (perhaps a mentor, a P&PD Advisor, FMEAP Specialist, or a Transition Specialist) read it and provide feedback.
  • Do not use unusual or overly familiar greetings (ex: Dear Friend).
  • Do not mention salary, fringe benefits, vacation time, etc. (It’s too soon!)
  • Do not snail mail a resume without a cover letter.
  • Do not photocopy your cover letter.








Searching for more in-depth assistance with cover letters? Contact your installation’s Family Member Employment Assistance or Transition Readiness staff and ask the Marine for Life Network on LinkedIn. For more job search tips, follow Marine for Life on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!