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Four Ways Your Cover Letter Should Differ from Your Resume
Published: Sep 22, 2019 By Andrea Moran
Everyone knows cover letters and resumes aren’t the same thing—but exactly how are they different? Formatting is the most obvious and visually recognizable difference: cover letters are generally written in full paragraphs, while resumes feature specific job-related facts in bullet-point style. But the distinctions between the two goes so much deeper than surface looks! Read on for more ways in which your cover letter and resume should differ.
If you think writing a cover letter seems redundant when including your resume, you’re under the mistaken impression that the two documents serve the same purpose. Hint: They don’t. A resume is a quick way of demonstrating whether or not you’re qualified for the position. It’s a compilation of your past jobs and current skill sets—nothing more, nothing less. A cover letter gives potential employers a more multidimensional look at who you are as a professional and individual. It takes the job roles and skills listed in the resume and applies them to you as an employee and a human being.
Just as you use a different style of writing when composing an email to a friend than you do to an employer, Resume Writing Lab points out your style of writing should differ from a resume to a cover letter. A resume doesn’t allow any room for personalization and should be written as clearly and concisely as possible. A cover letter, on the other hand, gives you a chance to showcase your personality a bit more by providing (specific, job-related) anecdotes that illustrate your qualification for the job. While you don’t want to necessarily be cracking jokes throughout, the style of a cover letter can be a bit more personal.
A common mistake applicants make is assuming resumes and cover letters contain the same information. However, resumes are strictly objective (You worked at ABC company for X number of years and were in charge of XYZ duties) while cover letters are subjective (You increased sales by X percentage on a particularly difficult project). Both convey facts, but your cover letter is an opportunity to tell more of a story, expanding (quickly and succinctly) on the simple facts reflected in your resume.
Yes, it’s true your cover letter and resume will be read by the same group of recruiters/hiring managers/potential employers within a single office and should therefore be extremely professional in nature. However, your resume is likely to be mostly applicable to any job you’re applying for. Your cover letter, on the other hand, should specifically address an individual person and needs to be altered (not only in the greeting line, but also in the contents of the letter) for each job. A cover letter requires more research in the sense that you must figure out who is going to be reading the letter—one that begins “Dear Hiring Manager” is much more likely to be tossed in the trash than one that begins “Dear Mr. Jones.”
The differences between a resume and a cover letter may seem minor or incidental, but they add up to create two completely different documents. Nothing bores a hiring manager (and thus severely decreases your chance of scoring an interview) more than reading a cover letter that mirrors what you already wrote in your resume.
Choose one or two highlights from your resume and expand upon them in a way that connects you to the company to which you’re applying, and help the hiring manager connect the dots between the employee you have been and the employee you could be.
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What Is the Difference Between a Resume and a Cover Letter?
Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.
- Resume vs. Cover Letter
What a Resume Includes
What a cover letter includes.
- Use a Cover Letter to be Subjective
Prostock-Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus
What's the difference between a resume and a cover letter? Both a cover letter and a resume share the common purpose of proving that you have the right skills to excel at the job for which you are applying.
However, there are clear distinctions between the structure and intent of the two documents. Job seekers should view their cover letter and resume as a complementary but unique pair of documents. That is, your cover letter should be more than just bullet points regurgitated from the resume.
Many employers require that a resume is submitted with a job application.
A cover letter may not be required. But, including one when you apply for a job can help your chances of getting selected for an interview.
The Difference Between a Resume and a Cover Letter
You can think of your resume as a general summary of your work experience and your cover letter as a summary of your work experience as it relates to the job at hand.
A resume is a document that itemizes your employment history. It summarizes the jobs you have held, the education you have attained, certifications, skills, and other quantifiable information about your background and work experience.
The most common resume format is a list with your contact information, and experience section that includes job titles, position descriptions, dates of employment, an education section, and other relevant information.
Typically, a resume is written in the third person and uses as few words as possible to summarize the experience. So, instead of writing "I supervised the large buying team at XYZ company" a resume would have a bullet point that says, "Supervised 19-person buying team."
Whenever possible, you'll want to use numbers on your resume, such as the number of people you supervised, percent sales increased, the number of customers helped, etc.
A cover letter is written to highlight the qualifications you have for the job for which you are applying. It is used to provide the employer with additional information as to why you are a good candidate for the job. The main function of your cover letter is to show off how your qualification makes you a match for the job.
A cover letter is written in a letter format including a salutation, several paragraphs, and a closing. Unlike a resume, you should use the first-person to write your cover letter . (That said, avoid using "I" too much.)
Your resume should provide employers with a detailed list of your work experience and education. The skills and accomplishments associated with each job you have held should be described in enough detail to show employers how you have added value in those specific roles.
Often, resumes provide information in bulleted lists; this helps make the document concise and allows recruiters to scan through it quickly.
A cover letter is a short three or four paragraph document. It should be written with the assumption that employers will consult your resume to match it to the statement you are making in the letter about your qualifications.
A cover letter will help employers to interpret your background as represented on the resume and will help prove how your previous experiences qualify you for a job.
When you are writing a cover letter for a job, first review the job requirements that are detailed in the job posting. Use your cover letter to explain how you meet those criteria.
Use a Cover Letter to Convey Subjective Information
A resume states the facts – who, what, when, and how. In contrast, a cover letter provides an opportunity to explain why you are qualified for the job. This document adds a bit of color and personality and is intended to persuade employers that you're a good fit for the position at hand.
A cover letter is a better vehicle than a resume to convey more subjective information like the basis of your interest in a position, how your values motivate you to pursue a job, or why the culture of a company appeals to you.
Your cover letters will help you sell your qualifications to prospective employers while your resume provides the details to back up the information included in your letters.
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How Does a Cover Letter Differ from a Resume? Key Differences Explained
When applying for a job, candidates often encounter two critical documents: the cover letter and the resume. Although these two items work together in the job application process, they serve distinct purposes and should be approached differently. Understanding the nuances that differentiates a cover letter from a resume can ensure that applicants leverage their strengths in each document – thereby increasing their chances of securing an interview.
At its core, a resume is a concise, easy-to-read document summarizing an applicant’s professional experience, skills, and education. It is typically presented in a structured format, with bullet points and clear headings highlighting the individual’s qualifications. On the other hand, a cover letter serves as a personalized introduction to an employer, allowing the applicant to voice their enthusiasm for the company and the position, while offering a glimpse into their personality and career objectives. By describing how their skills and experiences align with the specific job requirements, they can demonstrate their suitability for the role.
Purpose of a Cover Letter
A cover letter serves as an introduction to your resume and allows you to showcase your skills and experiences that make you the ideal candidate for the job. Unlike a resume, which is more focused on listing your accomplishments and work history, a cover letter offers the opportunity to provide more context to your experiences and explain how they align with the company’s needs.
Setting the Tone
A cover letter sets the tone for your entire job application by offering a glimpse into your personality and communication style. It is an opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring manager and speak about your motivation for applying for the position. Writing a strong and engaging cover letter can help you stand out from other applicants, as it demonstrates that you have taken the time to research the company and the role.
Your cover letter should demonstrate how your skills and experiences make you the right fit for the job. Use specific examples from your work history or achievements that align with the job requirements. By connecting your skills and experiences with the company’s needs, you can illustrate how you can add value to the organization.
For example, if the job posting mentions the need for strong teamwork skills, you can share an anecdote from a previous role where you successfully collaborated with a diverse team or led a group project. This will help to reinforce the connection between your background and the needs of the company, showing that you are well-suited for the position.
Purpose of a Resume
A resume is a concise document that presents your work history, education, skills, and relevant qualifications to employers. The primary purpose of a resume is to demonstrate your suitability for a particular job and to help you secure an interview. Let’s explore some of the key aspects of a resume under the sub-sections:
One of the main functions of a resume is to outline your professional experience, including the positions you’ve held, the companies you’ve worked for, and the time frame you were employed in each role. This helps employers assess your work history and evaluate your background for the role in question.
For each position listed on your resume, you should include a few bullet points detailing your responsibilities and accomplishments. Using achievement-focused statements and quantifiable data, such as percentages or revenue amounts, can help to demonstrate your impact and value as an employee effectively. For example:
- Increased sales by 25% over a 12-month period.
- Managed a team of 15, resulting in a 10% reduction in turnover.
Another vital aspect of a resume is the presentation of your relevant skills, which can include both hard skills (such as specific software programs) and soft skills (like communication and teamwork). These skills should be tailored to the position you’re applying for to show employers that you possess the necessary qualifications and abilities to perform the job successfully.
To showcase your skills effectively, consider using a table or a dedicated skills section with bullet points. For a clean and professional look, you may structure your skills section as follows:
Length and format.
The first key difference between a cover letter and a resume is the length and format. A cover letter is typically a one-page document, while a resume can be one to two pages long. Additionally, a cover letter follows a letter format, addressing the recipient and using a closing line, whereas a resume uses a more structured layout with headings and bullet points.
In terms of content focus, a cover letter is centered more on the applicant’s interest in the job and the company, while a resume highlights the individual’s skills, education, and work experiences. A cover letter allows for a deeper explanation of the applicant’s motives and their fit with the company, whereas a resume provides a concise overview of the applicant’s credentials.
Lastly, the degree of personalization differs in cover letters and resumes. A cover letter should be customized to each specific job application and directly address the hiring manager or team. It should demonstrate an understanding of the company’s values and needs, making a clear connection between the applicant and the job requirements. On the other hand, resumes can be more generic, though it is still recommended to tailor resume content to highlight relevant skills and experiences.
To further emphasize the distinctions, let’s examine the differences in the form of a table:
Job seekers should aim to create a well-crafted cover letter and resume that complement each other. By understanding the key differences between the two, applicants can ensure they provide a comprehensive and persuasive application to potential employers.
Strategies for Writing Both
Addressing the job requirements.
When writing both your cover letter and resume, make sure to address the specific job requirements mentioned in the job description. This can help showcase your relevant skills and experiences.
For example, if the job requires expertise in a certain programming language, mention your experience and proficiency in that language in your resume, and briefly discuss a project you completed using it in your cover letter.
Tailoring Your Documents
Tailoring your cover letter and resume means customizing them to reflect the specific needs and characteristics of the position you are applying for. Avoid using generic templates and take time to personalize your documents to make a stronger impact.
- For your cover letter: Explain why you’re particularly interested in the company and the role, and share your motivation for applying. Focus on your accomplishments and experiences that are most relevant to the position.
- For your resume: Highlight the most important and relevant experiences, skills, and achievements, and arrange them in a logical order that showcases your most recent and relevant experiences first.
Remember to proofread both documents carefully to ensure they are free from typos and grammatical errors, and maintain a consistent format throughout.
In summary, a cover letter and a resume serve distinct purposes in the job application process. The cover letter is a personalized introduction that highlights your interest in the position and the company, while the resume is a more formal document that outlines your work history, education, and skills.
When crafting your cover letter, remember to focus on the specific job requirements and demonstrate how your experiences align with these requirements. In contrast, when updating your resume, ensure that it is concise, well-formatted, and easy to read.
By preparing both a strong cover letter and resume, you can significantly improve your chances of securing an interview and ultimately, a job offer. Remember that every job application is unique, and you should tailor your documents accordingly to best represent your fit for the position.
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Cover Letter Vs. Resume: What’s The Difference?
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Find a Job You Really Want In
When applying for a new job, many employers require candidates to submit cover letters and resumes . These documents give you the opportunity to show off your personality, skills, qualifications, certifications, education, and experience. Your cover letter and resume are typically the first impressions an employer will get of who you are as a professional.
In order to submit a strong job application, you must understand how to write both a strong cover letter and a resume. Despite their similarities, the cover letter and resume serve two different purposes for candidates. In this article, we will discuss the difference between the two and what purpose each serves.
What Is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a document that outlines who you are as a candidate, what you desire in a job, and how your specific skills will benefit the job opening. It can provide additional professional information, including skills and qualifications, that inform the hiring manager as to why you are applying for the job in the first place.
For the most part, cover letters are an optional addition to your application. Using a cover letter is a great way to show how eager you are for the potential job opportunity and can show employers you are willing to exceed expectations. In certain circumstances, this can set you apart from your competition.
A cover letter should not be longer than a single page , typically anywhere from three to four paragraphs or 300 to 500 words. You should consider including the following:
Professional heading. The heading of your cover letter is the first thing your hiring manager will see. You should include your full name, home address, phone number, email address, and, if relevant, your LinkedIn or other relevant social media handles. You may also want to include a job title if it’s relevant to the application.
Salutation. Begin your letter with a professional salutation. If you know the name of the recipient, use a title like Mr. or Dr. If there is no specification as to who the hiring manager is, don’t try and guess. Instead, use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
Compelling introduction. Because this is the first thing the hiring manager will read, you’ll want to capture them with your opening sentence. Introduce yourself and identify the job you’re applying for. If you have relevant experience, include this in the first line or two, and make sure you articulate your enthusiasm about the position.
Reason for applying. Determine what caught your eye about the job posting. Was it the specific job position or the company culture? Do you have a passion for the product or service they offer or a deep interest or relevant experience in the industry they operate in? Whatever the case, include this in your cover letter.
What you offer and a strong closing. Be sure to talk yourself up in the cover letter. Include any impressive accomplishments and any relevant statistics that can entice the hiring manager to take a further look at your resume and include you as a candidate for consideration. Close on a strong note, with a professional closing.
The structure of a cover letter will differ significantly from a resume. A cover letter is exactly what it sounds like — a letter. Be sure to structure this like a formal letter, with an introduction, body paragraphs that include the information listed above, and a closing paragraph with a professional sign-off.
Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, a cover letter can also give you the opportunity to let your personality shine. Be sure to evaluate the company and job carefully to match the formality of the target company and industry. If you’re applying for a job that encourages personality and playfulness, try to incorporate it into your cover letter.
What Is a Resume?
A resume is a detailed list of your work experience, accomplishments, education, and skills. Within this document, job seekers lay out their duties and specific achievements for each role they’ve worked in a way that shows the potential employer that they added value to that team and company.
Resumes are written in a format that itemizes your employment history. It lists your contact information and experience information with all of your previous places of employment, including job titles, position descriptions, and dates of employment. The resume also includes an education section with relevant information such as secondary education or certifications.
Resumes are typically written in the third person and use concise language to articulate the candidate’s time at that company. Depending on the job at hand and the industry for which the individual is applying, it may also include certain relevant qualifications, certifications, or professional memberships.
It’s recommended to keep your resume to at most two pages in a neatly formatted view for easy scanning by the hiring manager. You should include the following:
Contact information. In the header of your resume, be sure to include all the information your hiring manager may need to contact you about the position. This can include your full name, address, email address, phone number, and any relevant social media handles.
Objective or career summary. This section can be altered to fit whatever job you’re applying for. It lists the qualities, skills, and accomplishments you most want to highlight so that the hiring manager can see them first.
Education. The education section lists the basics of your education history. Typically, this includes the name and location of your school, the highest egress you earned there, your major and minor (if applicable), as well as any other additional relevant information such as associations, memberships, or GPA scores.
Work experience. Typically the largest section of the resume, your work experience section lists your previous job titles or positions. Start with your most recent job and work backward by listing the job title, name of the company, location, dates of employment, and three to five bullet points of your accomplishments and job duties.
Skills section. Your resume skills section is the place to list any relevant skills you feel may be beneficial to the job at hand. You may want to include both hard and soft skills to show you have a variety of skills that can benefit any company in different ways.
Resumes are typically a requirement when you apply for work. Depending on your industry or job title, there may be different recommended resume formats that can help you stand out from the competition. Resumes are straight to the point and should have an objective and neutral tone when read by the hiring manager.
Cover Letter vs. Resume FAQ
Are cover letters or resumes more important?
Both cover letters and resumes are important, but the resume is typically the required document for a job application. However, both documents can help employers in determining whether or not you are the right fit for a job opening.
Do I need to submit a cover letter with a resume?
Although it’s not always required, it is highly recommended to include a cover letter with your resume. This can be the thing that sets you apart from your competition.
Do employers read a resume or cover letter first?
Employers will typically read a cover letter before they read a resume.
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Caitlin Mazur is a freelance writer at Zippia. Caitlin is passionate about helping Zippia’s readers land the jobs of their dreams by offering content that discusses job-seeking advice based on experience and extensive research. Caitlin holds a degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.
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Cover Letter Vs. Resume: Which Should You Use?
- Cover letter vs resume: what's the difference?
Three major differences between a cover letter and a resume
Resumes and cover letters go hand in hand, 3 expert tips on writing a cover letter vs. a resume, example resume and cover letter.
Applying for a job can be scary; trust us – we know.
But that doesn’t mean it needs to be confusing, too.
However, there’s this one uneasy thought that puzzles job-seekers, especially first-timers.
“Resumes? Cover letters? Aren’t they the same thing? How am I supposed to know what goes where?”
We get that a lot.
So, to help you cut down on confusion and get your job application right, we’re going to talk about cover letters vs resumes and settle on the difference once and for all.
In this guide, you’ll find out:
- What the difference between a resume and a cover letter is;
- What should be included in each document;
- How to make sure your cover letter makes it to the top of the pile.
Let’s dive right in!
Cover letter vs resume: what's the difference?
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So, how are a resume and a cover letter different?
While the purpose of both is to prove to the hiring manager that you have what it takes to get the job, they do so in two very different ways.
Basically, you can consider your resume to be a summary of your work and education experience, while your cover letter focuses on how this experience relates to this specific job.
Have you heard that saying in the beauty community that says your eyebrows should be sisters, not twins?
You can apply that same logic to your cover letter and resume.
These two documents should complement each other, not copy each other exactly.
One big difference we can name right off the bat is that pretty much every employer requires a resume for a job application, but not a cover letter.
However, including one always boosts your chances of success (unless the posting specifies that you shouldn’t send one, of course).
Now then, to really understand what the difference between a cover letter and a resume is, we will take a quick look at what each of them is at its core.
What is a resume? What does a resume include?
In short, a resume summarizes your work experience and educational background.
It’s a detailed account of the jobs you’ve had, the schools you’ve attended and the degrees you got, any awards and certifications you might have, your skills, etc.
Most commonly, a resume is formatted as a list with bullet points. This makes the document easily scannable and eliminates fluff, which is perfect for a busy hiring manager.
Usually, you should write your resume in the third-person and be as clear and concise as possible, using few words and not going into too much unnecessary detail.
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So, here’s a list of what your resume should include:
- Contact information
- Summary, or objective
- Work experience
- Dates of employment
- Additional information, such as certificates, spoken languages, etc.
But what about cover letters?
What is a cover letter? What does a cover letter include?
A cover letter adds relevant context to your resume.
It highlights what your qualifications are and how they relate to the particular job you’re applying for.
Basically, what a cover letter does is give the employer all the reasons why you are the best candidate for the position.
It shows off your skills and gives examples from your experiences to back them up.
You write a cover letter in a letter format, unsurprisingly. It consists of a greeting, three or four body paragraphs, and a closing. And, as opposed to the resume, you should use the first-person.
When writing your cover letter, keep in mind that employers are likely to refer to your resume to make the connection between the person and the job applicant.
So, seeing how they’re probably going to be reading them at the same time, don’t make your cover letter a carbon copy of your resume.
Rather, it should expand on the points you’ve made in your resume, giving real-life examples that showcase your skills and letting the employer know just how perfect you are for the job.
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But what should you include in your cover letter ?
- Professional heading
- Address section
- Formal salutation
- Show-stopping introduction
- Your reasons for applying for this particular company and position
- Your skills as they relate to the job
- Closing words on your excitement to join the company
- A call to action
Oh, and don’t forget to read the job offer carefully and include some keywords in your letter!
So, now you know what a cover letter and a resume are, and what they should include.
Let’s move on and cover the main differences between the two.
Knowing what each of these documents does is not always enough.
You need to understand how they differ.
So, in this section, we’ll go over three of the most important distinctions between a cover letter and a resume.
Resumes and cover letters differ in importance
We’ll make a wild guess here and say that you probably haven’t come across a position in your job search that didn’t require a resume.
Now, how many postings have you read that didn’t need a cover letter?
Enough to notice, we’re sure.
That’s because resumes and cover letters aren’t equally important.
The internet is rife with information about which one is more important with various arguments supporting both sides.
However, we think that, unless the job posting specifies that a cover letter is not to be submitted, you should absolutely include one in your application.
You can’t skip out on the resume, though.
Cover letters and resumes use different structures
As you may have already noticed, one of the main differences in the “cover letter vs resume” battle is the structure.
A resume is usually one or two pages long and contains specific sections, bullet points, and other graphs used to represent a candidate’s professional skills.
A cover letter, on the other hand, has 3-4 structured paragraphs, an introduction, and a closing paragraph, and is usually no more than 300-500 words.
The goal of a cover letter vs a resume is different
Another crucial difference between the two documents is their purpose.
A resume’s goal is to provide the hiring manager with lots of varying information, but in a brief format – just a page or two.
They’ll use your resume to quickly decide if you’re qualified for a particular job (at least on paper – the proof comes with your cover letter).
The purpose of a cover letter is to let you tell a story about yourself as a person, not just an employee.
It helps you expand on the points you made in your resume and give some much-needed context to the employer.
So, there you have it – these documents are different in many ways, however…
We already mentioned this above, but cover letters and resumes complement each other well, so they should be used accordingly.
While a resume is quickly scannable, a hiring manager might struggle to make sense of all the data you’re throwing at them, especially if your resume is on the longer side.
That’s why a cover letter is a good addition to a resume, as it helps translate that information into paragraphs, making it easier to read and take in.
But that’s not all – a cover letter and a resume, as different as they are, should stick to the same design .
There’s not a single recruiter out there that wants to spend their valuable time trying to match a resume to a cover letter like it’s a puzzle.
Cover letters are also a great way to make sure your resume doesn’t end up in the trash.
Lots of employers read the cover letter first to help them decide if the resume is worth reading at all.
So, boost your chances and type up that cover letter.
Are you struggling to separate your cover letter from your resume, wondering how to make them complementing, yet different, or you just want some tips on how to write a stellar cover letter?
Well, then read on!
We’ve got three pieces of advice for you, coming straight from the professionals.
Don't make your cover letter repetitive
We already said this before, but we’ll say it again – do not make your cover letter an exact copy of your resume!
Nobody wants to read the same thing twice.
You wouldn’t, so why should your employer?
Don’t be afraid to let loose a little bit and use a more conversational tone than you would on your resume.
Your cover letter should show the hiring manager your qualifications, but also your personality and your passion.
Don’t go into too much job or education detail. Mention them briefly and talk about how they shaped you into the perfect candidate and what you learned from the experience.
Keep it short and sweet
You wouldn’t want the recruiter to fall asleep halfway through your cover letter, would you?
So, keep it short, clear, and straight to the point. Leave all the unnecessary details out, talk about relevant experiences only, and most importantly, make it captivating.
As for the specific length, aim for three or four paragraphs and try not to fill more than 3/4 of a page.
Use a subjective tone
A cover letter allows you to talk about things you wouldn’t mention on a resume.
No resume contains a section about how you found the position, how passionate you are about it, or how each skill you’ve mentioned relates to the job.
Yet, these are all important aspects to a hiring manager.
So, you can afford to use more subjective information when writing a cover letter.
Let them know why you are certain you’d make a good fit. After all, you’re the one that knows what you can bring to the table, right?
And there you go – you’re now ready to craft that perfect resume and throw on a stellar cover letter for good measure.
If you’d like a little extra help, take a look at these great resume and cover letter examples .
Hopefully, they’ll help you get on the right track!
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And, if you’re looking for an even easier way out, take our resume builder for a spin and save yourself the headache.
Yes, a resume and a cover letter are two separate worlds. But they really are two sides of the same coin.
To summarize, here are the most important differences in the battle of cover letter vs resume:
- A resume is always required for a job application, while a cover letter can be optional.
- Resumes are formatted as a one or two-page document with bullets and sections, while a cover letter uses a letter format and has the standard introduction, 3-4 body paragraphs, and a closing.
- Cover letters are often what helps resumes get read.
- A resume and a cover letter should complement each other, while still being different.
- A resume is written in the third-person and is more objective; a cover letter uses a subjective tone and is written in the first-person.
- Resumes outline your work and educational background, achievements, certificates, and skills. Cover letters focus on how those skills and experiences relate to the job at hand.
Was this information helpful to you? Do you feel ready to tackle your resume and cover letter? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
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What is the difference between a cover letter and a resume?
By Gina Neta
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Your cover letter and resume go hand in hand in help ing you make a good first impression on potential employer s . However, each document is entirely different in terms of their purpose and content.
If you’re preparing to apply for jobs and asking yourself, ‘what’s the difference between a cover letter and a resume?’ keep reading to find out how these documents differ from one another and how to craft each one to help you land an interview.
Cover letter vs. r esume : The difference explained
A cover letter is a customized letter that lets the hiring manager get to know you better , while a resume is a factual summary of your work experience and qualifications .
The purpose of a cover letter
A cover letter is your chance to personalize your application and make a connection with the hiring manager or recruiter. It gives you an opportunity to:
- Introduce yourself.
- Show off your personality.
- Explain why you’re a great fit for the role.
Your cover letter gives the hiring manager or recruiter a sense of your professionalism and ability to connect with others.
What to include in a cover letter
Typically, a cover letter is one or two pages long and written in short paragraphs.
Key elements to include in your cover letter are:
- Include your full name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the letter.
- Address the letter to the hiring manager or recruiter by name, if possible. Introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in the position.
- Explain how your skills and experiences align with the requirements of the job, and why you would be an asset to the organization.
- Thank the hiring manager or recruiter for their time and consideration. Express that you look forward to hearing from them.
Check out our blog on why a cover letter is important for more examples of what to put in your letter, along with a cover letter template.
The purpose of a resume
Your resume is your opportunity to make a great first impression on the hiring team.
A resume showcases your:
This information shows the hiring team how your background matches up with the job you applied for and what you could bring to the table.
What to include in a resume
Like a cover letter, your resume should be one or two pages long. However, one major difference between a cover letter and a resume is that a resume should be written in easy-to-read sections and split up with bullet points .
Most resumes include:
- Include your full name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the document.
- List your relevant work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job. Include the job title, company name, dates of employment, and a short description of your responsibilities and accomplishments in each role.
- List your educational qualifications, including degrees and certifications.
- Incorporate a small section that highlights your relevant skills , such as technical skills, software expertise and language fluency.
- Feature any notable achievements or awards you have received in your career.
Make sure your resume is well-written and up to date before you submit it for any job applications.
Ace your next interview.
Gina’s career in transportation started in 2013 when she joined Schneider on the Corporate Recruiting team, but soon thereafter, moved into a recruiter role for First to Final Mile. Prior to working at Schneider, she spent 21 years in the healthcare industry, managing medical staff credentialing and privileging processes. In her spare time, Gina enjoys working on her hobby farm and spending time outdoors with her husband.
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Defining a Resume and Cover Letter (and How Knowing Their Uses Can Help Your Job Search)
As a job seeker, you must realize the value of the hiring process itself. During this stage, you have multiple chances to pitch yourself as the best candidate to hiring managers . Make your job application count by taking advantage of these through your topnotch tools!
With the stiff competition among other job seekers, you must step up your job search game to stand out. To help you ensure a successful job search, these tools include your job search documents such as resume and cover letter. These are crucial to help you land more job offers and lead you to your dream job.
To further enhance your knowledge, let’s tackle the ins and outs of both a resume and cover letter. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve outlined their meanings, sections, and differences. Also, we’ll look at some effective cover letter and resume samples to give you a practical idea on how you can write yours, too!
What is a Resume?
A resume is a tool used to provide a brief overview of your qualifications, skills, and experiences as a job candidate. It follows a certain format based on your job level and job search goals. In most cases, resumes are 1 to 2 pages long. This lets you fill your resume content with the most fitting details to the job you’re applying for.
Parts of a Resume
To give you a brief outline, check out these resume sections you must include.
As part of your resume header, you must put your:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Updated and optimized LinkedIn profile , if there’s any
Resume Summary or Intro
After your resume header, provide a brief outline of your key feats and qualifications. Since this is going to be one of the first few parts that a hiring manager sees when scanning resumes, your intro should be enticing enough to encourage them to keep reading.
This is the main part of your resume. Use this to list your past job titles, work experiences, or any positions you’ve held that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
The most common format you can use is to list your work history starting with the most recent, filling in these details:
- Company name
- Location – city and state
- Dates of employment – month and year
Further, list 3 to 5 bullet points under each work experience to describe your top job duties and most notable achievements.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume with No Work Experience
Highlight the basics of your educational background. Include your school names, highest degree you earned, and other key details. You may also opt to mention your GPA, academic honors or awards, and relevant coursework which can help you further showcase your qualification for the job.
Make sure to include a mix of your hard and soft skills in your resume. These help highlight how fit you are for the job and gives hiring managers a gist of your professional background as well.
Need more tips for this section? Here’s an in-depth guide on what skills for resume you should include!
What is a Cover Letter?
A professional document used to introduce yourself to an employer, a cover letter is your tool to explain why you want to land a certain job post. As opposed to a resume that serves as a collection or narrative of your qualifications, your cover letter lets you prove your skills and experience background are the best fit for the role you’re vying for.
The usual cover letter length is 300 to 500 words, just enough for you to talk about how you’re the company’s best bet to fill in the job. For you to have a better idea on what to write in a cover letter, read on!
Parts of a Cover Letter
Now, you want to ensure a well-written cover letter that’ll go perfect with your resume. With that, remember to include these key parts in your cover letter!
This is where you must put your contact details such as your full name, address, phone number, and email address. Also, put the date at the top of the page and the recipient’s contact information.
The best cover letter opening you can use is Dear [Mr./Ms.] [Hiring Manager’s Last Name]. It’ll be better to use the hiring manager’s name as a way for you to leave a good first impression early on. If their name isn’t available in the job opening details, you can also opt to use Dear Hiring Manager. As long as you don’t use To Whom It May Concern (which sounds too formal and generic), it’s all good.
Use this part to say who you are to the hiring manager. Further, make good use of this section to showcase your previous job titles and relevant work experience. You can also include here how you found out about the job opening and why you want to apply for it. Letting the company know where you found their job opening can also help them in their hiring efforts. Think of it as a nice gesture which can be a great way for you to leave a good first impression as well.
For the next paragraph/s, you can now talk about more of the job description and how you aim to contribute to the organization through your skills and professional experiences. What you can do is list your goals for the role to let the employer know that you’re aware of the job’s duties. Further, you may also use bullet points to list relevant career achievements, awards, or key skills that you believe are crucial to land the job.
For your closing paragraph, you have to write a strong statement to further reiterate how fit you are for the role. You may express your genuine enthusiasm for the opportunity of working with them. Also, don’t forget to put your preferred contact info and availability. This way, you’re subtly stating a call to action for them to keep in touch with you. Lastly, thank the hiring manager for spending their time going through your application.
You must also be mindful with using the proper cover letter closing. Some of the best ones you must use are:
- Best regards,
- Kind regards,
On the other hand, avoid using informal ones such as:
- Yours truly,
- Warm regards,
After this, put your full name and signature.
For a more in-depth guide on how to write a cover letter for a job, check out this general cover letter writing guide !
Differences Between Resume and Cover Letter
While there are a lot of aspects where a resume and cover letter differ from each other, let’s talk about the main ones.
1. Importance and Purpose
In most cases, resumes are required when you apply for a job. This serves as your formal application. In contrast, cover letters may be optional depending on the job requirements. Though, it’ll be best for you to still have a cover letter ready and opt to include it with your resume.
Further, the use of your resume is to present your top qualifications for the job post. In contrast, your cover letter’s purpose is to further explain how and why you’re the best fit.
Similar to a business letter, a cover letter format includes a header, greeting, intro paragraph, body, conclusion, and sign-off. On the other hand, a resume is a more detailed document and has four main resume formats which you can choose from based on your skills, experiences, and job level. The most common parts of a resume include your header, qualifications profile, work experience section, education background, and list of skills.
Your resume outlines your work history and education background. Also, it contains a list of your most relevant skills that are crucial to your current job search. A cover letter focuses on the job you’re applying for, so you really have to write tailor-fit ones for each of the jobs you’re considering.
4. Writing Style and Tone
Most of the time, the tone used in resume writing is objective and neutral. This is in contrast with a cover letter, as the tone used in writing this varies per job, yet maintains a hint of personality. Nonetheless, just make sure that the “personality” of your cover letter matches the nature of the job and company you’re applying for.
Resume and Cover Letter Templates
Now that you’re familiar with the meanings and differences of a resume and cover letter, are you ready to write your own job search tools? Check out these effective samples and templates we prepared for you!
Resume and Cover Letter Template #1
Resume and Cover Letter Template #2
Let an Expert Write Your Job Search Tools
As a job seeker, you want to maximize your time and efforts in ensuring you’ll land your target job. With a lot on your plate, you might have a hard time writing a resume and cover letter that are compelling yet effective. We get you; the whole writing process can get overwhelming and tedious along the way.
Fret not; our team of career experts is dedicated to helping you take that struggle off your to-dos! Check out our best resume writing services today and be armed with a striking resume in no time!
For your cover letter writing needs, avail of our job search tools writing services that are also designed for you. You may contact us for more queries.
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