Resume vs. Cover Letter - What you need to know

If you’re in the job market or applying to go to college or university, you’ll have heard about resumes and cover letters ; they’re key to the process. They go hand in hand because what you include in one is likely to be mirrored in the other, but they are very much different beasts and need to be treated as such.

You need to know what the key differences between the documents are so that you can get both of them on point.

Things can get baffling real quick when you enter the job market for the first time or are applying for work after a long career break. Don’t worry, we’re here to answer the burning questions, like:

  • What is a resume vs a cover letter?
  • Should a resume or a cover letter go first?
  • What are the resume and cover letter differences?
  • What are the resume and the cover letter purposes?

And finally, should you choose to use a resume, cover letter, or both?

Let’s get into this! We’ll start with a table that puts the basics together to keep things simple, read on the get to the full lowdown.

Want to get into specifics? Here we go…

Define a Resume

Resumes and CVs are quite the same things: a document that you write about yourself and your skills and experience that you send out when looking for a job in a company.

In your résumé, you need to include a detailed list of your past employers and what you did for them, as well as your education and qualifications. Point out the great stuff you achieved in your past roles, often this is the best tool to boast and show how you can add value in a role.

Pro-Tip Bulleted lists are a great way to keep your resume slick and concise, it also makes it more readable to potential employers - no sifting through long paragraphs. Feel like it’s going to take forever? In five minutes our resume builder will have you off to a flying start.

So Then, a Cover Letter is…?

Also, something that you use to help get a job, it’s a letter that you use to give your future employer more detailed information about yourself by way of an introduction. You normally attach it along with your resume, giving an overview of what’s in there that’s relevant to the role and giving them a reason to read the resume through.

It should only last three to four paragraphs, giving brief information so the employer can get to grips with your background and understand how you’d fit into the organization. Besides, you have to show your interest and motivation to work in this particular company.

Pro-Tip Make sure you pay attention to the job requirements for the role you’re applying for and tailor your cover letter to highlight your skills, qualifications, and experience that make you perfect for the job.

Resume and Cover Letter - Key Differences

Often, the easiest way to understand the difference between a resume and a cover letter is to get to grips with what you actually need them for:

A resume is a summary of your previous jobs, education, and training and shows the hiring manager reading it who you are as a professional. Think of it like the “product”.

A cover letter is the sales pitch for your resume, giving the recruiter reasons why what you’ve done in the past makes you a perfect hire for the role. Tell them why you want to work for them and how you’re going to help develop their business.

A resume is typically written in a formal style, using the third person and you should use as few words as you can to get your experience across, keep it short and simple. Most resumes you see will have: a list of contact deets; a collection of your past experience with your job title, your key responsibilities, and achievements, and the dates you worked in each role; a list of your education and professional qualifications; and any other relevant information like volunteering or professional association memberships.

Your cover letter is there to pull out exactly what is in your resume that will make you the perfect hire. You’re writing a letter rather than a factual list so format it properly, with an appropriate greeting - ideally with the name of the recruiter - using paragraphs and a polite sign-off. Your cover letter needs to be in the first person, but don’t overuse “I”, focus on the reader instead.

Pro-Tip When you’ve got facts to boast about, use them. Include details like how many people you supervised, how you raised the productivity levels, and how much you exceeded your targets; details give you credibility.

Are There Any Similarities Between Resumes and Cover Letters?

Absolutely! The main job of a resume and a cover letter is to help you get an interview invitation.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking whether a resume and cover letter need to be prepared and handled differently. As much as these documents have two very different functions, which are important to know about, there are things that are needed in both to get you ready to make it big in the role of your dreams.

Some of the main tips are: both of them need to be accurate, focus on the key activities and actions that you did, and of course, your spelling and grammar need to be on fleek.

Pro-Tip Both in your cover letter and your résumé, use definites when talking about you and your skills, rather than “I believe” and “I think” use assertive words like “I achieved”.

Key Takeaway

Look at your resume as an overall picture of your career until now and see your cover letter as a summary of why your experience is related to the job that you’re actually applying for. Here’s a rundown of the important bits you need to remember when looking at the differences between a cover letter and a resume:

  • Your resume is a historical account of your work until now, using bullet points and broken down into sections.
  • In your cover letter, you go into more detail, giving insight into your work history in a personalized letter.
  • A resume is a list of qualifications and achievements - a cover letter describes them.
  • Keep a resume formal and direct; make your cover letter personal to the reader.
  • Cover letters are a complement to a resume and are standard practice to send out - hiring managers to expect them.

Hopefully, with the tips given above, we’ve helped you navigate your way through choosing the right document for the right purpose when you want to apply for a job and introduce yourself as a perfect candidate for the desired position. We’ve got classic resume templates for you to try out and make your curriculum vitae look professional, the perfect one is waiting for you!

Browse examples 🔎

Not sure whether you need a CV or a resume? Wondering are resumes and CVs the same thing? We’ve got a detailed guide and useful tips ready for you!

Need ideas for what to include in a resume? Go through our full guide, packed with pro-tips and insider tricks to get you into that job you’ve been dreaming about!

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AU Students

why resume and application letter is important

"You MUST have a Resume Cover Letter!" I'm sure you have heard this many times before.


The Resume is a selling tool that is used to do one thing and one thing only. Get you an INTERVIEW! The Resume outlines your skills and experiences allowing the employer to get an idea as to how you can contribute to the employer's workplace. Your Resume is one of the most important ways to market yourself. A well-written resume showcases your most relevant professional self, and leaves the employer who reads it wanting to know more.  Although you may have all of the requirements for a specific job, your resume will be a failure if the employer does not within 10-30 seconds decide "he/she has what it takes". 


A Cover Letter allows a potential employer to be introduced to you and your resume. It is the first document an employer sees, therefore serving as your first impression and also allows the employer to get a more comprehensive look at who you are and why you are qualified for the job. This being your first impression, you want to take advantage of the opportunity and prepare the reader for your application. State why you are you writing, why you are a good match for their organization/company, and when you intend to contact them.

During job search process writing a Cover letter can be very challenging. You are challenged to create a document about yourself that is not selfish and self-centered. But DON'T WORRY,  we have all the tools necessary to aid you in this process. Follow these simple guidelines and you'll be on your way to creating an excellent Cover Letter.

  • Explain your experiences in a story-like format that works with the information you've provided in your resume.
  • Go in-depth about important experiences/skills and relate them to job experiences.
  • Show the employer that you are tailoring the job application and making it your own.

Display your written communication skills.

There are also hardcopy Cover Letter templates available upon request at the Counseling and Testing Center. 


The heading.

  • Your Contact Information
  • Local Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Fax Number (if applies)
  • Include Date: month/day/year


  • Name of specific person
  • Title (if available)
  • Address of company


  • Leave space between heading (your contact info.) and name of specific person ("Dear Mr. Katzburg")
  • Use 1 inch margins all around the document
  • Single space your letter
  • Leave a space between each paragraph
  • Make sure letter is in the middle of the page
  • Leave three spaces between the closing ("sincerely") and your typed name


  • Include the individuals name
  • Make sure to let them know WHO you are and WHY you are writing them
  • Don't forget to include the position you are applying for
  • Briefly identify how your skills, values, and goals would fit well within the organization
  • Briefly state how you will contribute and help the organization
  • Be Positive
  • The body allows you to persuade those reading why you are the perfect candidate
  • Do NOT include irrelevant details about the past.
  • Remember your resume is a resource you are using to support your cover letter.
  • Include strong reasons why you should be hired
  • Do NOT explain the entire resume remember it's a source of data only
  • Display the most important and relevant skills that will help you get the job
  • Impression Tip: Use the companies verbiage (specific wording) used on the job advertisement, description, or company web site


  • Restates your main points and reasons why you are the right match
  • Restates your skills and experiences that will show your alignment with the organization
  • Make sure you have included your phone number and email
  • Let employers know when you plan on contacting them next
  • IMPORTANT: Thank the readers for taking your application into consideration

Before sending your Cover Letter PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!

For more help? Contact [email protected]  or [email protected]


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