The Difference Between Resumes and Cover Letters

Author: ExpressCV Editorial Team
Updated on November 14, 2019

Resumes and cover letters differ in both format and function.

And because they often come in a package deal, sometimes it can be hard to define what belongs on your resume and what on your cover letter.

Let’s find out.

Key Differences Between Resumes and Cover Letters

The main differences between resumes and cover letters boil down to:

  1. A resume is a formalized document that semi-itemizes a candidate’s relevant work history, professional experience, and skills.
  2. A cover letter is basically a short sales pitch. The official story is that it is meant to make the hiring manager or recruiter want to read your resume, but in reality, the resume is often reviewed at first.
  3. A cover letter is not a rehashing of your resume in letter format. You should not be reiterating the same information that is already on your resume.
  4. A cover letter is meant to summarize your best attributes and how you will bring real value to the company.
  5. A resume has a stricter organizational structure and traditional rules of style and grammar. Cover letters, on the other hand, can be more conversational and have the structure can be reorganized as needed.

Cover Letters Fill In the Gaps

After you’ve tailored your resume to summarize your experience and skills for a job, you’re ready to write a cover letter that helps the recruiter or hiring manager see why you’d be the best person for the job. Here’s how:

  1. Show you have done your research. Mention the position and company specifically.
  2. Focus on a few of your biggest strengths and accomplishments. Highlight them in detail to prove you would be the perfect applicant.
  3. Toe the line between formality and informality. You want to use a conversational tone that makes it seem like you would fit in.
  4. Think of your cover letter as a direct message to the hiring manager. Is there anything you think might be missing from your resume that you want to cover?
  5. Keep it short. Resumes should be short (one page for most candidates). A cover letter should be even shorter. Hiring managers don’t have all day!

Remember, you just want to pique the recruiters interest. You don’t need to tell your whole life story.

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of where a resume ends and where cover letters begin. Got any questions in particular? Drop them below!



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