The Difference Between a Cover Letter and Resume

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ZipJob Team

4 min read

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If you're in search of a job, then you need to have both. Although both should outline your experience, skills, and professional qualifications - they should do so differently. We'll discuss exactly what the difference is and what to focus on in your resume vs. cover letter.

The major difference between a resume and cover letter

Cover letter: a brief introduction to who you are, the position you're applying to, and why you'd make a good fit. It should contain 3 to 4 paragraphs and be written in a more subjective and friendly tone.

Resume: a detailed overview of your work history including your work experience, skills, education, and other relevant information.

In essence, your resume should explain how you are qualified for the job. Your cover letter is more of an introduction, and should be written effectively to have a hiring manager look into your resume in more detail.

Expert Tip

Another major difference between a cover letter and resume is the format.

  • The cover letter is usually 3 - 4 paragraphs written in a more subjective and conversational tone.

  • A resume should contain numerous sections and bullet points rather than paragraphs.

What's included in a resume vs. a cover letter

There is certain information that's included on a resume that shouldn't be on a cover letter:

Resume summary

Your resume should include a well-written summary that highlights some of your major skills, qualifications, and achievements.

Core competencies and skills

You should list out relevant core competencies and skills on your resume. You shouldn’t list out all your competencies and skills on a cover letter but you can include some throughout.

Detailed work history

A resume should contain a relevant and detailed work history section. Remember to mention specific accomplishments throughout the resume rather than listing job duties. There could be hundreds of other candidates and you need to show the hiring manager why you’re the best fit. This is best done through showing quantifiable achievements and how you went above and beyond expectations.

A cover letter could mention one or two major achievements, but save the specific details for your resume.

For example, on a cover letter, you could mention how you increased sales by x, but your resume would go into more detail on how you did that.

Education

Your resume should contain a detailed education section where you list degrees, schools you attended and the dates. You could briefly mention your degree and school on a cover letter.

where you list degrees, schools you attended and, the dates. You could briefly mention your degree and school on a cover letter.

4 tips to keep in mind when writing a resume vs. a cover letter

#1 - Repetitive

Don’t repeat your resume word for word on a cover letter. Use a more conversational tone and mix it up a bit. Your cover letter is about telling the potential employer or hiring manager who you are, how you’re qualified and why you’re the best fit. Save specific details for your resume.

#2 - Keep your cover letter short

Your cover letter should be three to four paragraphs long and never go past 3/4 of a page. Again, save the details for your resume and keep your cover letter short, concise and relevant.

#3 - Make a good impression

The cover letter may be the first impression you have on an employer or hiring manager. Make sure you utilize captivating language and speak in a friendly tone. Mention the position you’re applying to, how you’re qualified, major achievements from previous positions, and a call to action. The call to action in this situation would be an invitation for an interview.

#4 - Subjective

The cover letter should contain more subjective information than a resume. You could mention certain things that you simply couldn’t on a resume. You could mention how you found the position, why you’re passionate about that position or industry, and a more subjective explanation of why you’d make a good fit.

Summary

The cover letter is a good way to add a more human touch to the application. The cover letter allows you to tell a short story of why you deserve the job, where a resume is a more detailed and direct outline of your experience, skills, and other information.

Good luck with your job search!

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Written by

ZipJob Team

The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.

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