The Difference Between a Cover Letter and Resume – ZipJob

Apr 20, 2017

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

What exactly is the difference between a cover letter and resume? If you’re in search of a job, then you need to have both. Although both should outline your experience, skills and 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 Vs. Resume

A resume is a more detailed overview of your work history which includes work experience, skills, education and other relevant information. A cover letter is a brief summary of who you are, how you’re qualified and why you’re a good fit for the position. Your cover letter is more of an introduction to your resume and should be written effectively to have a hiring manager look into your resume in more detail.

(We wrote a good post on what a good cover letter looks like here)

Another major difference between a resume and cover letter 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:


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 expectation.

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.


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.

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 employer 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 3 – 4 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. 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 invite 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.

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!

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

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