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Resume vs. Cover Letter

Resume vs. Cover Letter

Both a solid, expansive, and detailed resume and cover letter are needed when applying to open job positions.  But what are the differences between a resume and a cover letter?  While you should include both a resume and a cover letter in every application you submit to, there are clear and stark differences between the two.

A candidate’s resume and cover letter, while unique documents, should be used to complement one-another.  They should both speak to the candidate, their experience, qualifications, and skills.  However, there is information that should be included on one and not the other.

While a cover letter is not necessary for every job application, it is highly encouraged that you include one.  Including a cover letter allows you to sell yourself and your skills and qualifications to the hiring manager.  It is typically the first document that the hiring manager will see and will set the tone for the remainder of the application.

Resumes are absolutely necessary on every application.  We’ve discussed previously that resumes are so important, that it may be worthwhile to hire a professional resume writer to assist you.

What are the differences between a resume and a cover letter?

A resume is a brief overview of your previous experiences.  This includes not only work experiences, but also your education, your skills, your volunteer work, your patents, and your knowledge of soft and hard skills.

Whereas your cover letter is a personal statement as to your ability and capability to accomplish a specific job function or role for the position you are applying to.  Your cover letter is a summary of who you are, what qualifications you have, and what accomplishments you’ve accomplished. 

Your cover letter is a customizable, application specific document.  It should be updated for each and every position you apply to.  It is meant to display your personality and the why on why you want to work for a certain company and are applying to a specific role.

The cover letter is a candidate’s sales pitch.  It is their statement on who they are, what their accomplishments are, and why the hiring manager should proceed with the interview process above other candidates.

A candidate’s resume is more of a timeline.  It typically flows in chronological order, showing progression throughout the candidate’s career.  Though resumes do list out accomplishments, successes, and achievements, they are usually bulleted points beneath the experience level.

How is the formatting different between a resume and a cover letter?

The formatting of a resume is typically chronological.  It highlights education, skills, and work experiences.  Beneath those highlights, candidates typically include bulleted points indicating roles and responsibilities and major achievements or accomplishments made at the role.

The formatting of a cover letter is much different.  It is more conversational, written in a paragraphical format.  The cover letter is more sincere than the resume, in the sense that it is position specific and a written testimonial by the candidate to the hiring manager on their qualifications and reasons for wanting the position.

What should be included in your resume?

Your resume should be fact based.  It should provide information to employers about your previous and current work experiences and education.  Beneath each experience level, you should have a list of three bulleted out accomplishments for each role.

Resumes are typically scanned quickly, often for less than 6-seconds.  Understanding this, you should have your resume be easy to read, quick to follow along, and in a format that is generally accepted throughout the industry.

What should be included in your cover letter?

Your cover letter should be more personal than your resume, without providing any personal or intimate details.  Your cover letter should be less than a page long, written in a paragraphical format.  It should include an initial salutation to the hiring manager, an introductory paragraph concerning the position you are applying to, a body paragraph extolling your skills and accomplishments and how they can be beneficial to the position you are applying to, and a paragraph concluding and summarizing the above and thanking the hiring manager for their time and consideration.

The cover letter is meant to be a candidate’s sales pitch.  It is supposed to have some personality and should be customized for each position applied to.  It is more personal and should provide an explanation to the hiring manager on why you want the position and u want the position and why you would be a good fit for it.

Do I need to include both a resume and a cover letter?

While it is not mandatory to include both, it is better and can increase your chances of landing an interview if you submit an application with both documents.  The resume and cover letter complement one-another.  They provide differing viewpoints on the same subject, you.  While the resume is stoic and factual, the cover letter is personal and engaging.  Where the resume is bulleted and direct, the cover letter is paragraphical and appealing.

Things to remember when it comes to a resume vs. cover letter

While the two documents complement one-another, they are effective at different things.  Approaching writing your cover letter in the same format or manner as your resume is a recipe for disaster.  You should let both documents speak for themselves and borrow little from either.

Neither your resume nor your cover letter should be a repeat of the other.  They should speak to the same points but should do so in different and unique styles.  Your resume will be more impersonal so don’t copy the text directly into your cover letter.

Utilize your cover letter to make a good first impression, one that encourages the hiring manager to continue to read your resume and extend an offer for an interview.  Use engaging writing, speak personally, and answer the “why you” questions.  Be personal, humble, and excited for the position and opportunity.

Best of luck!

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