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Cover Letter vs. Resume: Main Differences

Cover Letter vs. Resume: Main Differences


What's the Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Resume

What's the Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Resume?

When you are applying for a job, you need to provide both a well-structured resume and a cover letter. While both are supposed to describe your work experience, qualifications, and hard and soft skills, the two documents have different purposes and not always equally important to an employer.

That being said, a resume and a cover letter require different approaches, which is what we are going to focus on in this article.

What a Resume Includes

Let's start with a resume since it is the document that is always required, unlike a cover letter.

Typically, a resume provides employers with detailed information about your education and work experience. Adding your accomplishments associated with each job may also be a good idea, as it will show your employer what you are capable of and how much value you managed to add to those roles.

To make your resume more effective and easier to read, we recommend creating bulleted or numbered lists, whether it's a list of all the jobs you have held or your soft skills. The average recruiter spends just about 6 seconds scanning a resume, which often doesn't allow them to assess an applicant's abilities. This is why your resume should be simple, coherent, and well-presented.

How to Organize a Resume

Speaking of a resume's structure, it usually includes the following elements:

  • Education. In this section, you should list your highest degrees and those that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. If you are looking for a job as a Research Scientist, you'll have way more chances of getting hired if you include your Master's and Ph.D. degrees. However, if you are still in high school or college, include information about when you started attending classes and your expected graduation year.
  • Qualifications. Here you are supposed to include your workplace accomplishments and achievements. If you are applying for a position as a Sales Manager, you can mention your conversion rate of 11% at a previous similar job. Recruiters like to see numbers, as they are easier to read than text, but don't flood your resume with figures. Including any official certifications would also be very helpful and advantageous.
  • Skills required and essential for the position you are applying for. It will show your potential employer how much your abilities match their requirements. For instance, if you are interested in a Data Entry Clerk position, you should indicate your fast typing speed and extreme precision and accuracy in your resume.

What a Cover Letter Includes

When you submit a resume and cover letter, the latter is a document in which you have an opportunity to be a bit more creative than in your resume and show your personality. This is your chance to demonstrate your passion for the job you are applying for.

The main idea behind a cover letter is to let the hiring manager interpret your qualifications as represented in your resume and prove to them how your experience and the skills you possess make you a good fit for the role.

Although it is often not required to attach a cover letter to your resume, Lanteria would recommend you to do so in all instances unless the employer specifically states that a cover letter should not be included in the application. Attaching an additional document could be a great way to show your purposefulness and willingness to take this job and that you are striving to meet their expectations. In short, a cover letter may increase your chances of getting interviewed.

How to Format a Cover Letter

Keep your cover letter short. A cover letter should be 3-4 paragraphs long and never exceed 3/4 of a page. Make sure your cover letter includes the following elements: 

  • Heading. Just like any other formal letter, your cover letter should include your name, address, the date, and the recipient's contact information.
  • Greeting. Again, be a professional. Start your letter with a professional greeting: if you know the name of the recipient, you can use a title like "Mr.," "Ms.," or "Dr.," followed by their last name. If the vacancy does not include the recruiter's name, you can use "Dear Hiring Manager" instead.
  • How you found the job advertisement. This is handy information for employers because it lets them know what websites are best for publishing vacancies and get them the most suitable candidates.
  • How you can contribute to the company. Listing your goals for this role will demonstrate to your potential employer that you acknowledge the expected responsibilities. Try to set goals consistent with the organization's mission to show that you can be an essential part of the team.
  • Your goals for future contact. Stating that you are ready to schedule an interview with a hiring manager will make them realize that you are very interested in moving on to the next stage of the recruiting process.

Cover Letter vs. Resume

Your cover letter and resume have a common goal of proving that you have the necessary skills to excel at the job you are applying for. Nevertheless, as an applicant, you should understand the difference between the two documents very clearly. The fundamental difference between a cover letter vs. resume lies in their structure and purpose.

You should view your cover letter as an introduction to your resume. Its primary purpose is to make the hiring manager look into your resume in more detail. A cover letter helps highlight your qualifications for the particular position. It is used to provide the employer with additional information about why you are a good fit for the job and the company.

Consider your resume as a general summary of your work experience, qualifications, and skills as they relate to the job at hand. It is merely a document that contains your career history. It summarizes your job titles, education, certifications, skills, and other essential information about your background.

Typically, a resume is written in the third person and uses as few words as possible to describe work experience and other qualifications. Use numbers and figures in your resume since they always manage to catch recruiters' eyes quickly. For instance, indicate the number of people you supervised, the percentage of sales increase, customer service contact rate, and other KPIs.

There are three main differences between a resume and a cover letter:

  1. Format. Your cover letter is a formal communication made up of full paragraphs. In contrast, your resume should have bulleted lists of such specific details as dates of employment, job responsibilities, career achievements, and skills you possess.
  2. Content. A resume is a broad overview of your education and employment history. You can include most or all of the skills and professional experiences relevant to your current job search. However, your cover letter should focus specifically on the job you are applying for. Although some information may be indicated in both documents, you should concentrate more on present and future goals in a cover letter. At the same time, your resume is supposed to represent your previous achievements and accomplishments.
  3. Purpose. Your resume should contain a wide range of information on one or two pages. Recruiters use a resume to quickly test an applicant's qualifications and assess whether they are suitable for the job. Your cover letter allows the employer to get a full picture of who you are as an individual and a potential job candidate.

3 Tips to Keep in Mind When Writing a Cover Letter vs. a Resume

Keep these three things in mind when you are crafting a resume and a cover letter:

  1. Do not copy-paste. Don't repeat your resume word for word in your cover letter. Use a more conversational format and mix it up a bit. Your cover letter is supposed to open up your personality to your potential employer and let them know your qualifications and why you are the best fit. However, a resume requires a more formal style and bare facts.
  2. Make an excellent first impression. Both your cover letter and your resume are the first impression you make on an employer. Ensure that both are professional, readable, well-thought-out and that there are no grammatical mistakes in either of those.
  3. Subjective. A cover letter should contain more personal information than a resume. Feel free to mention certain things in your cover letter that you couldn't include in your resume. The recipient will also appreciate it if you give them a brief explanation of why you are so interested in this role or industry in general. Your cover letter should serve as a way to add a more human touch to your application. In contrast, your resume is a more detailed summary of your education, experience, qualifications, and skills.

We hope you've found our tips useful. Good luck with your job search! Remember, for more advice on the hiring process, check the Lanteria blog often. We publish insights from HR professionals regularly.

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