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

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When it comes to your resume and cover letter, the goal of both is the same: to put you in the running for the job. However, to get there, you need to approach them each uniquely.

So what’s the big difference?

What Your Resume Should Include

Your resume should dive into the details of your career and performance, spelling out job titles, accomplishments, technical skills and abilities. It should also include all your contact information, your education, your credentials, such as accreditations or licenses, volunteer roles and any other pertinent details.

When it comes to writing a resume, it typically follows a structure that includes:

  • Name and contact information
  • Summary of strengths or qualifications
  • Work history, including job titles, employers and employment dates
  • Education, including degrees earned, institutions, and graduation dates
  • Volunteer roles, industry memberships, or any other specialized skills or abilities to highlight

What Your Cover Letter Should Include

Your cover letter should also delve into your background, but in a different way. It should tell more of a story.

For instance, it can talk about why you want to work at a particular company; discuss more in-depth a specific skill or ability that’s especially important, such as a second language or knowledge of a specialized software program; or explain why you got into the industry and your passion for it.

It should also follow a formal business letter model and include a salutation, opening and closing paragraphs, and a signature. When you’re writing it, you should also keep language concise, clear and convincing, while also showcasing your personality a bit. 

However, you approach it, don’t simply regurgitate what’s on your resume. Many candidates make this mistake and if you do, you’re not telling the hiring manager anything new about you, what makes you unique, or why they should hire you. The information you provide in your cover letter should be complementary to your resume, not a copy of it.

Another mistake when it comes to the cover letter is not including one. Many candidates mistakenly believe it’s no longer needed and they can simply email or submit their resume. However, most hiring managers still expect a cover letter and by not sending one, you’re missing out on an important opportunity to persuade the employer that you’re right for the job.

Need help writing a cover letter or resume that stands out?

Turn to ResumeSpice. We have cover letter templates and resume samples, as well as professional resume writers who can help with both, whether you simply need tips and feedback or writing from scratch. If you’re ready to learn more, call 832.930.7378 or contact us online.