How Cover Letter Is Different From A Resume? (Career Advice)

For most people, the cover letter is a mystery. They don’t know what it’s for or how it differs from a resume. To help you understand this important document, we’ve created an infographic with tips on how to write and format your cover letter.

Understanding Cover Letters and Resumes
Key Takeaways
Cover letters and resumes serve different purposes in the job application process.
A cover letter introduces the job seeker and explains why they are interested in and qualified for the job.
A resume provides a summary of the job seeker’s education, work experience, and skills.
It’s important to tailor your cover letter to the specific job and company you are applying to.
Both documents should be concise and focused on the most important information.
Submit your cover letter and resume as separate documents, with the cover letter as the first page of the application.

1. Purpose

Purpose: A cover letter is a letter that accompanies your resume. It should be concise and to the point, but should also be able to stand alone as a document. The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and your skills to an employer, otherwise known as “pitching” yourself for an interview or job opportunity.

What it is: A resume gives an overview of your career history, experience, and skills. It’s usually longer than a cover letter (usually one page or less), whereas the latter will focus on why you’d be a good fit for specific positions or roles at that company.

Formatting: A resume can vary in length depending on what type of position you’re applying for (e.g., entry-level vs senior management). 

Cover letters have no set minimum word count because they aren’t required in all situations like resumes are but if there isn’t much explaining needed about how well-suited you are for the role being advertised (or if there are too many other people applying), then there won’t be any extra detail provided beyond mentioning why you’re interested in working there specifically.

A well-written cover letter can be the difference between getting an interview and getting passed over. If you’re not sure whether you need one, check out our article on whether a cover letter is necessary for valuable insights.

2. Audience

One of the first things you’ll need to do is think about who is reading your cover letter, and what their needs are. The person or people hiring for the job are likely to be looking for reasons not to hire you, so focus on proving them wrong by addressing their concerns in your cover letter.

The resume’s main purpose is to give a snapshot of what you can bring to an organization the big picture stuff like experience and qualifications. The cover letter’s primary purpose is to explain how those experiences will benefit this particular company/organization/person. 

A resume summarizes accomplishments; a cover letter explains why those accomplishments matter.

With all that in mind, there are some key differences between the two documents:

Audience – Who’s reading it? What do they want? (e.g., the hiring manager wants someone who can meet deadlines)

Goal – What outcome do I want from writing this thing? (e.g., get hired)

Context – Where does this document fit into my overall job search process? Is it just one piece among many applicants’ materials or am I applying directly from the school where there aren’t many other candidates around yet?

3. Length

The length of your cover letter should be no more than 1 page, but it should not be any shorter than this. This is for you to convey the message quickly and concisely to the employer. 

If you can express yourself in one paragraph, then that is fine too as long as it conveys your message well and succinctly. It is better if you keep it simple and brief instead of adding unnecessary information or using complex language just because there is space on the page!

A lot of people make the mistake of writing two pages when they only need one page at most (the exception being senior management level positions). 

As an entry-level applicant, make sure that you do not write two pages because you will end up making a bad impression on recruiters when they see how long your cover letter was without reading anything! You might even put off some recruiters who don’t have time to read through such lengthy documents full of random sentences about yourself!

Your cover letter is your chance to make a great first impression and set yourself apart from other applicants. To learn how to write a cover letter that gets noticed, check out our expert advice on crafting a standout cover letter.

4. Format

While a resume is meant to be a comprehensive overview of your skills and experience, a cover letter should be short and sweet. The goal is to convince the reader that you’re worth their time, so it’s best to keep the main body of your cover letter at or under one page. 

The format should also be simple and clear, with headings that highlight what’s most important in each paragraph.

A good font choice can help readers quickly digest the information, so use one that’s easy on the eyes: sans serif fonts like Arial or Calibri are best for this purpose. 

Also, stick with black ink when typing up your letters the easiest way for people who don’t know you personally (like hiring managers) to get a sense of who you are as an employee will be through their reading experience.

Use boldface or italics whenever possible to emphasize key points throughout your letter; this will make it easier for readers who have skimmed through their stacks of resumes for potential candidates to find what they need quickly without having to reread entire paragraphs over again later down the road 

After making some decisions about whom they’d like interviewed first based solely on preliminary impressions formed by these initial thoughts expressed by yours truly rather than any sort of formal analysis performed beforehand 

While still keeping within budget constraints established by upper management due date requirements imposed upon them before considering myself as perhaps being part 

5. Content

Cover letters and resumes are different in how they’re written, but they both contain the same kinds of information. A cover letter should briefly describe why you want to work at the company, explain how your skills fit with their job description and include any relevant experience that’s not mentioned elsewhere. 

A resume should be organized chronologically with headings for each position you’ve held (e.g., “Company Name” or “Title”) so that employers can easily see where you worked and what type of job it was (e.g., paralegal or technology consultant).

When it comes to applying for a job, your cover letter and resume are both important, but they serve different purposes. To understand the difference and make sure you’re submitting the right documents, read our guide on how a cover letter is different from a resume.

6. Structure

The structure of your cover letter should be very similar to the structure of your resume. The main difference is that you don’t need to include any personal information, such as age and marital status. 

You also don’t need to talk about previous employment and education in great detail that’s what the resume is for! Instead, focus on selling yourself as a candidate by presenting relevant experience or skills.

Cover letters should be short; you don’t want to overload the employer with unnecessary information. Keep each paragraph focused on one point (for example: showing how you can meet the requirements of this job posting) and make sure it flows logically from one idea to another.

7. Tone

One of the most important aspects of a cover letter is its tone. In your cover letter, you need to demonstrate that you’re confident, friendly, professional, and persuasive for it to be effective at getting an employer’s attention.

But what does that mean? It means:

Be confident when you’re writing a cover letter, your tone must come across as upbeat. Employers want to work with people who are enthusiastic about their work (and life), so this is something that should come across from the first lineup!

Be friendly-There should be no question about whether or not you’re going to fit into their office culture when an employer reads through your cover letter; they should feel like they’ve already gotten to know you at this point. 

That means being polite and respectful throughout each sentence of your document (even if there are some parts where you disagree). For example: “I would love working with __ company because __.” This shows off your positivity while still being open-minded towards other opportunities out there too!

Be professional – Avoiding any curse words or slang expressions will help ensure readers take everything seriously instead of just skimming over sentences quickly without paying attention properly due to poor diction choices made by authors.”

If you’re wondering whether a cover letter is worth the effort, the answer is yes. A well-crafted cover letter can help you stand out from the competition and show potential employers why you’re the best candidate for the job. Check out our article on how cover letters can help your job search to learn more.

8. How Much Research To Do

To craft a cover letter, you need to research the company and position. Research is a cornerstone of any successful cover letter. Research is what will make your cover letter stand out among others; without it, you’re just another applicant with generic information in his or her resume.

Researching and reading the job description is crucial when putting together your cover letter. You want to make sure that all of the information you provide matches what they are looking for in an employee; otherwise, they will see right through it!

9. Design And Images

A cover letter is the first point of contact with your potential employer. In this way, it’s like a letter you’d send to someone you want to get to know better. You want to use strong language and feelings in your cover letter so employers can see how passionate you are about the job opportunity and why they should pick you over others.

So yes, there’s an art to writing a good cover letter-but don’t despair if you haven’t had any formal training in writing or editing copy! As long as you have some basic knowledge of grammar (and remember that times have changed since Shakespeare), then by all means go ahead and revise away! 

The most important thing is that your tone remains friendly throughout – no matter how much editing work needs to be done on it later down the line

10. References And Testimonials

It is important to note that references and testimonials are not the same. References are people who can vouch for you, whereas testimonials are quotes from existing customers. You may use both in your cover letter, but make sure they are relevant to the job you are applying for.

11. Action Items

An action item is a directive for the reader to take some kind of specific action. It can be as simple as “please contact me,” or it can be more complicated and include multiple steps, like “contact me if you are interested in discussing this position further.”

Action items should always have a deadline attached to them and be delineated from other parts of the letter so that they stand out as immediate next steps for the reader. If there is no time pressure involved in your request, consider adding one to increase its effectiveness!

When it comes to writing a cover letter, one of the most important things you can do is explain why you’re a good fit for the job. To learn how to do this effectively and make sure your cover letter gets noticed, check out our guide on why you’re a good fit for the job in your cover letter.

12. Sharing Information

The cover letter is an introduction to your resume, not a summary of it. It’s an opportunity to explain why you are the best candidate for the job, and how your qualifications match up with those specifically listed in their posting. A good cover letter will also outline what makes you interested in working for this company or organization.


We hope that we’ve given you some insight into how to write a cover letter. This is a good time to think about your goals and the job you are applying for. We also advise you to do some research in advance and make sure that your letter hits on all of these points so it doesn’t get thrown aside as soon as an employer reads it!

Further Reading


What is the difference between a cover letter and a resume?

A cover letter is a document that accompanies a resume, introducing the job seeker and explaining why they are interested in and qualified for the job. A resume is a summary of the job seeker’s education, work experience, and skills.

When should I use a cover letter versus a resume?

A cover letter should be used when applying for a specific job or position, to introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for the role. A resume should be used to provide a summary of your qualifications and work history.

Do I need to write a cover letter for every job application?

It’s not necessary to write a new cover letter for every job application, but you should tailor your cover letter to the specific job and company you are applying to. This can include mentioning specific skills or experiences that are relevant to the job.

How long should a cover letter and resume be?

A cover letter should be no more than one page, and a resume should be no more than two pages. It’s important to keep both documents concise and focused on the most important information.

Should I submit my cover letter and resume as separate documents?

Yes, a cover letter and resume should be submitted as separate documents. The cover letter should be the first page of the application, followed by the resume.