Cover Letters Vs. Resumes: What’s What?
Cover Letters Vs. Resumes: What’s What?
October 21, 2021

Let’s be honest: looking for a job isn’t a one-and-done activity. There are dozens of steps to take to ensure you’re putting your all into it — from organizing your time to planning interview outfits and transportation — a lot goes into making a job application picture perfect.

When it comes to planning the best approach, it’s important to understand each component of your job search and put exactly what is needed into each. This is not to say that there shouldn’t be a sense of cohesiveness to your job applications, but rather that every piece plays its own part.

Two of the most essential parts of any job application will be your COVER LETTER and your RESUME! Like grilled cheese and tomato soup, together they form a classic pairing that will satisfy any recruiter. And while they are most often submitted together, as one set of pages, they only overlap in that they are ways to present yourself. How they present you is actually quite different.

Let’s break apart these two important documents and review what makes them unique so you can stand out to employers!

What is: A Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a conversational-style document that you write in the first person, addressed to the recruiter.

In it, you will of course specify who you are by listing your name and address (and any other pertinent contact information), as well as addressing the recipient by their name and title. It is preferred not to simply put “to whom it may concern”. If your application will be reviewed by more than one person, address their company or hiring committee specifically — personalization is key in a cover letter.

While keeping your letter brief (no more than one page), you will want to break your points into smaller paragraphs, typically detailing:

  • A friendly introduction
  • A statement of your intent (identifying what position you are applying for)
  • A survey of your background
  • Why you are qualified for the specific position (the more unique the better)

You then typically thank them for their time and end with regards and your signature.

The cover letter gives you a chance to colour your work experience, and to speak directly and less formally to the recruiter. When discussing your background, avoid using too many details since (as we’ll discuss) your resume will cover that information. Instead, connect your experience to the job description and describe who it has made you, such as what interests you have in the field and what work-related activities you enjoy.

What is: A Resume?

A resume is an information sheet written in third person. It describes in detail your work and educational history for recruiters to survey.

While you can make stylistic decisions, ultimately your resume should be monotone — meaning it is simply an assembly of data about you, nothing more colourful than that. It’s all about the facts here.

You’ll want to display your personal information, like contact number, name, and email, prominently. There is no need for an introduction or conclusion.

When listing your work history, you will need to put in the timelines and keep it chronological. If you have an extended work history, pick the most relevant and recent jobs.

You can add a few sentences. The first being a statement of intent (i.e. your goal or mission statement). You can also briefly describe your role at certain jobs. This helps recruiters understand the value you gained there, especially when they are unfamiliar with a certain company or job title.

How do they work together?

If your cover letter is art, your resume is science.

Have you ever been looking up a recipe online, only to have to read through an entire blog article before you get to the actual instructions? Well there’s a reason for this! Search engine bots often look at bullet-point instructions and ingredient lists and decide that a page is gibberish, which means it shows up lower in search results. Smart recipe writers know they need to write something more human first (like a story about how this was their grandma’s secret recipe) to make the bots understand that the page was actually written properly by a real person.

When you want your resume to stand out, the cover letter does this same thing for you! It shows recruiters that you are a real person, and helps you connect to them on an emotional level. But without the ‘recipe’ (your resume), there’d be no substance for them to review.

Not all jobs will require cover letters though. It may be the case that you simply have to submit a resume. But if you include a cover letter, you’ll be going the extra mile that could help you cross the finish line of your job search!