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

A person reviewing a job candidate's resume.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

Your cover letter and resume go hand in hand in helping you make a good first impression on potential employers. However, each document is entirely different in terms of their purpose and content. 

If you’re preparing to apply for jobs and asking yourself, ‘what’s the difference between a cover letter and a resume?’ keep reading to find out how these documents differ from one another and how to craft each one to help you land an interview. 

Cover letter vs. resume: The difference explained 

A cover letter is a customized letter that lets the hiring manager get to know you better, while a resume is a factual summary of your work experience and qualifications 

The purpose of a cover letter 

A cover letter is your chance to personalize your application and make a connection with the hiring manager or recruiter. It gives you an opportunity to:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Show off your personality.
  • Explain why you’re a great fit for the role.

Your cover letter gives the hiring manager or recruiter a sense of your professionalism and ability to connect with others.

What to include in a cover letter

Typically, a cover letter is one or two pages long and written in short paragraphs.

Key elements to include in your cover letter are:

  • Contact information.
    • Include your full name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the letter.
  • An introduction.
    • Address the letter to the hiring manager or recruiter by name, if possible. Introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in the position.
  • One or two short body paragraphs.
    • Explain how your skills and experiences align with the requirements of the job, and why you would be an asset to the organization.
  • A closing.
    • Thank the hiring manager or recruiter for their time and consideration. Express that you look forward to hearing from them.

Check out our blog on why a cover letter is important for more examples of what to put in your letter, along with a cover letter template.

The purpose of a resume

Your resume is your opportunity to make a great first impression on the hiring team.

A resume showcases your:

  • Qualifications.
  • Knowledge.
  • Experience.
  • Skillsets.

This information shows the hiring team how your background matches up with the job you applied for and what you could bring to the table.  

What to include in a resume 

Like a cover letter, your resume should be one or two pages long. However, one major difference between a cover letter and a resume is that a resume should be written in easy-to-read sections and split up with bullet points 

Most resumes include: 

  • Contact information.
    • Include your full name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the document.
  • Work experience.
    • List your relevant work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job. Include the job title, company name, dates of employment, and a short description of your responsibilities and accomplishments in each role.
  • Education.
    • List your educational qualifications, including degrees and certifications.
  • Skills.
  • Achievements.
    • Feature any notable achievements or awards you have received in your career.

Make sure your resume is well-written and up to date before you submit it for any job applications.

Ace your next interview.

Once you land an interview, check out these 11 tips to help you impress the hiring team and stand out from other job candidates. 
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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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