Resume VS Cover Letter in 2024 [Detailed Guide & Examples!]

23 April
11 min read
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Navigating the job market in 2024 can be tricky, with every detail in your job application making a huge difference. 

In such a situation, you might find yourself wondering about the roles of resumes and cover letters and how each can help your job hunt. 

While a resume showcases your skills and experiences, a cover letter adds a personal touch, explaining why you're the perfect fit. But blending these two effectively isn't always straightforward.

But worry not! 

This guide will show you how to create a spotless application by telling you all about resumes vs cover letters, including:

  • Resume Vs Cover Letter: 3 Key Differences 
  • Resume Vs Cover Letter: 3 Key Similarities
  • What to Include in Your Resume and Cover Letter
  • Resume and Cover Letter Examples

Let’s dive in!  

Resume Vs Cover Letter: 3 Key Differences

When you're on the hunt for a new job, understanding the difference between a resume and a cover letter is crucial. 

They might seem like they serve the same purpose at first glance, but they're actually quite different in terms of format, tone, and purpose. 

Let's break down these key differences to help you leverage each one effectively in your job application: 

#1. Format 

The main difference between a resume and a cover letter is how they’re formatted. A resume’s format is structured, almost like a database of your professional life. It's a concise, bullet-pointed list showcasing your work experience, skills, and educational background. 

The idea is to make it easy for the employer to scan through your qualifications quickly. Think of it as a highlight reel of your career, with each point clear and to the point.

On the other hand, a cover letter has a more narrative style. It's your chance to tell a story about your professional journey. Here, you're not just listing your achievements and skills; you're explaining them. 

You can dive into details about key experiences, how you tackled challenges, and why you're a great fit for the role. While your resume is factual and to the point, your cover letter allows your personality and enthusiasm to shine through.

What you include in a cover letter is also different from a resume. In your cover letter, you're linking your skills and experiences directly to what the job requires, using examples and anecdotes. Meanwhile, your resume serves as a straightforward record of your professional path and competencies.

resume formats

#2. Tone

The tone is where you see the difference between a resume and a cover letter. 

A resume is all about being professional and straightforward. You're sticking to the facts: your past job titles, the skills you've mastered, and your educational background. It's like a formal report about you, so there's not much room for personal flair or storytelling.

In contrast, your cover letter is where you can be a bit more relaxed and personal. 

This doesn't mean you should be overly casual, but it's definitely the place to add a bit of your personality. You can write in the first person, share your enthusiasm for the job, and talk about why you're excited about the opportunity. It's like having a conversation with the hiring manager, telling them why you'd be a great fit for the job.

So, while your resume is the straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense part of your application, your cover letter is where you get to be more expressive. 

#3. Purpose

When it comes to the purpose of a resume and a cover letter, it's all about showing different sides of your professional story. 

Your resume is the backbone of your job application; it's essential. It gives a clear, concise rundown of your professional journey. Basically, it's your way of saying, "Here's what I've done and what I'm good at." You can apply for a job with just a resume, but it's just a part of the whole picture.

The cover letter is what fills that picture. It complements your resume by filling in the gaps and adding context to your experiences. This is your space to explain why you're interested in the job and how your background makes you a great fit. It's like adding color to a black-and-white photo. 

By writing a cover letter, you're showing hiring managers that you're not just tossing your resume into every job opening you see. You're taking the time to present a complete, well-thought-out application.

So, while your resume is key, including a cover letter can be a game-changer. It shows you're a dedicated job seeker who understands the value of presenting a full picture. Hiring managers often look for this effort as it demonstrates you’re serious about the role. In a stack of many resumes, a well-crafted cover letter can be the thing that makes you stand out.

Resume Vs Cover Letter: 3 Key Similarities

If navigating the world of job applications can be tricky, it helps to know that both resumes and cover letters also share some common ground.

While they have their differences, they also have key similarities like length, the need to be tailored to the job, and using matching templates. 

Understanding these similarities can help you create a cohesive and compelling job application package:

#1. Length 

First up, let's talk about length. Both your resume and cover letter should be pretty brief

The recommended resume length is usually one page long. You can have a two-page resume, but that's only if you have tons of experience and are applying for an executive position. 

As a rule of thumb, though, your resume should be all about being concise and to the point. You want to make sure every word counts, especially since hiring managers don't spend a lot of time on each resume.

Your cover letter should also be short and sweet. Aim for about three to four paragraphs, and don’t go over one page. You're not writing your autobiography here; you're giving a snapshot of why you're the right fit for the job. It's your chance to highlight the most important parts of your resume and add a bit of personality, but remember, brevity is key.

So, whether it's your resume or cover letter, keep it tight. You want to give just enough to spark interest and make them say, "Let's call this person for an interview."

#2. Tailoring it to the Job

Now, let's talk about tailoring these documents to the job. 

This is super important for both your resume and cover letter. You can't just send the same version to every job opening; it needs to feel like it was made just for that specific role. For your resume, this means highlighting the experience and skills that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. You've got to show them that what you've done lines up with what they need.

Your cover letter needs this custom touch, too. It's your chance to draw a clear line between your skills and experiences and the job's requirements. Here, you're telling them, "Hey, see these things on my resume? This is how they make me a great fit for your job." It's about making the connection between you and the role crystal clear.

So, whether it's tweaking your resume to highlight certain experiences or writing a cover letter that speaks directly to the job ad, tailoring each document is key. It shows that you're not just looking for any job; you're interested in this job.

Looking for a new job? Be sure to read the ultimate guide to the job hunt for help along the way!

#3. Matching Templates 

Lastly, there's the visual aspect – using matching templates for your resume and cover letter. When these two pieces of your application match, it gives everything a cohesive and professional look. 

Think of it like wearing a matching outfit to an interview; it just looks more put together. Using the same design, colors, and font style in both documents creates a strong, unified brand for you as a professional. It's a subtle touch, but it can make your application stand out.

Having a matching set also shows attention to detail. It tells the hiring manager that you've put thought and effort into your application. It's not just about the content; it's also about presenting it in a way that's pleasing to the eye and easy to read.

If you're not a design whiz, don't worry. There are tools out there that can help.

matching resume and cover letter

For example, Novorésumé offers matching templates for resumes and cover letters. This makes it super easy to create a professional and stylish-looking application package. 

With a few clicks, you can have a resume and cover letter that look like they were made to go together, because, well, they were!

What to Include in Your Resume

Your resume is your professional story on a page. It's crucial to include the right information to showcase your skills and experiences effectively. Here's a breakdown of what to include:

  • Contact Information: Start with the basics - your name, phone number, email, and LinkedIn profile. Make sure your email sounds professional and not like something you came up with in high school (e.g.: 
  • Resume Summary or Objective: This is a brief statement at the top of your resume. It should highlight your career achievements and aspirations. Tailor it to reflect how you're a great fit for the specific job you're applying for.
  • Professional Experience: List your past jobs in reverse chronological order. Include your title, the company name, dates of employment, and a brief description of your responsibilities and achievements in each role.
  • Skills (Hard and Soft): Highlight both your technical skills (like programming languages or marketing tools) and soft skills (like communication or problem-solving). Tailor these to match the job description.
  • Education: Include your most recent and relevant educational experiences. List the degree, the institution, and the year of graduation. You can also mention academic honors or extracurricular activities if they're relevant (I.e.: if you’re a recent graduate or entry-level professional).
  • Optional Sections: If you have leftover space on your resume, you can include optional sections such as any languages you speak, any volunteer work you’ve done, your certifications or personal projects, as well as your hobbies and interests.

Are you wondering if you should write a CV or resume? Read our article to find out what the differences are!

What to Include in Your Cover Letter

A cover letter is your chance to make a personal connection with the employer. It complements your resume by bringing your experiences to life. Here’s what you should include:

  • Contact Information: Just like your resume, start with your name, phone number, and email. No need for your address, but including your LinkedIn profile could be a nice touch.
  • Addressing the Hiring Manager: It's important to address your cover letter to the right person. If you can, find out the name of the hiring manager and address them directly (like "Dear Ms. Smith"). This personal touch shows you've put in the extra effort and makes your letter feel more tailored and respectful.
  • Introduction: Grab their attention. Start with a concise introduction about who you are and why you're interested in the role. A compelling opener can make a big difference.
  • Why You’re Interested in the Role: Explain what drew you to the job. Be specific about why the company or the role excites you. This shows you've done your homework.
  • Your Relevant Experience and Skills: Here's where you match your skills to the job description. Use specific examples from your past to show how you've used these skills effectively to show the hiring manager why they should hire you.
  • Conclusion and Call to Action: Wrap it up by reiterating your interest and thank the reader for their time. A proactive closing, like mentioning your eagerness to discuss your application in an interview, leaves a strong final impression.
cover letter structure

13 Resume Examples

Are you wondering what a great resume looks like? Here are 13 resumes for different professions to inspire you:

#1. Business Analyst Resume Example

Business Analyst Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a business analyst resume here.

#2. Digital Marketing Resume Example

Digital Marketing Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a digital marketing resume here.

#3. Software Engineer Resume Example

Software Engineer Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a software engineer resume here.

#4. Construction Project Manager Resume Example

Construction Project Manager Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a construction project manager resume here.

#5. Customer Service Resume Example

Customer Service Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a customer service resume here.

#6. High School Resume Example

High School Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a high school resume here.

#7. Student Resume Example

Student Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a student resume here.

#8. Server Resume Example

Server Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a server resume here.

#9. Actor Resume Example

Actor Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing an actor resume here.

#10. Web Developer Resume Example

Web Developer Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a web developer resume here.

#11. Engineering Resume Example

Engineering Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing an engineering resume here.

#12. Computer Science Resume Example

Computer Science Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing a computer science resume here.

#13. Architect Resume Example 

Architect Resume Example

Check out our full guide to writing an architect resume here.

13 Cover Letter Examples

And here are some cover letter examples to take your application from great to perfect:

#1. Customer Service Cover Letter

Customer Service Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a customer service cover letter here.

#2. Marketing Executive Cover Letter

Marketing Executive Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a marketing executive cover letter here.

#3. Medical Assistant Cover Letter

Medical Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a medical assistant cover letter here.

#4. Consultant Cover Letter

Consultant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a consultant cover letter here.

#5. College Student Cover Letter

College Student Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a college student cover letter here.

#6. Retail Cover Letter

Retail Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a retail cover letter here.

#7. Team Leader Cover Letter

Team Leader Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a team leader cover letter here.

#8. Actor Cover Letter

Actor Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an actor cover letter here.

#9. Digital Marketing Cover Letter

Digital Marketing Cover Letter

#10. Executive Assistant Cover Letter

Executive Assistant Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an executive assistant cover letter here.

#11. Finance Cover Letter

Finance Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a finance cover letter here.

#12. Graphic Designer Cover Letter

Graphic Designer Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing a graphic designer cover letter here.

#13. IT Cover Letter

IT Cover Letter

Check out our full guide to writing an IT cover letter here.

Key Takeaways 

And that’s a wrap on everything you need to know about cover letters and resumes. 

Before you go and perfect your application based on what you just read, here’s a rundown of the main points we covered in this article:

  • Resumes and cover letters differ in the way you format them, the tone you use when writing them, and the purpose they serve. 
  • On the other hand, they also have similarities. For example, they’re typically the same length and need to be tailored to the job you’re applying for. 
  • On your resume, make sure to include your contact information, resume summary, work experience, education, skills, and other optional sections. 
  • Meanwhile, in your cover letter, you should first include a header with both your and the hiring manager’s contact information. Then you should address the hiring manager, write a captivating introduction, talk about your achievements and skills, and wrap up with a call to action and a professional signature line.