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CV vs Cover Letter: Differences, Similarities & Which One to Use

CV vs Cover Letter: Differences, Similarities & Which One to Use

You are ready to go for your dream job, and you plan to nail it in no time.

But to do so, you need some really strong application documents, as the competition for all jobs is increasing by the minute.

To do so, you need to understand the difference between your CV and cover letter, and use them to the full extent.

At first glance, it may seem like they are the same document, as they both have the goal to present you as the best candidate for the job.

But that’s not actually true.

In this article, we are going to find out:

  • What is a CV?
  • What is a cover letter?
  • What are the similarities between a CV and cover letter?
  • What are the differences between a CV and cover letter?

To get a better understanding of both documents, and perfect your own, you should learn how to create a killer cover letter, and use our CV Builder to create an eye-catching CV.

But if you are ready to learn what are CV and cover letter, and what differentiates them, stick around.

What is a CV?

That question may be a little more complicated than you might think. What a CV is actually depends on what part of the world are you at.

In the US, a CV is a very detailed document that presents all your experience, skills, and educations, along with any other academic achievements. It is mainly used for academic or federal jobs, and it is usually 2-3 pages long.

On the other hand, in anywhere else in the world, a CV is a one-page document (or at most a two-pager, if you have lots of work experience in the field you are applying for) that has the structure of the US resume.

Either way, your CV must absolutely include:

And you can also compliment it with sections like:

You can also list any other sections that seem relevant and would increase your chances of getting the job.

No matter which kind of CV you are writing, its main purpose is to clearly present your qualifications to the hiring manager, and make you stand out in front of the crowd of candidates.

What is a cover letter?

Usually, when you are sending your CV out, you would want to include some short paragraphs to complement it and make your desire for the job even stronger in the eyes of the hiring manager.

For that purpose, we have the cover letter, which is the second most important document in your application, after the CV.

What it should include is:

  • Header
  • Salutation
  • Introduction
  • A paragraph that underlines your experience and skills
  • A paragraph that shows why you’re a great fit for the company and the role you are applying for
  • A call to action
  • Professional sign-off

To do this right, you need to make sure you have provided clear and concise answers for the following questions:

  • What position are you applying for and why?
  • What are your most impressive, relevant skills and experience?
  • Why do these skills benefit your potential employer?

CV vs cover letter – what do they have in common?

A CV and cover letter can be described as two sides of the same coin.

Your primary document is your CV that shows all your experience and skills, all in one place, while the cover letter proves all the essential parts of your CV, using compelling examples.

And even though they serve a different purpose in presenting you, they have one great similarity – together they show you in the best possible light in the eyes of the hiring manager.

CV vs cover letter – what are the differences?

Now that you understand what CVs and cover letters have in common, let’s dig a little deeper into their differences, as it is crucial to understand them to get the best results.

The main difference between a CV and a cover letter are:

  • CV is an extensive document that outlines the applicant’s career – their experience, qualifications, skills, competences, achievements, etc. Meanwhile, a cover letter provides only a short description of the applicant, and compliments all the important parts of the CV, using examples
  • CV is a detailed document that consists of great deal of information, while the cover letter is short and to the point
  • CV usually uses sections and bullet lists for all its content, but a cover letter is usually categorized into sentences and paragraphs
  • CV can often not be tailored for the job position you are applying for, while your cover letter should always be modified, as it is a much more personal document that describes your interest in particular job offer and company
  • CV can be spread out into more than one page, but your cover letter should never exceed one page

Takeaways

We are all done, now you understand what differentiates CV and cover letter, and how to use each best in your advantage.

Let’s just recap their main purposes one last time:

  • CV is an extensive document that shows all your experience, qualifications, skills, and any other relevant information for the job you are applying for
  • A cover letter is a much more personal document that is used to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, prove all the important parts from your CV using compelling examples, and show your great interest in the job you are applying for

They work great together, so make sure you create the best possible team for your application documents.

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Kal Dimitrov
Kal is a resume expert @ Enhancv. He frequently publishes blog posts around resume writing, cover letters & job applications. Kal also runs a Career Accelerator Bootcamp for young graduates.
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