How to Differentiate Your Cover Letter From Your Resume

John Krautzel
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Your cover letter and resume show potential supervisors what you can do for them. Make both documents stand out by offering different snapshots of your career goals, drives, passions and aspirations in each credential.

Leslie Mitchell, the head of recruiting at HubSpot, notes five of the most dramatic, off-the-wall and weird statements to avoid on cover letter and resume submissions. Do not be too comfortable or casual with your language in either document. Most certainly avoid highlighting your flaws in either document — shortcomings are addressed during the interview with direct questions.

Differentiate your cover letter style from your resume writing by expounding on resume points with details in the introductory letter. A resume simply points to some of the six W's of your work history up to this point. Who, what, where and when should all be found within the framework of a resume, as these questions relate to your professional life. Who are you? What have you done? Where did you work? When did you work? Answer these questions in a short, concise manner with a one-page resume.

The "why" and "how" portion of your work history is written in your introductory letter. Why did you work for Acme for 10 years? How did you get along with your boss? Why did you find this work fulfilling? Do not reiterate the same information in a resume with your cover letter — explain details about how your previous work ethic helps your potential manager.

Use similar action verbs from both documents, according to small business owner Kristia Ludwick writing for Money Crashers. If your resume writing uses "led" and "researched" during a vital position in the past, then use this same verbiage when expanding on details in the letter. Explain how you led and researched a huge project and why it was successful. Show your future employer why this project and this work was successful.

Stand out by using an information hierarchy within the cover letter, which means put the most important data first on the page and first in each paragraph. This credential highlights the best part of a resume, such as the job you held the longest or the manager you got along with the best. Do not be afraid to expound on superlatives in your letter, just do so in concise language without boilerplating or using standard verbiage. Plain language will not get noticed by managers and human resources executives.

Identify the most critical job requirements and explain why you meet or exceed those standards in the letter. If the position needs someone who can "lead a team of 10 individuals through tough negotiations with clients," then write about one instance when your successful leadership landed a huge client contract with a previous employer.

With both a resume and cover letter, review both documents thoroughly before submission. Have a trusted friend look over both them, read them aloud and determine if they sound like you without becoming robotic. That way, the written words match the personality walking in the door for the all-important interview.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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