Cover Letter vs. Resume: How the Right Information Can Improve the Job Search Process

TSP • @myTSPnet


As a business owner, you know you're only as successful as the people who comprise your workforce. Hiring and retaining the best employees for each position at every level improves productivity, efficiency, and your bottom line. Recruitment agencies know the value of weighing information from a cover letter vs. a resume, depending on what's most important to their clients, and many organizational leaders find it helpful to understand how this process works, too.

A cover letter is a document that supplements an application with or without a resume. This is often the hiring manager's first chance to see how well candidates communicate. It allows job seekers to discuss why they want to work for your company and expound on their accomplishments.

A resume summarizes a candidate's career in list format from their most recent position to their first. It also includes their relevant skills, education, certifications, and awards. A good resume makes it easy to match an applicant's experience and skills with the job description.

Whether you ask for a cover letter, a resume, or both depends primarily on the information you want about the candidates.

While the resume and cover letter can indicate how well candidates fit the position, the timeframe of the information is different. Resumes show their past accomplishments, and cover letters look to the future.

A good resume is a succinct, organized summary of the applicant's education and work experience. A traditional resume demonstrates the candidate's knowledge gained from training and skills learned while working other jobs.

Entry-level employees may have little experience listed in the bullet points, but they can still show what they bring with a skills-based resume. Highlighting technical skills they have mastered shows prospective employers that they are willing to take the initiative to learn what they need to know for their industry. This should be an attractive quality for employers looking to hire go-getters for their teams.

When prioritizing a cover letter vs. a resume, consider the richness of the information the former can provide. A well-written cover letter helps you envision how well the candidate fits the company's future. It shows more of the candidate's personality and knowledge of the organization and often gives you a better sense of how well they fit the job description than a resume can.

The purpose of a resume is to highlight the applicant's knowledge, experience, and skills. It shows the timeline of their career up to that point. It may also include relevant organizational memberships and volunteer work. You can use this information to see if the candidate meets the job's minimum or preferred qualifications and compare them to others who have applied.

The cover letter personalizes the facts in the resume and makes them come alive. Candidates should cover a few key points in their cover letters:

  • The position desired and how they found out about it
  • Why the job appeals to them
  • Examples of how well their qualifications match the job description
  • Insight into their professional philosophy, as demonstrated by their accomplishments

Finally, as the cover letter is often submitted with the resume, the content should always point back to that document.

Between a cover letter vs. a resume, there is a difference in the depth of the information offered. Resumes show the breadth of candidates' skill sets. They cover everything from their certifications and job titles to their accomplishments in each career phase.

Think of a cover letter as an expanded elevator pitch. Instead of thirty seconds, candidates have a few paragraphs to connect with the person reading it and stand out among all other applicants. It's also a chance to show how well they will represent the employer, particularly in written communication. The more authentic and memorable their writing is, the better the letter will work for them.

Many resume and cover letter builders available on the web, so it's unusual to get a document that does not fulfill its basic purpose. Good resumes will show a clear timeline of candidates' careers thus far and highlight a few skills that are particularly relevant to the positions they're applying for. Decent cover letters will introduce candidates and allow their personalities to shine through, giving the facts listed on the application and their resume a human touch.

However, what is a cover letter vs. a resume that truly stands out? What extra qualities make them go from good to great?

Impressive Resumes
The best thing candidates can do to their resumes before submitting them is to make them relevant for the specific jobs or industries in which they're seeking a career. While they will still focus more on their fit for the organization in a cover letter vs. a resume, this extra edit is a subtle way of showing off their knowledge of the company and career field. It demonstrates that they've done their homework and thus already know what is most important to prospective employers.

Memorable Cover Letters
With cover letters, it's important to start strong and get to the point. In the first paragraph, candidates should take the opportunity to hook the reader with a short, compelling story that illustrates what led them to apply for the position. This is a more interesting way to introduce themselves than just the standard statement of what position they want and where they discovered the job posting. A document with a few outstanding paragraphs totaling a half-page to one page in length will be better received than a long, wordy one.

Finding the right person for a job among hundreds of qualified candidates can be expensive and time-consuming. Let TSP do the heavy lifting for you. Our experienced recruiters can help you decide whether to request a cover letter vs. a resume from applicants. Then we assist by sifting through all the submissions your job posting attracts to find the best fit. Contact us for more information on how to get started.