What Is an Application vs. Cover Letter? (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 10, 2022

Published November 24, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for job positions or academic programs, you may want to know the differences between an application vs. cover letter. Each letter has features that emphasize your skills. By knowing which letter to provide in your application, you can increase your chances of being hired and demonstrate your interest in the company. In this article, we discuss the definition of an application and cover letter, highlight the differences between application and cover letters, and provide samples of introductions and work histories for these letters.

What is an application vs. cover letter?

When differentiating between an application vs. cover letter, it's important to understand that both application letters and cover letters are components of application materials that you submit to hiring managers to demonstrate your interest in particular job positions. Application letters differ from cover letters because they provide hiring managers with a detailed summary of candidates' skills and experience. These letters have a difference in formatting but provide information about why you're an ideal candidate for the job position.

Cover letters typically accompany a CV or resume in job applications. While these letters contain similar content when compared to application letters, they provide a brief history of your work experience, academic background, and skills. In cover letters, you may also want to discuss your career goals. Your cover letter mentions job openings that you have an interest in and increases your chances of being hired by elaborating upon elements in your CV.

Related: Letter of Interest vs. Cover Letter (With Steps and Samples)

Differences between cover letters vs application letters

Here are some differences between an application letter and a cover letter:

Purpose of the letter

While cover letters and application letters share similar purposes, your reasoning for sending these letters can differ. When applying for jobs, your cover letter is an introduction to, or an extension of, your CV and resume. Your cover letter is typically concise and brief, while your application letter is more detailed. When submitting an application letter to a hiring manager, this typically accompanies several other application materials that include your CV or resume, references, and recommendation letters. You may also want to include your portfolio.

Application letters differ from cover letters in their purpose because they provide hiring managers with more insight into your experience and skills. You may send application letters to companies that don't have job openings currently to show your interest in working for them. The hiring manager typically follows up with you if they have any job openings that suit your experience.

Related: What is the Purpose of Cover Letter?

Letter format

Cover letters have less detail than application letters. They explain the information provided in CVs in more detail. In these letters, you typically describe your career as a journey, which starts with how you discovered your passion for the industry and ends with your career goals. You typically want cover letters to be a half page in length. You also include additional materials, like your CV or resume.

Application letters differ because you have the option of submitting application materials with your application. The attachments you include in this letter depend on the purpose of your letter. You can also include your CV, resume, and portfolio, or project information. Application letters are significantly longer because of the information in them. These letters range from three to four paragraphs. This typically includes up to 400 words, or just over a page in length. These letters also include information about your skills and how you obtained them, along with how you want to use them for the hiring manager's company.

Related: How to Write a Proposal Letter

Educational purposes

While many candidates use cover letters and application letters for job applications, you may also want to use an application letter for an application program or internship. An application letter demonstrates your interest in programs and provides the program director with insight into your qualifications. These letters also provide information about your educational background, professional experience, and your overall goals. Many academic programs also demand application letters if you lack previous educational or professional experience. For example, professional programs like social work often require significant volunteering or academic experience to ensure your acceptance into the program.

Related: How to Format a Cover Letter

When to send each letter

You can submit cover letters and application letters when companies have job openings or when they start the hiring process. Candidates typically provide cover letters when they see particular job positions that interest them. For these letters, it's advisable to customize content for the particular job position, along with the information you provide in your CV. Application letters differ from these as you may provide them when you have an interest in an overall company that doesn't necessarily have open job positions.

Related: Letter of Interest (With Tips and Example)

When you provide an application letter to companies that don't have open positions, it may increase your chances of being considered for future openings. Companies may also request that application letters only include application letters rather than cover letters and CVs. When they do, your application letter replaces your resume and cover letter. If you don't know which one to provide, you may want to ask the hiring manager or read the company's other job postings. Additionally, you can contact the company to obtain the necessary information.

Related: What is a Letter of Employment? Definition and Samples

Cover letter introduction examples

Generally, the introduction for each letter has a different format. A cover letter's introduction is two to three sentences about the applicant's experience and the position for which they're applying. Here are some examples of a cover letter's introduction:

Example 1

Here's an example of a cover letter introduction that focuses on experience:

My name is Rosie Stand, and I'm applying for the Executive Marketing Representative position. I feel that my five years in customer service, my degree in marketing, and my strong communication skills make me an excellent candidate.

Example 2

Here's an example of a cover letter introduction that focuses on interests and values:

My name is Jamala Davis, and I'd like to express my interest in the role of Social Worker at North East High School. I have a strong passion for helping students achieve academic success. I believe I can offer valuable guidance to students pursuing college degrees.

Application letter introduction examples

An application letter typically contains a more comprehensive introduction that provides thorough details on the candidate's skills, experience, duties, and goals. The introduction is usually four to five sentences, while the whole letter can be one page in length. The purpose of a more detailed introduction is to provide hiring managers with information that a resume typically includes. Here are some examples of introductions for an application letter:

Example 1

Here's an example of a concise application letter:

I'm submitting this letter to express my interest in the Human Relations position at Hanley Hill Hotel. Previously, I worked at a human resources agency for five years, which I feel gave me excellent communication skills and customer service abilities that help me meet and exceed a customer's needs. My education provided me with strong technical skills, which help me assist customers in booking rooms or changing their reservations.

Example 2

Here's an example of an application letter with significant experience:

My name is Zachary Pearson, and I'm writing to you to show my interest in the Advertising Assistant position at your company. In my previous positions, I completed various administrative duties, which included sorting paperwork, making phone calls, and coordinating meetings. Because of my communication skills and administrative experience, I feel I'm an excellent fit for this position.

Related: 3 Free Cover Letter Templates to Create an Impactful First Impression

Application letter work experience examples

The work experience section of an application letter contains more details about previous jobs you've worked, while a cover letter contains brief information about relevant experience. An application letter contains the name of the company you worked for, including the duration of your employment and information about specific responsibilities. Here are two examples to guide you:

Application letter work experience example

Here's an example of how you may format an application letter work experience section:

I worked at Capital University for five years as an Associate Professor from June 2015 to May 2020. While there, I worked closely with students pursuing master's degrees in psychology, providing assistance for their research and offering improvements for their coursework. My responsibilities also included coordinating lesson plans for undergraduate and graduate-level courses, grading students' work, and conducting meetings with students to help them prepare for certification exams.

Related: How To Write a Job Application Letter Step by Step

Application letter work experience example

Here's an example of how you may format an application letter work experience section:

In my previous experience, I worked in the administration department to provide support across several different businesses. I have worked in my current role as an Office Administration for the past four years. Prior to this job, I worked as a human resources assistant for six years, which shows my ability to advance in my career.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter for IT Jobs

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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