Is a CV a Cover Letter? (With Tips for Writing Both)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 17, 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.

Related: How to Write a CV for a Job Application: Step by Step Guide

CVs and cover letters are both job application materials, but they are not the same. While CVs provide information in a concise way, cover letters are typically longer and provide context and detail to your qualifications. Understanding the difference between a CV and a cover letter allows you to optimize your application materials, write to your industry's expectations, and have a better chance of being invited to interview. In this article, we answer the question, "Is a CV a cover letter?", detail what to include in the two documents, and explore 10 tips to help you write your own.

Is a CV a cover letter?

CVs and cover letters are both used to communicate your skills and qualifications when applying for a job. Your CV, or curriculum vitae, summarizes your professional experience, qualifications, and skills. You can include experience from the past 10 to 15 years, including any opportunities where you volunteered. Your CV targets your industry, potential employer, and job title. CVs usually have the following sections: career summary, education, professional qualifications, work experience, and volunteering experience. Some candidates also include a personal statement at the beginning of their CV.

Present this information with bullet points, lists, and short sentences. When possible, include statistics and concrete information that proves your value to your previous employer. Cover letters expand on the information included in your CV. They provide more context to explain your value to the company. In your CV, you may mention an increase in productivity as an accomplishment for a previous job. In your cover letter, you may elaborate on how you increased productivity, how to measure productivity, and how that increase benefited the team. A cover letter is your opportunity to convince the recruiter to hire you.

Related: Guide To Writing a Professional CV

What to include in your CV

Here is a list of components to include in your CV:

Personal information

Your CV needs to have your professional title, full legal name, address, and any other pertinent information. Employers use this information to both identify you and to contact you in the future. Consider including your email, home phone number, and cell phone number.

Personal statement

Your personal statement is a brief overview of who you are and what you offer. This is also your opportunity to discuss your goals and how your experience aids you in accomplishing those goals. You can use this section to describe information that is later elaborated upon in your cover letter.

Related: How To Write a Powerful Personal Statement

Professional and volunteering experience

The experience you include on your CV showcases your accomplishments in previous jobs and expands on your various responsibilities. List your work experience in descending order from your newest work experience to oldest. When listing your responsibilities and accomplishments, use action verbs. Discuss accomplishments that apply directly to the job you're applying to and that demonstrate your value to recruiters.

Education

Discuss any certifications and degrees that contribute to your abilities. If you've completed specializations, also include these in your education experience. If you earned good grades, you may want to include them in your CV.

What to include in your cover letter

Here is a list of what to include in your cover letter:

Salutation

When starting your cover letter, it's important to find the right salutation because it sets the tone for the rest of your letter. Salutations may include:

  • Dear Ms. Johnanssen

  • Hello Mr. Beahr

  • To whom this may concern

  • Dear hiring manager

Keywords

Next, consider including keywords from the job posting in your cover letter. These can be skills, qualifications, or frequent words in the job posting. Hiring managers and recruiters look for these keywords when looking through applications.

Skills

Your cover letter contains a summary of the skills you included in your CV. While your CV lists these in bullets, your cover letter goes into more detail and describes how you used these skills at work. Discuss how your previous work experience developed these skills and how you hope to use this knowledge in the future. If the job posting discusses on-the-job training or career advancement opportunities, discuss how you intend to use those skills at work.

Related: Personal Skills and Professional Skills You Should Have on Your Resume

Proper fit

The cover letter is your opportunity to discuss why you're the right person for the job. When writing it, discuss both personal and professional experiences. Include why you're a good fit compared to other candidates. Be positive with your response and avoid discussing other candidates directly. For example, use phrases like, "I'm the right candidate for this job because I have the perfect blend of personal and professional experience."

10 tips for writing your cover letter and CV

Here are some tips to help you write your cover letter and CV:

1. Limit page length

It is generally accepted that a CV is one to two pages. This length allows you to demonstrate your skills while remaining concise. If you have a long history of work experience and accomplishments, recruiters usually accept three pages. Cover letters are typically one page in length and contain three to four paragraphs that are divided into several sections.

2. Create a clear presentation

Your CV needs to have a good presentation with a clear and thought-out structure. If possible, submit it in person and on white paper. When recruiters read your CV, they typically give attention to the middle of your page, so place your most valuable information in the centre.

3. Choose appropriate skills

The skills you discuss on your CV and cover letter need to reflect the skills required to work in your desired job or field. If you're unsure of which skills to include, analyze the job posting or job description to identify them.

4. Choose references

Have your references prepared so you can provide them to the recruiter when asked. Be sure to inform the people on your list of your intention to use them as a reference. Ask your references whether the contact information you have for them is current and up-to-date.

Related: Key Steps To Asking for a Reference

5. Take notes

When looking over the description of the job you're applying for, take notes of relevant information that you can directly address. Highlight any skills you can include in your CV or cover letter. Identify how you can describe your accomplishments from previous work experiences to suit the needs of the potential employer and the job description. For example, if they're looking for someone with sales experience, consider discussing your previous sales experience, like a job in retail.

6. Research

Research the company you're applying to before writing your CV and cover letter. If you're working with recruiters, contact them to ask about the company. This provides you with more information to use in your application materials.

7. Proofread

Before submitting your CV and cover letter, proofread your work. You can use online spell checkers or send your application materials to a friend you trust to overlook the documents. The benefit of sending your information to a friend or loved one is that they can tell you when information is confusing or unclear.

8. Avoid using the first person excessively

It is best to avoid using the first person excessively when writing your CV. When listing your skills and accomplishments, write statements using action verbs and avoid "I". When you write your cover letter, read it over and identify where you can remove "I" and shift the focus to the employer.

9. Avoid discussing other applications

When writing your cover letter and CV, avoid mentioning other job applications. While you're likely applying to multiple jobs, your cover letter needs to give the impression that this employer is your priority. Do this by discussing why you want this job specifically.

10. Maintain versatility

When writing your application materials, be sure to convey versatility. While your cover letter is an opportunity to elaborate on the information in your CV, it's also important to use the space to provide new information. Avoid repetition in your cover letter so that you can include as much information as possible. This provides recruiters and hiring managers with more details to make their decision.

Explore more articles