Difference Between CV and Cover Letter

6 minute read

A curriculum vitae or CV is an essential document for a job application, whereas, a cover letter is optional. The former is a summarised platter of your educational qualifications, technical and soft skills, and work experience. On the other hand, a cover letter highlights your intent and capability to start the job you are applying for. Furthermore, a critical difference between CV and a cover letter is that the former is a multi-page document whereas the latter is a one-page document. 

Just like these, there are numerous differences between the two, which are mentioned in the successive sections of this blog. Keep reading to know more!

Also Read: How to Write a Cover Letter?

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae is a document that provides a detailed summary of a candidate’s educational qualifications, work experience, soft skills, technical skills, and other achievements. It is typically used when applying for academic positions, research opportunities, or jobs in certain professional fields. A well-structured CV helps employers or academic institutions quickly assess a candidate’s qualifications and suitability for a particular role or program.

What does a CV Include?

Remember, it is important to tailor your CV to the specific job or opportunity you are applying for. Highlight the experiences, skills, and qualifications that are most relevant to the position in question.

Before learning the difference between CV and cover letter, let us learn about the contents of the former, which are as follows: 

  • Personal Information: This includes your full name, contact information (phone number and email address), and sometimes your address.
  • Professional Summary or Objective: A brief statement highlighting your career goals and what you bring to the table.
  • Education: Details about your educational background, including the names of institutions attended, degrees earned, graduation dates, and any honours or awards.
  • Work Experience: A chronological list of your previous employment positions. For each position, you should include the job title, name of the company or organisation, dates of employment, and a description of your responsibilities and accomplishments.
  • Skills: This section highlights specific skills relevant to the position you’re applying for. This can include technical skills, languages spoken, software proficiency, etc.
  • Certifications and Training: Any relevant certifications, workshops, or courses you’ve completed.
  • Publications (if applicable): For academicians or researchers, a list of published papers, articles, or books.
  • Professional Memberships (if applicable): Any memberships in industry-related organisations.
  • Awards and Honors (if applicable): Recognition or accolades you’ve received in your field.
  • Languages (if applicable): Mention any languages you are proficient in, especially if they are relevant to the position.
  • References: Contact information for individuals who can vouch for your qualifications and character. This section is often labelled “References available upon request.”

Also Read: Difference Between CV and Resume

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a formal document that accompanies a job application, typically including a CV or resume. It provides a platform for you to introduce yourself to a potential employer, express your interest in a specific position, and highlight why you are a suitable candidate for the role.

What does a Cover Letter Include?

A well-crafted cover letter is an opportunity to showcase your personality, communication skills, and enthusiasm for the position. It should be tailored to the specific job and company you’re applying to, demonstrating how your background aligns with their needs and values.

As we are about to understand the difference between CV and cover letter, let us have a look at the key elements of the latter, which are:

  • Contact Information: It should include your name, address, phone number, and email address.
  • Salutation: Address the recipient by name if possible. If you don’t have a specific name, use a professional greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager.”
  • Opening Paragraph: Introduce yourself and state the position you’re applying for. Express your interest in the job and briefly mention how you learned about it.
  • Body Paragraphs: These paragraphs are the core of the cover letter. They should elaborate on your qualifications, skills, and experiences relevant to the job. Use specific examples to demonstrate your suitability for the role.
  • Closing Paragraph: Summarise your interest in the position and express your eagerness to discuss further in an interview. Mention any attached documents (like your CV) and provide your contact information.
  • Closing Salutation: End with a professional closing like “Sincerely” or “Best regards,” followed by your name and signature (if submitting a physical copy).

Also Read: How to Write a Cover Letter for Your First Job

Difference Between CV and Cover Letter

Now that we know about the definition and elements of a curriculum vitae and cover letter, let us delve into the key differences between the two.

Detailed Professional History vs. Brief Biography

A CV provides an exhaustive account of a person’s academic and professional journey. Academic or research candidates may possess diverse skill sets and accomplishments pertinent to a professorial or research-oriented role, which they include in a CV. Committees evaluating candidates often value comprehensive details about a person’s contributions in a field of study to assess their potential impact on an institution.

Whereas, a cover letter offers a compact overview of a candidate’s qualifications, focusing on job-specific relevance. It should only incorporate pertinent information tailored to the specific role, as hiring managers seek key qualifications. For instance, applicants might outline past positions and the skills acquired in a brief paragraph or two.

Also Read: Difference Between CV, Statement of Purpose, and Profile

Multiple Pages vs. Single Page

Another difference between CV and cover letter is the number of pages or length of the document. A CV can extend to two or even three pages. A lengthier CV suggests that a candidate possesses a range of professional experiences and noteworthy accomplishments in a particular field. Given the complexity of research and academic roles, a hiring committee may highly regard a candidate with a more comprehensive background.

On the other hand, a cover letter is typically limited to one page. Keeping it concise enables a candidate to be clear and focused in their communication. This briefness can be appreciated by hiring managers who are seeking specific qualifications.

Also Read: Data Analyst Cover Letter: Samples and Guide

Generic Purpose vs. Targeted Application

When creating a CV, candidates often intend to use the same application package for similar job positions across different institutions. While you might adjust the order of sections to emphasise specific qualifications, the overall content typically remains consistent.

On the contrary, for cover letters, having a basic template can be helpful, but the real value comes from tailoring them to match the specific job and company you are applying to. Adapting your cover letter allows you to better address the unique requirements and professional environment of the position. It is also beneficial to incorporate relevant keywords from the job description into the updated version.

Also Read: Hiring Manager Cover Letter: Samples and Tips

Facts vs. Anecdotes

Furthermore, another difference between a CV and a cover letter is the type of content. A CV predominantly presents factual information and numerical data regarding a person’s academic, teaching, or research background. While a brief paragraph describing their study or research plan may be included at the beginning of the document, the focus is on concrete details.

While, in a cover letter, candidates often incorporate anecdotes. This entails sharing a specific work or educational experience that highlights a particular skill or expertise. It may also involve using personal “I” statements and expressing their sentiments about a position, providing a hiring manager insight into why they’re applying to a company and whether they align with its culture.

Also Read: Cover Letter for Cabin Crew Position: Samples and Tips


What is the difference between CV and Cover Letter?

A Curriculum Vitae or CV is an essential document for a job application, whereas, a cover letter is optional. The former is a summarised platter of your educational qualifications, technical and soft skills, and work experience. On the other hand, a cover letter highlights your intent and capability to start the job you are applying for. 

What does a CV include?

A curriculum vitae encompasses personal information, professional summary or objective, educational background, skills, work experience, and certifications. 

Can I use my CV as a cover letter?

No. A resume-like document known as a CV showcases your academic and professional experiences. Although the document itself does not include a cover letter, every job application you submit online should also include a cover letter in addition to your CV.

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