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CV vs Cover Letter: What’s the Difference?

CV vs Cover Letter: What’s the Difference?

The difference between a CV and cover letter is like that between PB & J. And just like PB & J, they form an epic pairing.

As seen in:

Before even setting foot in the door, you have a couple of opportunities to show the recruiter your best side.


Those two chances are your cover letter and your CV.


Needless to say, you need to hit a bullseye with both of them if you want to be considered for the job. Otherwise, you’re just another application.


To do that, you need to understand not just the difference between a CV and cover letter, but how they work as an awesome team.


This guide will show you the differences, similarities, and how to make them fight for you like Gregor Clegane.


First look at both documents created in our builder. On the left—a resume, in the middle—a CV for academic purposes, on the right—a cover letter. 


Want to save time and have your CV ready in 5 minutes? Try our CV builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.


sample templates

Sample resume, CV and cover letter made with our builder—See more templates and create your CV here.


Looking for CV and cover letter examples? Look no more:


Is a CV a Cover Letter?


A cover letter is brief while a CV is quite detailed and long. A CV includes detailed information about your work experience and academic background while a cover letter is a condensed document that explains why you’re applying for the given job.


But let’s park that for a minute and break it down.


What is a CV?


That actually depends where you are.


In the U.S., a CV (also known as a curriculum vitae) is a very detailed document that lists your work experience, skills, educational background along with other academic achievements and it used be people pursuing a career in academia.


In most of the rest of the world, a CV is for a job and looks exactly like it’s American resume counterpart. It contains information on your work experience, skills, and educational background in reference to a particular job you’re applying for.


For the sake of this article, we’ll be using CV to mean the curriculum vitae used in the academic community within the U.S.


A typical academic CV has the following format:


Impressive, no?


Given the large amount of information academic CVs contain, they can actually go on for several pages and it’s considered standard in academia.

Read more: The Difference Between a CV and a Resume and The Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Resume

So What Is a Cover Letter?


A cover letter is similar to what its name suggests— it’s a letter that covers the key points in your experience and skill set that prove you’re a great candidate for the job.


Unlike the bullet pointed list usually found on a CV, the cover letter reads like a letter and gives you an opportunity to deep dive into concrete examples of your expertise.


The general layout of a cover letter looks like this:


Compare this cover letter structure with the CV structure above and you can see how different they are.

Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter That Won’t be Ignored

CV vs Cover Letter—The Differences


Generally, the focus of a CV is your value to academia, while a cover letter goes right for the feels. 


But nothing clears things up like a nice table of values. 


Have a look at the table below to see a side by side comparison of the major differences between an academic CV and a cover letter.


Difference Between a Cover Letter and CV




Cover Letter


Specific details

General information


Lists and bullet points

Paragraphs and sentences


May be several pages

Usually 1 page


Facts and data

Examples and ideas


Applying for academic jobs

Providing additional background information


But it’s not only the differences between a CV and a cover letter that are important.


Let’s see what makes them such a great pair.


CV vs Cover Letter—The Similarities


Just like it takes two to tango on the ballroom floor, the CV usually takes the lead in the dance across the recruiter’s desk. But without a cover letter, it’s just one dancer swirling around with air.


Together they prove your skills and career experience—the CV lists them and the cover letter describes them in action through compelling examples.


The result is a holistic picture of your expertise and what kind of employee you are. 


And think about it—the more the recruiter knows from the get go, the more convinced they can be that you’re the candidate you’re looking for before you even step foot into the interview!

Read more: Are Cover Letters Necessary?

Key Takeaway


Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve covered today:

  • In the U.S., CVs are used in academia. In most of the rest of the world, a CV is used to get a job.
  • Cover letters are letters that accompany CVs/resumes and go more in depth into your job experience and expertise.
  • CVs are focused on facts and data about your work experience while cover letters are centered around compelling examples of your expertise as well as your character.
  • A CV and cover letter deliver the most impact when they are tailored and sent together.


Thanks for reading! Are there any other differences or similarities between CVs and cover letters that you noticed? Let us know in the comments below!

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Oliwia Wolkowicz
Oliwia is a career expert with a solid background in various industries, including consulting and aviation. At Zety, she writes dedicated, advice-driven guides to help readers create great resumes and cover letters to land the job of their dreams.

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