What Can a Cover Letter Explain that a Resume Cannot? [+ What to Include]

what-can-cover-letter-explain-that-resume-cannot
What Can a Cover Letter Explain that a Resume Cannot?

Cover letters are essential tools that communicate to an employer why you are the right fit for the role. They provide an opportunity to express your motivated attitude and personality, going beyond the mere listing of your previous job roles and experiences found on your resume or CV. Unlike resumes, cover letters allow you to explicitly align your interests and skills with the specific demands of the job description, thereby making a persuasive case for why you would succeed in the position.

While they are not always required, submitting a cover letter along with your resume can highlight your employment history in a narrative form that showcases how your unique experiences and attributes make you an ideal candidate. This article will explore the unique benefits of cover letters and offer strategic tips on crafting the perfect cover letter to enhance your job application.

What Is the Difference Between a Cover Letter and a Resume?

When creating a cover letter and resume for job applications, it's essential to focus on how they complement each other yet refer to distinct aspects of your qualifications. Each document should be specifically tailored for the job you're interested in, with specific details that match the job requirements.

A resume provides a concise overview of your professional experience and education, highlighting your job roles, objectives, and essential skills. It's structured to be success-driven, often showcasing achievements in quantitative terms, such as a percentage increase in sales or a specific dollar amount of generated revenue.

In contrast, a cover letter is a brief document that expands on the information in your resume. It explains why you are the perfect person for the job by aligning your experience with the job description. This format allows you to discuss your achievements and soft skills more fluidly and directly, giving you space to make an impression on the employer.

what-can-cover-letter-explain-that-resume-cannot

Cover Letter Can Provide a Personalized Introduction

A cover letter is a formal letter and should be addressed directly to the recruiter or hiring manager who is responsible for reading it. Therefore, addressing them by name is a key part of a cover letter. Including their name not only adds a personal touch but also shows that you have taken the time to research and tailor your application. This detail can help establish a more personal connection during the job interview process, as they can immediately associate a name with your profile. It's important to ensure all words are carefully chosen and relevant to the position you are applying for.

If you know the name of the hiring manager, you can start your cover letter with: 

Dear Ms. Johnson, 

To the hiring manager, Mr. Jameson, 

If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, start your cover letter with: 

Dear Hiring Manager,

To the HR Team at [Company Name]

Avoid an impersonal greeting such as “To whom it may concern” as this does not establish a connection with the reader. Including a personalized greeting in your cover letter is a key difference compared to a resume, which is an impersonal document that does not allow for building rapport with recruiters. This personalized introduction is essential in writing effective cover letters and starting a professional relationship with a recruiter on the right note.

Cover Letter Can Showcase Soft Skills

Soft skills are incredibly difficult to convey on paper, so the personalized style of a cover letter is a great way to highlight the soft skills you have. Effective storytelling is a key part of a strong cover letter and also allows you to naturally weave in your soft skills. To make your cover letter compelling to the hiring manager, make sure you include examples of soft skills that you have developed over your career.

Teamwork, public speaking, communication, leadership, and stakeholder management are all examples of soft skills; reflect on your experiences and find one or two strong examples of how you demonstrate a soft skill in your work history. However, it is difficult to fully convey your interpersonal skills just through a cover letter—don't try to cram in as many soft skills as you can, as this will come across as ingenuine. For job seekers looking to make an impact in a few seconds, it's crucial to write effectively and precisely.

Cover Letter Can Address Employment Gaps or Career Changes

As your resume is a chronological recount of your education and experience, if there is a career gap, it will stand out quite a bit. This is another difference between a resume and a cover letter; a cover letter will allow you to explain exactly why you had a career gap. You can use the cover letter to briefly provide context and reasons why you either have a gap in your resume or changed careers.

Always speak about the career gaps or changes positively, emphasizing what you learned or gained from the experience. You don’t need to go into extensive detail if the reasons behind your career gap are personal, either. Instead, emphasize how the experiences have made you ready to pursue your chosen career. This is an advantage of a cover letter compared to a resume – the format of a resume does not allow you to provide this context. Additionally, highlight how these experiences have enabled you to create value and contribute effectively to companies and projects in your field, showcasing your readiness and adaptability for new jobs.

Cover Letter Can Highlight Tailored Achievements

A cover letter allows for more flexible and elaborate details of your career, which also provides an opportunity to emphasize your career achievements. In your cover letter, you can mention the award or certification you hold, as well as its meaning and importance – something a resume does not normally have the space for. Additionally, you can elaborate on parts of your career success that directly relate to the job posting, further making you stand out as a person.

Despite the advice to pack your resume with metrics and numerical measures of success, a resume does not always allow you to elaborate on your success. Intertwining numerical measures along with the soft skills you developed when writing about your achievements will make your resume and cover letter stand out among the rest.

Cover Letter Can Demonstrate Cultural Fit

There is very little opportunity to naturally fit in your goals and values as an employee on your resume. Despite the fact that qualifications are important, being an appropriate cultural fit with the company is also a part of employee success. As a candidate, you can demonstrate your vision and desire for long-term growth within a company, as well as directly mention the company’s values and how they reflect your own. Cover letters explain your interest in their values and how you can contribute to them.

Company values are often found on the ‘About Us’ section of a company website, and weaving them into your new job application through letters can show the hiring manager that you are serious about pursuing a career with them. A resume can’t demonstrate personal and professional values in the same way a cover letter can, due to limited space and formatting. This approach allows you to make a strong first impression by showing that you are genuinely interested in the role and the company culture.

Cover Letter Can Display Your Enthusiasm

As your cover letter and resume complement each other, your cover letter can make up for what your resume lacks. Showing enthusiasm and dedication is difficult to do on a resume – so make use of the flexibility of a cover letter to explain this. Your personal motivation can be woven into your career story, and by demonstrating your passion for the industry or role, you can naturally showcase your enthusiasm.

Demonstrate how your education and career path have led you to find an interest in the role and emphasize that fulfilling that role is a natural next step in your career. This is something that a cover letter can do that a resume cannot – showing your passion and desire to advance in your career. A resume is good at demonstrating requirements, but a cover letter is a unique way of demonstrating how and why you would be a great fit for the role.

Cover Letter Can Share Your Personal Experiences

Including personal experiences that are unique to you can help you humanize your application and stand out among other candidates. Telling your unique story can allow you to emphasize the unique skills and experiences you have, and how they will allow you to excel at the job. 

Try not to divulge too much personal information or a complicated experience, but instead try to focus on things that allow you to build your unique combination of hard and soft skills. A resume cannot fully highlight how your unique background and experience make you qualified for the job, so detailing this effectively in your cover letter can help you stand out.

What to Include in a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a necessary part of your job application process since it can provide the hiring manager with so much more value than your resume alone. Make sure that your resume and cover letter complement each other and can also be tailored to suit the job you are applying for. Now that we know why a cover letter is so important, here’s our guide on crafting your own!

Contact Information

As a cover letter is a formal letter, the contact information for the hiring manager, as well as your own contact information should be at the top, in appropriate format. See our article here for a template. 

Salutation

Start your cover letter with a formal greeting. Always greet the recipient with the appropriate title, such as Ms. or Mr. If you don’t know their title, use their full name. 

Introduction

Start your cover letter off with a short introduction of yourself to familiarize yourself with the hiring manager. Include a brief overview of your experience and how you are applying to the role as a natural next step in your career. 

Opening Paragraph

Then, move on to discussing your most recent (or current) job position, describing how you are qualified for the role based on the skills you have utilized in that role. Include metrics, successes, and achievements, and combine them with the soft skills you gained as well. Use the opening paragraph as a way to showcase your passion and talent for the role or industry, as well as your interest in joining the company.

Body Paragraph

Use the body paragraph to bring up any skills or knowledge you have gained, tying them to the skills and objectives listed in the job description. Emphasize how you are capable of fulfilling the objectives of the role, and that you are also passionate and eager to take on a new challenge. Mention any values mentioned by the company or job description and how you reflect them in your professional career.

Closing Paragraph

Summarize your storytelling by restating that your unique experience and skills make you a strong candidate for the role. Emphasize that you are ready to take on the opportunity and are looking for a new challenge. 

Call-to-Action

At the end of your cover letter, thank the hiring manager for reading. Also, mention that your resume is attached, and invite them to review it. Remember to invite them to contact you if they have any questions or would like to discuss further. A call to action can be as simple as: 

“Thank you for your time, please find my resume attached. If you would like to discuss this further, do not hesitate to contact me”

Closing

Sign off your resume with a professional signature, and type or sign your name below it. You can try one of the following professional signatures: 

Regards, 

Sincerely, 

Thank you,

Make sure you use your full name, so the hiring manager is familiar with your name.

Conclusion

A resume and cover letter complement each other when telling your professional story. Although a cover letter is not always required, including one even if it is optional can allow you to showcase your experience and skills in a way that a resume can’t. Showing your enthusiasm and soft skills through a compelling cover letter can allow you to connect with the hiring managers and become a memorable candidate even before the interview round. This allows you to stand out from the crowd and gain an advantage over other candidates. Check out Cake for more tips so you can craft a stand-out cover letter for free!

Cake is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides you with hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples that help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

--- Originally Written by Bronte McNamara ---

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