What is the difference between a CV, Resume, and Cover Letter?

CV, Resume, and Cover Letter are three things that you should always have ready to go and updated. These three things are a must even before you actually start searching for a job. In fact, you should probably have these ready and on hand, even if you are not currently on the job market. After all you never know when you may require a CV or a resume and you don’t want to miss out on a good opportunity just because you didn’t have one prepared.

CV, Resume, and Cover Letter are three different documents that are often confused. This isn’t surprising as they are interrelated and the terminology can often be confusing. In fact, the distinction between CV and Resume may even change depending on where you are. Before getting into the semantics of it all, let’s look at what they are individually and the purpose that each one serves.

CV stands for “curriculum vitae”, which is Latin and loosely translates into English as “[the] course of [my] life.” A CV is exactly what it says it is. It is supposed to be the course of your life, i.e. a bio-data of sorts giving all the related information about who you are, what are your education qualifications, as well as your entire job history. Basically, it is a document that in meant to show who you are as a person and everything you have done in your life. It is an in depth synopsis of you as a person and your accomplishments in life so far.

A Resume, on the other hand, is a smaller one to two page document that provides the reader with only the relevant information. It can be said that the resume is a summarized CV. Rather than provide entire background history of who you are, etc., it instead provides only the information that one needs to know, such only the part of your job history that is relevant to the position that you are applying for. Hence, it makes for a shorter and easier read, telling the recruiters only the things they need to know, rather than the entire history of everything. The fact that it is faster and easier to read is also what makes it popular with recruiters, which is why you will mostly be asked for a resume, rather than a CV.

While in most countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and India, the CV is a long and comprehensive document that details your education, job history, and any and all of your accomplishments, in some other countries, such as United Kingdom, most Commonwealth countries, and Ireland, the term CV is used to indicated a summarized document of job qualifications, not unlike a Resume. Hence, in these countries one should be sure as to which type of document the company requires from the candidate before possible summiting the wrong one.

Regardless of whether you are sending in a CV or a resume, they should be submitted with a cover letter. A cover letter is exactly what it sounds like. It is a letter that is meant to be covering the CV or resume that it is accompanying. It is an introduction letter of sorts that is meant to introduce you and your CV/Resume. As an unspoken rule, it must state who you are, what position you are applying for and why you are interested in that said position. A good cover letter should also highlight a few experiences to indicate why they should at least look at your CV/Resume, rather than completely ignoring or trashing your letter.

The Cover Letter is meant to act at the introduction, a bridge of sorts to you and your CV/Resume. Each cover letter must be written specifically targeting the receiver of the letter/CV/Resume, or at least for the position and company that you are applying. You can take the easy way out and send the same cover letter to each position you are applying for, however keep in mind that it will not have the same level of impact as a unique and individual one specifically targeting your audience. In fact, it is recommended that even a resume and a CV be modified for the position you are applying for, so as to highlight the points that will make them consider you as a candidate.

Hence in summary, a resume is a short summary of who you are and why they should consider you as a candidate. A CV is a detailed description and synopsis of who you are as a person, basically you on paper; whereas, a cover letter is a letter of introduction covering each.

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