Job hunting is an overwhelming affair. While interviews are an essential part of the process, your application documents — like your curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter — also help you win the position.
The CV and the cover letter work as a team. So, you must know how to write and design them appropriately for you to get an interview. However, you’ll only understand how to prepare them well when you know their meaning and essence.
As such, let’s dive deeper into the definition, similarities, and differences of a CV and cover letter so you can write them to your advantage.
CV and Cover Letter: Definitions, Similarities, and Differences
Is a CV a cover letter?
It’s completely baffling how a CV is different from a cover letter. To help you with that, let’s talk about the definition of a CV and a cover letter. After which, let’s discuss their similarities and differences to grasp each of them better.
What is a CV?
A CV stems from the Latin term curriculum vitae, which means “course of life.” This implies that a CV is a written background of a candidate’s entire work.
The CV is a detailed sketch of a person’s career objective, career experience, academic background, licenses, skills, and other achievements. While its uses vary depending on the country you wish to work in, a CV generally helps showcase your qualifications. It’s especially important for candidates who are in the medical and academic fields.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter — often confused with a CV — is attached with another document, typically with a resume or CV. It’s an introductory letter that sums up and outlines a candidate’s credentials and interest in an open position.
The cover letter is an eloquently written document that presents the applicant’s work history, professional skills, and career aspirations. It also explains how these qualifications would benefit a company. Essentially, it complements the CV or resume by describing your eligibility criteria.
Comparing the CV and the cover letter
Both the CV and the cover letter entice a recruiter to select you for an interview. Both also present valuable information about your skills and experiences, painting you as the best hire. Overall, it helps a recruiter and manager screen your job application.
How are they different from each other?
A CV is the primary document recruiters ask from a candidate. Meanwhile, a cover letter is supportive in nature — it mainly highlights the details listed in a CV. CVs also use bullet points for easy understanding, while cover letters are written in paragraphs and sentences.
Moreover, a CV specifies an applicant’s qualifications comprehensively, while a cover letter only provides a brief explanation of why the candidate best fits a position.
Also, applicants can customize their CVs according to their preferences. However, they should format their cover letters according to the company and job they are applying for.
Structure-wise, a CV is usually written in two pages and may extend depending on an applicant’s skills and experiences. On the other hand, cover letters typically take one whole page. On average, a cover letter should be between 250 and 400 words.
How to Make a CV
Now that we all have that covered, let’s head on to the writing and designing stage!
First, here are the primary elements of a CV. Note all these writing tips to help you create a document that gets you that coveted interview.
1. Proper format
If you want to capture the attention of recruiters, you must take the time to format your CV correctly.
If you had a career-focused trajectory, it would be best to use the reverse-chronological format, which highlights your work experience. However, if you were a bit experimental with your experiences, use the functional format, which emphasizes your skills. Meanwhile, the combination format would be an excellent choice if you want a recruiter to see your relevant skills as well as your accomplishments.
A header carries your full name, work title, license, phone number, LinkedIn URL, and email address.
3. Career objective
Whether you’re in the medical or academic field, a career objective is beneficial. Essentially, it summarises your skills, experience, and career aspirations that make you qualified for the open position. Found at the top of the CV, the career objective is what entices a recruiter to read the whole document. So, make it engaging and attractive!
Here’s an example of a career objective for a Staff Nurse for your reference:
A competent Staff Nurse of a well-esteemed organisation with ten years of experience in the field. Devoted to providing quality healthcare to patients while expanding practical experience and personal knowledge.
4. Career experience
When writing your career experiences, indicate your past work titles and their respective employer and dates of employment. Then, following each job title, detail your duties and responsibilities comprehensively. Refrain from starting each sentence with, “I.” Instead, start with a strong action verb to entice recruiters.
As a guide, below is a sample list of duties and responsibilities for a Staff Nurse.
- Obtained and analyzed data to identify basic and complex health care needs.
- Developed and documented individualized, comprehensive and outcome-oriented plan of care.
- Evaluated patient response to nursing care and its effectiveness over time.
- Monitored equipment safety and effectiveness in the environment
- Communicated pertinent information about patients, nursing units, and activities.
5. Academic background
Academic background is highly essential in any career. This is especially true for professionals seeking a job outside of their home country.
With this, if you acquired licenses from working and studying, noting this on your CV would be highly beneficial. The relevant courses you’ve earned — or even your post-graduate degree/s — will be essential here.
Besides your impressive career trajectory, your skills also determine if you’d fit the position.
Present your skills comprehensively by listing your hard and soft skills. For example, if you experienced assisting a physician in operating advanced technologies while working as a nurse, list that under hard skills. Be sure to mention the technology you used.
Moreover, if you developed exceptional soft skills through your jobs like communication skills, organisational skills, or attention to detail, highlight them, too.
7. Other accolades
If you have research grants, licenses, or relevant publications worth mentioning, add them in this section. These impressive credentials would boost your credibility as a healthcare professional and will make you the best hire.
8. Final polishing
If you’re done listing your skills and experiences, recheck your content for possible misspellings and grammatical errors.
Finally, finish off your CV with an uncomplicated and elegant design. When designing your CV, you can use your favourite colours and fonts. Show a hint of your character by playing around with the shades and font sizes to fit your preference.
We made a sample CV for a Staff Nurse below to guide you through your writing and designing process.
How to Create a Cover Letter
Finally, to help you create a cover letter, here are some guidelines for you to note:
1. Research about the company
To spark a company’s interest effectively, you first need to know its vision and goals. Next, check how they align with your career aspirations. Find out what the role involves, what essential skills are needed, and how they meet your skills and experiences.
2. Use proper formatting
Cover letters should be formal and professional-looking. If a company requires a specific format, follow it diligently. Otherwise, use a straightforward format with standard fonts like Arial or Helvetica. Keep the font sizes between 10-12 to ensure readability. Finally, be sure to have your content left-aligned, with single spacing and one-inch margins on all sides.
3. Put a header
Mirror the details you placed on your CV header to the one on your cover letter. Place your name on top and set it in a noticeable format for the easy viewing of recruiters. Below your name, write the work title you’re applying for and include relevant licenses to showcase your credentials. Then, write your contact information. Finally, just under all these, write the date you’ll send the cover letter in full.
4. Address the right person
Below the header, write the hiring manager’s full name, title, company name, and company address. However, if you don’t know who to address in your letter, a “Dear Sir/Madam” will suffice.
5. Write the body
When writing your letter, begin by showing off your interest in the role. Then, demonstrate how you’re best suited for the job through your work experience and show how your skill set would be an asset to the company. Be sure as well to highlight the things you said on your CV in your cover letter.
Finally, reiterate your interest in the job, and wrap it all up with a call to action. Thank the addressee for their time, and tell them you’re open for an interview by providing your contact details.
6. Add finishing touches
Like you would with your CV, double-check your cover letter for possible mistakes in spelling or grammar.
As a reference, here is a sample cover letter to use as inspiration when writing for your own.
A CV and a cover letter make a great team. There are many essential guidelines to writing and designing a perfect CV and cover letter, but the most important of all is to keep all the information honest and genuine.
Let us know how you’re doing with the process by sending us a word. Good luck!
Moira Perez is a writer, traveller, and content specialist in ResumeGuy. She’s passionate about marketing and public relations. Connect with her on LinkedIn.