The Covering Letter and the Resume – what’s the difference?

A resume is like reading the telephone book (and in some cases, can be just as boring) – it’s basically a chronology of your career-to-date – plus, any special achievements, courses, qualifications, etc, that you feel are relevant.

It’s also important to have all your contact details, including a suburb (we don’t need street address). There is a politically-correct movement afoot that seems to think we should de-personalise individuals (so that we’re devoid of gender, age – and various other things which we needn’t go into here), and which encourages candidates to delete reference even to their location (ie, suburb).

Nothing will cause an employer to reach for the dump-button quicker than to have NO suburb. Transport issues, distance to or from a work location, proximity to public transport (or not) are all vital considerations when choosing a job. Don’t be left out in the cold by not including a suburb!

Be aware that first impressions can be powerful so if your current /most recent role is NOT all that relevant to the role you’re applying for, it’s probably not a good idea to devote half a page explaining it in great detail.

Likewise, any jobs beyond ten years ago, can be dealt with just in a few lines.

Add a few referees if possible.

A covering letter should be able to “sell” your abilities, quite apart from the resume. In fact, these days, it is NOT enough, just to send a resume!

Here’s a good test: assume your resume gets lost – would your cover letter contain enough specific examples of how your skills and experiences match the particular ad in question, to get you the job? It should!

Make sure it’s highly customised, specifically aimed at the key points in the Ad. In it, you are entitled to “accentuate the positive”, i.e., those achievements, strengths and skills which you believe make you an ideal candidate for THIS job.

In preparing the covering letter, avoid clichés such as “team player”, “loyal”, “hard working”, etc. (Everyone claims that, but nobody believes it.)

Also, if you do use terms such as “pro-active” or “quick thinking” you should provide examples, or an employer will suspect you of including them just to “look good”. It’s also unhelpful to include terms such as “I think I’d be good at …” or “I’m a fast learner”.

Remember! The resume is a factual historical document or “laundry list”, whereas the cover letter can be a more informal word picture, painting a picture in the mind’s eye of how your skills match the ad!

It should also convey some passion about why you wish to apply for this role.

For example, it’s not unusual for a production person (eg, a printer or Mac operator) to wish to move into sales or customer service. In such cases it’s useless to send JUST a resume.

In such cases, where you want to make a significant career change, you must cite examples of skills or abilities, which you believe are “transferable”. For example, an experienced printer may have – conducted customer-press checks; he may have had to motivate his team by persuasive methods; he may be on the school P&C committee. All these qualities may be taken as an indication this person has strong people/communication skills – which MAY lead the employer to give him a go!

However, only the candidate knows his/her own strengths, skills, proven abilities and past (relevant) achievements. We don’t mind making helpful suggestions if necessary, but the original divine inspiration must come from YOU!

We’re ALL unique – it’s up to the covering letter to convey your special qualities!