CV vs Cover Letter: What’s the Difference?

You have several opportunities to present your best self to the recruiter when you apply for a job. Your CV and cover letter are your two chances. You must make a bullseye with both of them. You are just another application if you don’t.

You must understand how a CV and cover letter complement one another in addition to their differences if you want to accomplish that. This guidebook will explain their differences and similarities and how to influence them to support you.

First, look at both documents created by experts. A resume is on the left, a CV for academic purposes is in the middle, and a cover letter is on the right.

Is a CV a Cover Letter?

A CV is lengthy and highly informative. However, a cover letter is short. A cover letter is a brief document that outlines your motivation for applying for the position, whereas a CV provides thorough information about your professional background and educational qualifications.

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

What is a CV?

 That depends on where you are.

A curriculum vitae, or CV, is a comprehensive document used by individuals pursuing a job in academia in the United States. It includes a list of your work experience, abilities, educational background, and other academic achievements.

Most of the world uses a CV, similar to the American resume, but it is used for job applications. It includes details on your educational background, career history, and talents about the position you’re applying for.

For this article, “CV” will refer to the curriculum vitae often employed in American academia.


A typical academic CV has the following format:

  • Contact Information
  • Research Profile
  • Education Section
  • Publications
  • Awards and Honors
  • Grants and Fellowships
  • Conferences
  • Teaching Experience
  • Research Experience
  • Languages and Skills

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 exactly what its name implies—it’s a letter that highlights your experience and skill set as reasons why you’d be a perfect fit for the position.

The cover letter lets you go in-depth into specific examples of your competence, unlike the bulleted list typically seen on a CV.

The general layout of a cover letter looks like this:

  • Cover letter header
  • Cover letter salutation
  • Cover letter introduction
  • Secondary paragraph that underlines your experience and expertise
  • Third paragraph that proves you’re a great fit to the company and role
  • Cover letter ending with a call to action
  • Professional sign-off

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

CV vs Cover Letter—The Differences

Generally, a CV focuses on your contributions to academia, whereas a cover letter tends to be more emotional.

However, nothing makes things more evident than a beautiful table of values.

See a side-by-side comparison of the key distinctions between an academic CV and a cover letter in the table below.

Difference between CV and a Cover Letter



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

The CV typically takes the lead in the dance across the recruiter’s desk, much like it takes two to tango on the dance floor. However, without a cover letter, all that is left is a single dancer circling in the air.

Your talents and professional experience are demonstrated by the CV, which lists them, and the cover letter, which vividly illustrates them with concrete examples.

The result is a comprehensive picture of your knowledge and your work style.

And consider this: the more information the recruiter has from the start, the more specific they may be that you are the applicant they seek before you enter the interview!

Read more: Are Cover Letters Necessary?

Key Takeaway

Let’s quickly review everything we talked about today:

  • In academics in the US, CVs are standard. A CV is used to apply for jobs in most of the world.
  • Usually written as a supplement to CVs or resumes, cover letters elaborate on your professional background.
  • While cover letters concentrate on persuading examples of your skill and character, CVs are more concerned with the numbers and statistics about your professional history.
  • A resume and cover letter have the most impact when customized and sent simultaneously.

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!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *