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Cover Letter vs Resume: What Can Cover Letter Explain That Resume Can’t?

Matt Glodz
Cover Letter vs Resume: What Can Cover Letter Explain That Resume Can’t?

Cover Letters Tell the Story Behind the Facts on Your Resume

Cover letters add value to your application by enabling you to elaborate on relevant experiences, build a case for why you are a top candidate, tailor your application to a specific role, explain extenuating circumstances, and let employers know why you want to work for their organization.

While cover letters are often considered to be optional, they are a great way to demonstrate that you are seriously interested in the position you are applying for. They instantly set you apart from candidates who didn’t include one, increasing your chances of landing an interview.

If you want to put your best foot forward, consider using the cover letter to achieve the goals outlined below.

Cover Letters Allow You to Elaborate on Relevant Experiences

Recruiters ultimately want to understand that you possess the experience required to succeed in the role you are applying for.

If you have worked on a specific project or consulting engagement that is particularly relevant to a given role, for example, a cover letter gives you additional space to discuss it in more detail.

Don’t assume that recruiters will connect the dots, either - seek to make their job easier!

When elaborating on specific experiences, make direct connections for recruiters by explaining why they are relevant to your target role and how they will contribute to your success.

This approach will also show that you put thought into your decision to apply and didn’t just submit a generic cover letter on a whim.

Cover Letters Help Build a Case for Why You Are a Top Candidate

If you do not have direct experience in a similar role, use your cover letter to address transferable skills and professional development that will enable you to hit the ground running.

For example, a candidate who is seeking to transition from a sales role to a finance role that requires financial modeling experience might consider taking an online course on financial modeling in Excel to build their skills in the area.

In the cover letter, the candidate could elaborate on the specific models they learned how to build, the scope of the topics covered in the course, and how these are directly relevant to the role they are applying for.

By adopting a similar approach, you will show recruiters that you have taken steps to prepare for a career transition and are taking the move seriously.

Cover Letters Help Tailor Your Application to a Specific Role

Because a resume is a fact-based outline of your experience and achievements, many applicants use one base version for all of their applications and leverage the cover letter to tailor their applications to specific roles.

To do so, we recommend reading through each job description in detail and highlighting the core skills recruiters are looking for. Then, reflect on your experience and identify examples of how you applied the given skills throughout your career.

By sharing additional examples that are directly applicable to your target role, you will also strengthen your candidacy.

Cover Letters Can Explain Extenuating Circumstances

You can use a cover letter to address red flags such as employment gaps, non-linear career paths, job hopping, and visa and relocation matters.

If you are concerned that a particular element of your story could raise concern and potentially cause recruiters to pass on your application, explain it!

You don’t need to go into extensive detail on why you had to take a year off work, for instance. A brief explanation such as the following can be sufficient, putting recruiters’ concerns to rest:

“Last year, I took 12 months off work due to a family medical issue that has now been resolved. I am now excited to re-enter the workforce and continue leveraging my skills in a finance director role.”

Employers tend to be much more understanding than you might expect – especially in a post-pandemic work environment.

Even a line about how you spent 6 months traveling the world on your cover letter could turn out to be a great conversation starter during an interview!

Cover Letters Tell Employers Why You Want to Work for Them

One of the most effective things you can do on your cover letter is to provide a compelling explanation of why you are interested in working for a specific organization:

  • Is there something about the company’s culture or product offering that draws you in?
  • Have you a recent news article about the organization that you found particularly impressive?
  • If you are interested in building a long-term career in their sector, why?
  • Did one of your connections at the company suggest that you apply?

So many candidates send out generic cover letters – and many even forget to change the employer’s name!

By demonstrating that you took time to do your research and aren’t just haphazardly sending out your resume to numerous openings, you’ll increase your chances of securing an interview.

In Summary

In our view, cover letters are non-negotiable when you are applying for positions that you are seriously interested in (assuming the target company allows you to submit one).

Although you do risk that a recruiter might skip over it altogether, it never hurts to put your best foot forward – and a single line in your cover letter might just be the thing that convinces a recruiter to take a chance on you!

Additional Reading

About Resume Pilots

Resume Pilots is an award-winning executive resume writing firm and a proud member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.

As a professional services firm, we take your reputation seriously. We are committed to delivering writing excellence and superior service while operating with integrity and discretion. Recruitment firms we partner with also trust us to consistently deliver quality documents for their clients.

Our writers have studied in the Ivy League and other top-tier universities and have strong writing backgrounds coupled with industry experience.

Here's how we can help you:

Resume, Cover Letter, and LinkedIn Writing Services: If you are looking for end-to-end support, hire one of our professional resume writers to rewrite your documents from the ground up.

Executive Resume Template Downloads: If you plan to prepare your own resume, consider using one of our classic, ATS-friendly resume templates for Microsoft Word.

To learn more about our services, book an introductory call with our founder here or email

About the AuthorMatt Glodz

Matt Glodz is the Founder and Managing Partner of Resume Pilots and a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

After studying business communication at Cornell University, Matt worked within Fortune 500 companies, where he noted that qualified candidates were frequently denied interview opportunities due to poorly written documents.

At Resume Pilots, Matt combines his business and writing background - which includes prior work for a Chicago Tribune publication - to craft resumes that give his clients the best chance of landing interviews. He works with clients ranging from CEOs to recent graduates and has been writing resumes for over 10 years.

He has been quoted on numerous business and career-related topics in outlets including Business Insider, CNBC, Fortune, Glassdoor, The Ladders, and Thrive Global.

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