FAQ: Is a CV a Cover Letter? (With Definitions and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Applying for jobs generally involves preparing and submitting a CV. Some positions may also require you to submit a cover letter. It's important for you to understand these two documents and how they differ from one another. In this article, we discuss if a CV is a cover letter, define what CVs and cover letters are, address what to include in a CV and a cover letter and provide an example CV and cover letter to review.

Is a CV a cover letter?

A CV isn't a cover letter. Both documents are important when applying for jobs, providing you with the opportunity to discuss your qualifications and experience and how they make you a good candidate for a job. However, there are several differences between the two documents, such as:

  • Content: A CV focuses on your credentials, skills and previous work experience. A cover letter, however, highlights your strongest qualifications and how they relate to the position you're seeking.

  • Format: A CV often includes bulleted lists with short phases to discuss your experience. A cover letter, however, is a formal letter with a few paragraphs.

  • Frequency: Nearly all jobs require you to submit a CV as part of your application. However, submitting a cover letter may be optional when you're applying for some jobs, so it's important to review the instructions in the job description.

  • Length: Depending on your experience, a CV may be multiple pages long. However, regardless of your experience, a cover letter is generally only one page long.

  • Level of detail: A CV includes specific information about your credentials and experience. A cover letter, however, provides general information and discusses your interest in the position.

  • Purpose: The purpose of a CV is to discuss your credentials in detail. However, the purpose of a cover letter is to reflect on your personality to make a good impression on the hiring manager.

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document that outlines your academic qualifications, skills and work experience. It's an up-to-date representation of your credentials and qualifications to help hiring managers understand why you're an excellent candidate for the position. As such, it's important for you to customise your CV for each job that you apply for so you may ensure the information aligns with the requirements of the position.

Related: How To Write a CV (With Template and Example)

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a detailed document that shows hiring managers your desire for a particular job. It's an opportunity to demonstrate more of your personality than you can on your resume. Throughout the letter, you can discuss specific items listed in the job description and how your skills and experience match those requirements.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter

What do you include in a CV?

Here are some elements to include in your CV:

Contact information

Place your contact information at the top of your CV. This includes your first name, surname, phone number and email address. You may also include links to your professional networking website profiles or online portfolio, but this is optional.

Professional summary

A professional summary is a brief summary of who you are and your strongest qualifications. It may help you make a good first impression on the reader, and an excellent professional summary may entice the reader to learn more about you. Write to two three sentences about your length of work experience, your career goals and your unique characteristics.

Education history

Discuss your academic background by listing them in reverse chronological order. List the name of the academic institution, what you studied and the years you attended. Be sure to note any notable achievements, such as special projects you worked on or awards you received.

Work experience

Create a list of your work experiences in reverse chronological order. Provide your job title, the name of the company and how long you worked there. Add a bulleted list discussing your responsibilities or achievements at each job.

Skills

Add a bulleted list of your most important hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to your technical abilities related to your profession, while soft skills refer to aspects of your personality, habits and traits. Use the job posting as a guide for which relevant skills to include on your list.

Read more: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV

Additional sections

Consider adding extra sections to emphasise your career success. These areas may vary depending on your specific career path. For example, an artist may include a list of galleries where they've showcased their work. Some examples of additional CV sections include:

  • Consulting work

  • Fellowships, grants or scholarships

  • Publications

  • Study abroad experience

  • Volunteer work

What do you include in a cover letter?

Here are some elements to include in your cover letter:

Heading

It's important for your cover letter to follow a professional letter format. Add a heading at the top of your letter. In your heading, include your first name, your surname, your contact information, the date, and the recipient's contact information.

Greeting

Begin your letter with a professional greeting. If you know the name of the intended recipient, you can use a title like Mr, Ms or Dr, followed by their surname. If the job posting does not specify a company contact, you can use Dear Hiring Committee or Dear Hiring Manager.

Related: Dear Sir or Madam: How To Use It and Alternatives

How you found the job

Inform your potential employer about where you found the position, such as through a job posting online or through a referral from a current employee. This may help the organisation adjust their future recruiting efforts. For example, if the company used a recruiting website, mentioning the posting in your cover letter will show them they can find qualified candidates through that resource.

How you will contribute to the organisation

Discuss your goals for the position based on the responsibilities the job description discusses. Try to create objectives that align with the company's mission statement and values. This helps demonstrate your understanding of the company and job and that you could be a good fit for the team.

Call to action

End your letter by thanking the reader for their time and mentioning your goals for what's next. Consider including a call to action for the hiring manager, such as for them to speak with you soon. This reinforces your interest in the position and moving forward in the hiring process.

CV and cover letter example

To help you compare the differences between a CV and a cover letter, here are examples of both from the same person applying for the same job:

CV example

Here's an example of a CV:

Priscilla Chen
2234 5678
priscillachen@email.hk

Professional summary
Attentive copy editor with more than five years of professional experience reviewing stories with precision to match company standards. Passionate about storytelling and delivering flawless, compelling copy.

Education
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
September 2012–May 2016
Final GPA: 3.8

Work experience

Senior copy editor
Red Lion Marketing Agency, Hong Kong
November 2018–present

  • Developed and implemented new editing processes for more efficient turnaround times

  • Revised in-house style guide with the most comprehensive update in a decade

  • Led training for new copy editors

Junior copy editor
Victoria Daily News, City, Hong Kong
June 2016–October 2018

  • Monitored the copy desk to edit breaking news stories

  • Edited short-form and long-form stories and video transcripts

  • Assisted with an award-winning story covering school systems

Skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Analytical thinking

  • Organisational skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Experience with word processing and editorial software programmes

  • Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin

Cover letter example

Here's an example of a cover letter:

Priscilla Chen
2234 5678
priscillachen@email.hk

30 July 2021

Eunice Wu
Human Resources Director
Mountain Peak Advertising

Dear Ms Wu,

My name is Priscilla Chen, and I'm writing to you today to express my interest in the Copy Director position available at Mountain Peak Advertising. My former colleague, Toby Choi, currently works at your agency as the graphic design manager and informed me about the position. I'm extremely excited about Mountain Peak's diverse range of clients and I believe I have the skill set and motivation to create captivating, successful campaigns.

Before beginning my career, I attended the Chinese University of Hong Kong to earn my degree in journalism. While studying, I worked in our student newspaper, holding leadership positions such as lead copy editor and editor-in-chief. This helped me learn how to multitask and to use style guides. Also, working as a leader allowed me to help my fellow students develop their own passion for journalism and excellent copy.

While I began my professional career working in a newsroom, after a few years, I switched to work in marketing and advertising. I enjoy this work because it allows me to be creative while still delivering excellent, compelling copy. In my current role, I'm responsible for our training programmes, which I would enjoy the opportunity to continue at your agency. In fact, it's a dream of mine to expand the training programme to include mentorship and internship programmes. I believe this will help foster future talents to ensure the success of your agency for years to come.

Again, I'm very excited about the opportunity to join Mountain Peak Advertising as the copy director, and I appreciate your time and consideration. I'm available at your convenience to meet and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Priscilla Chen

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