Tech & Work

Clarifying one difference between the cover letter and the resume

A TechRepublic member wrote to me asking for examples of one of my previous points about cover letters -- not repeating resume information verbatim.

A TechRepublic member emailed me last week after I posted a piece on cover letters, asking if I would elaborate on one of my points: how a cover letter should not just repeat what's in your resume.

Put yourself in the place of a recruiter. You wouldn't want to read the same information in two different documents in trying to gauge the viability of a job candidate. You don't want the recruiters to have to make the connection between your skill and what the job calls for. Not that they're too dumb to do that on their own but because they're time is limited.

The best way to avoid repeating the information verbatim is to think of the cover letter as an introduction to the resume. Your cover letter should read like a book jacket cover. It should give the reader a taste of what's to come and encourage that person to open your resume and read it as well. It should highlight the aspects of your resume that are relevant to the position.

As I said, a cover letter is the place to tie in your skills with the job at hand. You can list your skills in the resume but the cover letter should take the extra step of showing the recruiter precisely how those skills will apply to the open position.

So let's say you're applying for an IT management position. Your resume includes the following as part of your technical experience (and happens to be what most closely matches what is asked for in the job description):

  • Built a network operations team
  • Designed a high level, all encompassing disaster recovery/business resumption plan

Your cover letter will expound on these accomplishments:

"In my last job, I was tasked with building a network operations team that was responsible for the internal infrastructure along with implementing new technologies within the organization. This process required that I hire and train people in all aspects of IT and build a cohesive team, which is something you stressed in your job description.

I am also familiar with designing and rolling out disaster recovery plans. My team designed our company's plan and assured that maximum data loss not exceed one day."

Hope this helps in understanding why you shouldn't repeat information verbatim from your resume in your cover letter!


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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