I'm not 100% with terms in English, so maybe I'm missing something.

When applying for a job, what is the difference between a resume and a cover letter?

Some companies ask for one or the other, some ask for both. What should be written in each?

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    Some companies ask for a cover letter without the resume? Also, have you made any effort to find dictionary definitions of these two terms? You should do that and if you're not able to compare and contrast, post some specifics about why you're still confused. – user8365 Aug 16 '13 at 14:59

A resume usually is an overall summary of your background and experience. It often lists your education, your former jobs, and your areas of expertise. You often use the same resume for every job you apply to, but some customize the resume a bit for specific jobs.


A cover letter is a letter you write to introduce yourself to a particular hiring manager. Often, you try to highlight how you fit that specific job.


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In addition to what Joe Strazzere said, your cover letter is your chance to actually address anything that your resume doesn't.

This could include the following:

  • Explain and show your passion.
  • Highlight any conflicting things on your resume (like if you don't have a degree, or your past experience is all front-end and the job you are applying for is for back-end, etc.)
  • What you are looking for.

Really anything that you feel is necessary. Try to keep it to a few paragraphs though, there's definitely a sweet spot when it comes to length.

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