The Basics

How to get yourself ready for the job hunt

Now that you have decided to look for a job, you need to prepare and gather the tools you will need to get started. Your basic tool kit will be 2 tools – a resume and a cover letter. What is the difference between a resume and a cover letter? Leading Job Searching Expert, Alison Doyle writing for the website “About Careers” explains the difference between a resume and a cover letter.

A resume is a document that itemizes your employment history. It summarizes the jobs you have held, the education you have attained, certifications, skills and other quantifiable information about your background. A cover letter is written to highlight the qualifications you have for the job for which you are applying. It is used to provide the employer with additional information as to why you are a good candidate for the job. Many employers require that a resume be submitted with a job application. A cover letter may not be required. However, including one when you apply for a job can help your chances of getting selected for an interview.

Both the cover letter and resume share the common purpose of proving that you have the right skills to excel at the job for which you are applying. However, there are clear distinctions regarding how each should be structured. Job seekers should view the cover letter and resume as a complementary but unique pair of documents.

The Resume

The most common resume format is a list with your contact information, an Experience section that includes job titles, position descriptions, dates of employment, an Education section, and other relevant information. A cover letter is written in a letter format including a salutation, several paragraphs and a closing.

Your resume should provide employers with a detailed list of your work experience and education. The skills and accomplishments associated with each job you have held should be described with enough detail to show employers how you have added value in those specific roles.

Cover letter

A cover letter is a concise three or four paragraph document. It should be written with the assumption that employers will consult your resume to match it to the statement you are making in the letter about your qualifications.

A cover letter will help employers to interpret your background as represented on the resume and will help prove how your previous experiences qualify you for a job.

When you are writing a cover letter for a job, first review the job requirements that are detailed in the job posting. Use your cover letter to explain how you meet those criteria.

A resume states the fact – who, what, when and how. In contrast, a cover letter provides an opportunity to explain why you are qualified for the job.

A cover letter is a better vehicle than a resume to convey more subjective information like the basis of your interest in a position, how your values motivate you to pursue a job, or why the culture of a company appeals to you.

Your cover letters will help you sell your qualifications to prospective employers while your resume provides the details to back up the information included in your letters.

Transcripts and Certifications

Additional tools you might need for certain jobs include college transcripts and certifications. When you fill out an application for a job that requires a college degree you may be asked to provide an original copy of your college transcripts. It often takes several weeks to get an original copy so planning ahead is a big help. If the job you are seeking requires a special certification be sure and keep that certificate handy.


Self-Assessments can help you know yourself better. Knowing yourself better can help you choose a satisfying job or occupational field to explore. There are simple checklists available online that can help you identify your interests and values that might be important to know as you choose a job or career. There are also more formal testing and assessment tools that are available through your school or college career guidance center or your local American Job Center or US Department of Labor’s One Stop Career Center.

Reference: Doyle, A. (2014). What is the Difference Between a Resume and a Cover Letter? AboutCareers. Retrieved from