Cover letters introduce your resume and influence how closely your resume will be read. An effective cover letter will get the reader excited to learn more. To do this, the cover letter needs to provide value beyond the resume.
One cover letter I received was simply a shortened version of the resume. The content was good, and I thought it was a good cover letter after reading it. My opinion changed after reading the resume.
The cover letter was close to a full page – over 200 words. It followed a typical format – it started with an introduction statement explaining the background of the job seeker, listed a number of accomplishments and concluded with statement that the candidate is looking forward to discussing opportunities with the company.
The resume was a little long, around 700 words, and followed a standard structure. It had a summary statement at the top, followed by the employment history and concluded with an education section. Like the cover letter, it wasn’t bad. Looking at the resume by itself, I thought it was ok. Not perfect, but it made a good impression.
The problem was putting the two documents together. The introduction statement of the cover letter was word for word identical to the summary statement on the resume. The accomplishments in the cover letter were also word for word identical to bullets in the work experience section.
My feeling after reading the two documents was the job seeker had wasted my time. Duplicating the information annoyed me. I would have preferred if the cover letter added something unique. This job seeker had a great progression, but had worked for their most recent employer for less than a year and just lost their job. An explanation of why would have helped.
Another effective way to structure the cover letter would have been to take only one or two of the accomplishments (instead of the seven listed in the cover letter) and tell the story behind them. A paragraph giving a lot of detail of why the accomplishment is significant could make it impressive. Listing the shorter bullet of the accomplishment in the resume would then be ok, since it shows when in the person’s career the accomplishment occurred and it would only be one item being repeated.
There may be a good reason to duplicate a limited amount of information from your resume in your cover letter. Just make sure that your cover letter is adding value and does not repeat everything word for work.