Customize Your Resume, Not Your Cover Letter

Do you include important information about yourself in your cover letter that you don’t have in your resume? Many people do. It’s a mistake.

“Why is that a mistake?” you ask.

Why You Should Customize Your Resume

Two reasons:

    1. Most of the computers that receive your cover letter will not scan it for keywords. Really. There’s data.
    2. About 50% of the people who look at your application materials will not read your cover letter. Again, there’s data.


Computers do, however, scan your resume for keywords. And recruiters and hiring managers, the people who look at your application materials, will at least eyeball your resume to see if it grabs their attention.

Thus, it’s critically important that your resume contains 100% of the information that you want computers, recruiters, and hiring managers to know about you.

Your Resume Gets Scanned

“Wait just a little minute,” you say, “I send the same resume out to everyone but I customize my cover letter for the job that I’m applying for.” Uh huh, that’s what I’m getting at. Please don’t do that. Customize your resume, not your cover letter. “Why?” Because computers and people actually look at your resume.

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Get hired. Email me at or call me at (208) 721-0131.

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Comments 1

  1. Great insight, Donna! It’s completely true that cover letters won’t get picked up by most ATS software or other parsing systems that more and more companies are using.

    However I wouldn’t discount the notion of customizing your cover letter as well as your resume. Just today, for instance, I was browsing resumes for an entry-level admin position. There wasn’t a ton of differentiation between a lot of the resumes, so I started looking at the cover letters. The ones who at least took the time to name the company and the position got a lot more brownie points than the ones who obviously copied and pasted from the same letter they sent out to the other 100 jobs they applied for that week. Honestly I’d rather have no cover letter at all than that – at least the ones who didn’t send a letter are being honest about how much effort they put into it.

    If you’re only applying to jobs that you’re really right for then there shouldn’t be so many in any given day or week that you can’t take the 2 extra minutes to customize your cover letter along with your resume.

    Hi Dave, This is another case of cover letters being both positive and negative differentiators, depending on how they’re handled. I’m with you. Either do the cover right or don’t send one. And BTW, it’s better to send one and do it right when it’s requested. One more thing for people reading this, Dave writes a terrific blog, Go there and read the rest of his spot on advice for job seekers. Donna

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