Career Preparation // Job Application
Comparing Cover Letters and Resumes

This activity introduces students to the purpose of a cover letter and how it differs from a resume and a job application.

Suggested Grade Level



Approximate Time Needed




What is a cover letter? What is its purpose? What is the difference between a cover letter and a resume?

During this lesson you will review the Pet Supply Store Job Ad as an example job that a young person might apply for. Then you will review an Example Student Cover Letter and compare it with an Example Student Job Application and an Example Student Resume.

Teacher Notes

Divide the class into groups of four or five and distribute the What is a Cover Letter? handout. After reading the handout, ask students to share their understanding of a cover letter. What is the purpose of a cover letter? Why might an employer as for one.

Next, distribute the Pet Supply Store Job Ad, Example Student Cover Letter, Example Student Job Application, and Example Student Resume. After groups have had some time to review all three related documents, ask students to discuss answers to any of the following questions. Once students have had a few minutes to review the documents and discuss the questions in groups, open it up for a class discussion:

  • What are the main differences between a job application, a resume, and a cover letter? (Remember, all three are often required for when applying for a job)
  • How does the cover letter align with the job ad?
  • What does Hannah put in her cover letter to show the employer she is a good fit for this job?
  • Based on looking at these three documents, what can you say in a cover letter that you can’t say in a resume or job application?  

The cover letter provides the information in paragraph format, which also gives a potential employer the chance to see how Hannah expresses herself. The application presents the information as a list, organized in the way the employer wants to see it—so if the employer wants to compare Hannah’s application to another application, it’s set up the same way.

The job ad specifies someone who is reliable and hardworking, good with people and animals. Hannah’s cover letter (and resume) includes details that help her demonstrate those qualities. The cover letter offers an opportunity to tell the employer a little bit about why Hannah wants this particular job. In this case, Hannah can explain that she is a customer of the store and what she thinks is good about the store.

Assessment Notes

Completion of activity

Return to Career Readiness
Additional lessons in Job Application

Job Advertisement Terminology

This activity helps students make connections between a want ad and the information provided in a job application.

Evaluate a Cover Letter

This activity introduces students to the characteristics of highly effective cover letters.

Introduction to Job Applications Activity

This activity helps students make connections between a want ad and the information provided in a job application.

Write a Cover Letter

The purpose of this task is for students to practice the professional skill of writing a cover letter to share with an employer when applying for a job.Student may use the cover letter for an actual job they are applying for or practice the skill of writing a cover letter for a fictitious job application.