The T-Cover Letter

by Janice

Debbie MastelThe style and formatting of excellent resumes and cover letters can vary depending on geography and industry and change over time. The T-cover letter is a newer format that is tremendously popular with hiring manager and recruiters. Debbie Mastel, one of the library's Strategic Networking program volunteers, answered a few of our questions about the T-cover letter:

When should someone use a T cover letter?

DM: It doesn’t matter if you’re using transferable skills or an exact match to a posting, the T cover letter should always be used. If you don’t have a posting then you can do some research to figure out what you think the requirements for their organization would be. This can be done by getting old postings or postings from other companies. This style is also difficult when writing a cover letter in to an e-mail instead of an attachment so I recommend people have templates for the letter that can easily be used in either Word format or e-mails.

Do you prefer the format? Why?

DM: Yes, I do prefer the T cover letter format, as I believe it serves three main purposes:

  1. It assists the recruiter, especially if they’re junior and working on technical roles. It allows applicants to clarify acronyms, or similar systems they may have worked on.
  2. When a recruiter is using key words to score resumes. Because of volume, sometimes recruiters rely on systems to rate resumes. According to Right Management, 94% of the top 500 U.S. companies are now using computer programs to evaluate resumes. Canada is sure to follow suit.
  3. When you’re using transferable skills to obtain a position. Countless times I’ve received resumes from people clearly using transferable skills but I can’t make the connection. I remember a colleague of mine once getting the resume for a fellow who groomed ski hills and had mentioned she didn’t see him fitting anywhere. Luckily it was brought to her attention that he might be a fit for a Heavy Equipment Operator position. We ended up hiring him as that but other people aren’t so lucky.

Recruiters don’t have time to figure out where you fit, that’s your job. The t-letter cover letter makes you articulate why you are qualified for the role. This is what you’re asking for, this is what I have.

Would you suggest that any job hunter should use this format for their cover letters? Are there any instances in which you wouldn't prefer the T cover letter?

DM: The only time I can think of that this format may not work is for Academics or people that need to submit a CV instead of a resume. I’m not that familiar with this area but that’s the only example I can think of. I would welcome comments from others if they have reasons this cover letter wouldn’t work for them.

Can you give one or two anecdotal examples of people you've hired or Strategic Networking customers who have found that the T cover letter opened doors that may not have otherwise been opened?

DM: I asked some job searchers to share their feelings about the usefulness of the T-cover letter. Here is one response:

The reason I believe the two-column T cover letter worked well for me in the past was because it was significantly different than writing three or four paragraphs as in a standard cover letter.

The T cover letter was simple to use. First, I underscored the keywords or phrases in the job description’s requirements and qualifications sections that fit my background, experiences, and skill sets. Then, I filled out the position’s key requirements in the table’s left column and aligned them with my matching skill sets or experiences in the right column.

The concisely-worded bullet points in two column format immediately captured the hiring manager’s attention without him having to read longer paragraphs. My T cover letter intrigued and interested him. I was able to zero in on the value I could provide that related to the hiring manager's and position's needs, and, consequently, the hiring manager continued with reviewing my resume. In summary, the T cover letter helped me to (1) focus my reply, (2) save time, and (3) avoid responses to inappropriate job postings.”

March 19: Debbie sent another response from someone who had great success with the T-Cover Letter:

"The T Cover letter is the most effective cover letter I did come across in my entire professional career. It was introduced to me by Debbie in one of the networking meeting I attended. From the time I heard about it, it really did strike me and I know it was the correct formula I was looking for to grab employer attention. By that time I was around just 5 weeks in Canada and everything was new to me. I was quick enough to change my formats to T letter and also customize my resume to go with that.

Within a week I got an interview at a Big Oil & a Gas Company, and another one at a IT company. I almost got the Oil & Gas job, and the Hiring manager was complimentary of my cover letter. After about 2 weeks I got an interview at DeVry University and now I am working there,.

I am glad to say I attended that networking meeting and met Debbie, where I learned all about the best secret in finding employment—the T cover letter. Thanks to it, I am now working in less than 12 weeks from moving to Canada. I think it’s a great tool and many people should start using it, it also helps you focus and identify your suitability to the job and helps you easily focus on target than be general in applying. Thanks Debbie.”

For more information about the T-cover letter:

A template of the T-cover letter: Workopolis Sample of the T-style cover letter.

Thoughts from another recruiter on the T-cover letter: The "T" Cover Letter—The Only Type Worth Sending.


Debbie Mastel volunteers with the enormously popular Strategic Networking program that runs on the Third Floor of the Central Library every Thursday evening from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Debbie is a Critical Talent Specialist with Devon Energy Corporation in Calgary.