Letter of Recommendation
If you need
to secure a good position in the work force or be admitted to a
school of higher learning, you will probably need one or more
letters of recommendation. Both employers and admissions boards
need to know as much as possible about an applicant to determine
his or her ability to perform adequately. Letters of
recommendation provide information from a former employer or a
credible associate who has been personally involved with the
candidate. This outside source provides a valuable record of the
candidate's previous experience and can testify to his or her
skills and abilities. An effective letter of recommendation:
contained in a letter of recommendation depends on the type of
letter and its intended audience. Information is often different
for a letter written for an academic admissions board than one
written for a prospective employer.
The Letter Writer
Choose who will represent you wisely. No one person can represent
you accurately in all areas. Find someone who knows your strengths
in the areas you need to satisfy the requirements of a particular
employer or admissions board. Schedule a convenient time for you
and your employer or advisor to meet. Review the requirements and
expectations of the recommendation letter. This process helps the
person who is writing the letter answer questions, clarify points
that may need elaboration, and point out additional information
that may be required. Make this process easy by providing all of
the information needed so that you can obtain an accurate and
When you request a
recommendation, communicate your needs in a straightforward way.
Explain what you are applying for and ask if the person can
provide you with a good recommendation. If someone exhibits any
uneasiness about providing you with a strong recommendation, be
polite, thank him or her for their time and then look elsewhere.
Choose someone who:
can provide a
knows you well
enough to be credible
thinks highly of
you and your abilities
holds a respected
Keep in mind that
the recommender is doing you a favor and has a busy schedule with
other commitments. Make sure you allow enough time so that he or
she can provide you with a well-written and effective letter.
Writing Your Own
Letter of Recommendation
Do not be surprised if a person you are asking for a
recommendation asks you to write a first draft of the letter that
he or she will then modify and sign. Begin by providing an
accurate assessment of your strengths without dwelling on
limitations. Letters of recommendation are intended to be positive
and realistic evaluations of performance, competence, and
capability. Do not be shy in communicating your strengths. Look at
the following suggestions:
strengths, talents, and abilities. These may include diligence,
punctuality, leadership, reliability, enthusiasm, creativity,
independence, teamwork, organization, etc.
strengths and accomplishments without bragging.
Choose several of
your qualities and strengths that match the current situation;
do not list everything you have ever done.
Use a professional
vocabulary and style; write as if you were the employer
providing the letter.
Writing a Letter
of Recommendation for Someone Else
When you are asked to write a letter of recommendation, be honest
in your assessment. Put yourself in the reader's position and
consider what you would want to know if you were reading the
letter. If you have concerns about specific areas, be up front
with the requester when you are asked to write the recommend.
There should be no surprises. A good way to create a letter of
recommendation is to use pre-designed templates available in
letter-writing products. Additionally, you should review writing
samples to better understand the structure before you begin to
write. Follow these steps to be fair to everyone involved:
Be honest about
your feelings, intentions, and concerns. This will save time and
embarrassment for both parties if you feel that you cannot
provide a good recommendation.
If you are not
sure what to write, ask the requester to provide a draft letter
for you to review, edit, finalize, and sign.
Find out when the
requestor needs the letter and be sensitive to deadlines.
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