Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Letter Of Recommendation Overview


Published on

Published in: Business, Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Letter Of Recommendation Overview

  1. 1. Letter of recommendation overview Character references Character reference letters are a special category of recommendation because they are usually written by friends, neighbors or relatives. These letters meet a variety of non- employment and non-academic related needs. Everything from gaining memberships and winning awards to child custody and adoptions. Character reference letters can also be useful in job seeking. For sample character letters and more information on this kind of recommendation click here. Requesting a letter of recommendation You not only need the letter, you need it to be as effective as possible. So it's important to plan your request. Who to ask Given a choice about who to ask, ask someone who Is comfortable writing a letter for you Can write well and write easily Has experience writing letters of recommendation Is familiar with your work Knows you well enough to be able to include personal anecdotes in the letter Has the highest and/or most relevant job title These guidelines apply to both supervisors and teachers. Keep in mind that if you've been working in Payroll but want a new career in Marketing, a letter from the Sales Manager of your old company will carry more weight than one from the Accounting Manager. Also, the higher up the writer the more clout the letter will carry. For example, a letter of recommendation from a full professor is more valuable than one from an assistant professor. When to ask Situations vary, but the more time you can allow for receiving your letter the better. As a general rule request your letter at least a month or two in advance. How to ask Always be forthright when requesting a letter of recommendation. Explain exactly why the letter is needed and its importance to you. In addition 1
  2. 2. Lead up to the request if possible. Get a sense of the writer's comfort level before actually making the request Never put the writer on the spot Always offer to provide information that makes the writing task easier (biographical data, employment or attendance timelines, etc.) As a practical matter, if writing the letter will clearly be a favor make sure the writer knows you understand that If the subject is broached by the writer, offer to compose the letter yourself for the writer to sign Writing a letter of recommendation Don't write a letter unless... Never agree to write a letter of recommendation unless you Have the time to write it Know the individual well enough to discuss him or her in a tangible way Honestly feel comfortable writing the letter It is easier and better for all involved to politely say no when any of these conditions are not met. No need to reinvent the wheel While it's true that the more personalized a letter of recommendation is the more effective it will probably be. And it's true that writing a letter, any letter, involves a certain amount of creativity. It's also true that in terms of their underlying dynamics, what they cover and how they are organized-- letters of recommendation are almost always the same. In other words, good recommendation letters are highly formulaic. So, approaching your letter from this context will not only make your writing easier-- it will make your recommendation more useful. Put yourself in the reader's shoes The reader of your letter will most likely have read hundreds of recommendations before, and will have only limited time to devote to it. A sense that your credentials are meaningful and therefore what you say in your letter is worth listening to A sense that you know the candidate well enough to form sound judgments A sense of whether or not you are vouching for the candidate Insights into the candidate's personal dimensions. These four items form the underlying dynamics of recommendation letters. Include all four in your letter, make them easily discernable, and you will have accomplished your task. The underlying dynamics of recommendations 2
  3. 3. Each of the four underlying dynamics plays a role in determining the ultimate value of a recommendation, but only one requires much writing. Dynamic Comment How communicated What is writer's expertise? How important is writer? How relevant On letterhead and/or Writer's credibility is writer's background to his or her signature title recommendation? Is writer individual's supervisor, In second sentence in professor, co-worker? How long Writer's relationship to opening paragraph of has writer been in a position to individual letter (see letter judge individual's talent and format section below) performance? Made clear in first sentence of opening paragraph and Is the writer strongly positive Writer's overall opinion of reiterated in closing about individual, lukewarm, or individual (see section below on something else? communicating your overall opinion of the individual) Business examples Ambitious? Responsible? Problem solver? Extroverted? Addressed in the body Cooperative? of the letter. Covering Can stand the heat? these or other similar Good character? How individual rates on dimensions makes up personal dimensions Academic examples the bulk of the letter Love of field? (see letter format Ambitious? section below). Serious about studies? Can stand the rigor? Leadership potential? Well rounded? Good character? Letter of recommendation format As a rule letters of recommendation are organized into three sections. They usually contain between five and nine paragraphs. Total word count can range from 200 to 600. Section Length Content Sentence 1-- State the purpose of the 1 paragraph of a letter, namely that you're writing a Opening couple sentences recommendation concerning the individual 3
  4. 4. Sentence 2-- Explain how you know the individual. State from where and for how long you've known him or her. Be very clear about the working relationship involved. That is, explain whether he or she was your subordinate, co-worker, student, etc. Paragraph 2-- Ease into the specifics contained in the rest of the body. Use this paragraph to characterize the individual in general terms. Paragraphs 3 thru 6-- Address personal dimensions such as those listed above that you feel are pertinent 2 to 6 paragraphs and for which you have direct Body of 2 to 4 sentences knowledge. Include anecdotes to each back-up your assessments. Cover 1 or 2 dimensions per paragraph. Final paragraph of body section-- If relevant, explain why the individual is seeking a new assignment. For example, if he or she was laid off mention why. Express your level of confidence in the 1 or 2 paragraphs individual. Explain the extent to which Closing of a couple you believe he or she is suited to the sentences job or program sought. Rec letter length Longer is not necessarily better. The reader, either the personnel professional or the admissions officer, is not likely to hang on every word. More probably, he or she will be doing a quick take on each of the four dynamics outlined earlier. What is important is that letter length in and of itself affects the reader's perceptions. Dynamic Comment Expected length The more important the writer's title Writer's credibility Shorter letter the less time the writer can devote The closer the writer is to the Writer's relationship to individual the more likely the writer Longer letter individual will include anecdotes Writer's overall opinion of Communicated in opening and Does not influence letter individual reinforced in closing length How individual rates on The more the individual stands out One or more longer 4
  5. 5. personal dimensions on a particular dimension the more paragraphs apt that dimension will be covered at length. Communicating your overall opinion of the individual When you combine the likelihood that the reader will not be devoting much time to reading with the truism that first impressions are not only potent but hard to overcome, it's becomes clear that communicating your overall opinion of the individual should be done very early in your letter. In fact, recommendation letter writers almost always communicate most if not all of their true opinion when they open their letters. The trouble is it is often unconscious. So, it's important to understand the message you send when you open and to make sure it matches the tone of the rest of your letter. Example opening words Opinion of individual This letter is in reference to Very low This serves as a letter of reference for Fairly low I am pleased to write this letter of Average recommendation for I am pleased to recommend Fairly high It is a genuine pleasure and honor for me to Very high recommend Writing your own letter Since writing a letter of recommendation can easily consume 1 to 2 hours, it is not unusual for a busy manager or professor to hand all or part of the writing task back to the individual making a request. If you find yourself composing your own recommendation keep in mind You have two audiences, the signer and the recipient. While you must satisfy both, the signer is more important. So try to write from his or her perspective. Follow the letter of recommendation format outlined above. Address several personal dimensions. Obviously you want to emphasize your strongest points, but be aware that too much attention to one or two things is often perceived as a lack of breadth. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Don't let overcompensation for weaknesses drive what you say. Unless asked to do otherwise, only deliver a complete, polished version of the letter- - one theoretically ready for signing. If the signer nevertheless wishes to add or delete something, accept his or her changes gracefully. Top 5