Obtaining Letters of Recommendation
Make your candidacy as strong as possible by carefully solicitingreferences and letters of recommendation. Lettersof recommendation are extremely important in decisions to hire oradmit an individual or to award a scholarship or grant. Consequently, be sure to spend adequate time and effort to ensuretheir effectiveness.
In some cases, you list an individual as a reference, and theorganization or individual considering your application willcontact that person, often only if you are a finalist for theposition. Other situations, however, require a formal letter ofrecommendation from each reference.
General Guidelines for Requesting References or Letters ofRecommendation
- If possible, always ask one or two more persons than the minimum number you need.
- Ask a range of persons who can testify to different abilities and accomplishments relevant to the position or award.
- If possible, ask someone in person to write a recommendation or to be a reference. If the individual is far away, ask him or her by phone or through a written letter. Generally, unless you know the person extremely well, do not ask someone to be a reference or write a letter of recommendation through e-mail.
- Never list a person as a reference or as someone who will provide a letter of recommendation until the person has agreed to do so.
- Give each person serving as a reference or writing a letter of recommendation the following written information:
- a description of the position or award you are applying for
- a current résumé
- a short statement of your professional goals longer than a one-sentence career-objective statement included as part of your résumé
- background material to refresh the recommender's memory of specific work you did with him or her that you feel should be included in a letter of recommendation
In addition, follow these guidelines for obtaining writtenletters of recommendation:
- Generally, people give more weight to recommendations that contain a waiver of your right to see the recommendation. Sometimes, however, it may be prudent not to waive your right to review the recommendation, especially if you are unsure of the recommender's attitude toward you or of his or her writing ability.
- Recommenders are busy people. Ask a person to write the recommendation and give him or her all the necessary material at least three weeks before the recommendation is due.
- Sometimes recommendations are sent to a central office, such as a university career center, which then forwards the recommendations to specific individuals. In these cases, you may be able to ask someone in the office to review the recommendations on file and suggest which combination of recommendations best present an overall picture of your abilities and accomplishments related to your career objectives.
- If appropriate, provide each recommender with
- all required recommendation forms; be sure you have completed all parts of the form you are required to fill out.
- a sheet stating to whom or where the recommendation should be sent. When appropriate, include addressed envelopes and, in some cases, postage.
One week before the recommendations are due, tactfully ask each recommender if he or she has sent the recommendation.
After the letter of recommendation has been sent or the reference has been given, write a short letter thanking the recommender. The recommender has spent time helping you, and such a recognition of his or her efforts not only is polite but also may make it easier for you to request future references or recommendations.
Keep all letters of recommendation and references current. In general, written recommendations that are older than three or four years carry little weight.
## Obtaining Letters of Recommendation ##
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