Getting recommendation letters that really count requires some planning and lots of credibility.
What is a recommendation letter?
One, a recommendation letter is an endorsement of who you are and what qualities you encompass, by a third party who has had the chance to see you up close, while you put those qualities into action.
Who can issue a recommendation letter?
Two, the weight a recommendation letter carries is determined by the importance of the person issuing it to you.
Recommendation letters from teachers are usually sought after, especially if one is fresh out of college with zero work experience. Teachers have had the opportunity to see you in action from close quarters.
Recommendation letters are sought from immediate bosses or colleagues when applying for a job/career change.
Here are pointers to get a recommendation letter that really reflects you in glowing terms (because that is what we want at the end of the day)
9 steps to get glowing recommendation letters
- Ask well in advance and preferably in-person. Lend a personal touch whenever possible.
- Request by stating the context clearly. Mention the authorities to whom it will be submitted to (Ex: Visa office, prospective employer, etc). Also, mention you chose them to write a recommendation letter for you.
- You may need to follow up politely a few times. Do not feel shy or bitter. More often than not, the person is just too busy.
- At times, certain aspects of your personality need highlighting. Help the person recommending you, recall certain events that highlight these aspects. Also, enumerate a few points about yourself and pass it on to the person issuing you the recommendation letter. This will help them get started.
- If the person is issuing a recommendation letter for the first time, do gather a few sample recommendation letters from the Internet and pass it on to them.
- Often, the person issuing the recommendation letter, asks you to draft the letter yourself and they will be endorsing the same. However, this comes with a risk. Writing a recommendation letter yourself often results in blatant self-glorification and can be a giveaway. It can seriously damage your credibility as an applicant. If faced with such a situation, ask a third party like a friend or relative to draft it, review it and then submit it for the endorsement.
- At times, all copies of the recommendation letter need to be in original letterhead, seal and signature. Mention this clearly.
- Also, it might be the need for the issuing authority to send by post or e-mail the letter directly to the requesting authority (as in the case of higher education applications to foreign universities)
- Do not forget to thank your teacher/boss/colleague formally by letter or e-mail for issuing a recommendation letter to you. This will ensure you stay in their memories for a long time. 🙂
A good recommendation letter issued in the right spirit and true intention is a gift that is cherished forever. I do have recommendation letters from my teacher and boss that uplift my spirits every time I read.
Here’s a PDF of 5 sample recommendation letters to get you started.
This should give a first timer some tips on how to write a recommendation letter.