Ask potential recommendation writers in person if they will be able to write a strong and favorable letter for you. Be appreciative of the person who honestly tells you that they cannot write you a strong recommendation. Remember that a well thought out letter of recommendation takes about 45-60 minutes to write.
Letters of recommendation are best written by people who know you well through a job, class, or organization. Try to choose a variety of people who know you in different capacities and can speak to your different strengths, abilities, and experiences. You might ask a professor in your major, a recent work supervisor, or someone you have worked with in an organization. Generally letters written by personal or family friends are not appropriate.
It is advisable to get three to five letters of recommendation, but two to three strong letters which show your specific talents and skills are better than five vague letters.
Letters of Recommendation should be written on organization or departmental letterhead. You will want to keep your recommendation letters together and in a secure location.
Education majors, note that your most important letters of recommendation are from your cooperating teachers, supervisors, principals and other individuals who have seen you perform in a school setting or interact with young people through teaching, tutoring or mentoring.
Tell the letter writers your plans or interests and how this recommendation will assist you. Remind them of your past activities and accomplishments. Encourage them to identify specific skills you may want to have mentioned and give examples when possible. If you have completed a resume, give the writer a copy.
Let the reference writer know the date by which you need the letter of recommendation completed. Try to give them at least two weeks to write the letter. Provide the writer with an addressed, stamped envelope so that there is no question of where the letter should be sent. It might be sent to you, to an employer, to a graduate school or to Career and Counseling Services at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. You should always keep copies of your letters of recommendation.
A thank you note to each person who writes you a letter of recommendation is appreciated. Be sure to let your writers know the results of your search or application.