UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
A letter of recommendation is a letter written by someone who can recommend an individual's work or academic performance. It is typically sent to a hiring manager or admissions officer who is deciding whether to employ or admit a candidate.
A letter of recommendation describes a person's qualifications and skills as they relate to employment or education. These letters typically come from previous employers, professors, colleagues, clients, or teachers. They discuss the qualities and capabilities that make the candidate a good fit for a given position, college, or graduate school program.
Learn more about how to request a letter of recommendation and what the process should look like below.
Ask potential recommendation writers in-person if they would be willing to write a strong and favorable letter on your behalf. 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. It is wise to choose a variety of people who know you in different capacities and can speak to your different strengths, abilities, and experiences. However, be sure to follow any specific instructions provided regarding who should write your letters (i.e. two professors, one supervisor). 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.
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. Please note that some schools, employers, and scholarship applications may require a recommender to fill out an evaluation form and/or provide responses to specific questions instead of submitting an open-ended letter of recommendation. The method for submitting recommendations may also vary greatly.
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 include 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 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 detailed instructions for submission, including an addressed, stamped envelope if being sent in the mail.
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.