How to obtain a great letter of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are usually necessary for admittance into college, for scholarship opportunities, graduate school, and jobs.  How do you obtain a letter that will do your amazing skills and personality justice?  If you have a specific position or opportunity you are applying to, there are some guidelines you can follow to be sure your letter of recommendation includes what it should.

Pick the right writer.  You want the writer of your letter to be someone who knows you and your abilities well.  Only request letters from people who you know will write good things about you; if there is any doubt, don’t request one from them.  Advisors for clubs, past/current supervisors, and professors that you have a good relationship with are good places to start requesting.  Never include family member recommendations; these are often biased and not accepted by employers or admission counselors.

Request early.  It is polite to request the letter a minimum of two weeks before it is due.

Provide everything the writer needs to give you a good recommendation.  You should provide each writer a copy of your personal statement (highlighting your personal brand and accomplishments), resume, and details or a job description so they can reference what they’re recommending you for.  Give them a pre-addressed and stamped envelope or an accurate email address along with a reminder of the deadline.  Also, let them know what skills/strengths/aspects you want the writer to address, so that if you have multiple writers, they don’t all write about the same thing.

Don’t read the letter.  It’s bad etiquette to read a letter of recommendation.  If the letter isn’t sent directly to the receiver, then leave it in a sealed envelope.  If the writer knows you’ll read it, it could change what they say.

Last, but definitely not least, follow up.  Double check that the letter has arrived and thank your writer.  Update your writer on the status of the opportunity (if you received the position, admittance, or scholarship) or not.  They’ll appreciate you taking the time to let them know what became of their letter.

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