A recommendation letter is written by a previous employer, colleague, teacher, or by someone else who can recommend your work or academic performance.
The goal of recommendation letters is to vouch for your skills, achievements, and aptitude. Letter of Recommendation (LoR) is a vote of confidence a person has in you and will help in making a compelling case on why you must be selected.
The key to picking your recommenders is finding someone whose recommendation aligns deeply with your focus theme. What’s the key skill of yours that you are looking to highlight in your application? Which experience of yours strongly demonstrates this key skill? Once you boil down to those experiences, you need to pick someone in a supervisory position involved with you in the experience.
This person may be your teacher, team-lead or supervisor at an organisation your worked at. Whoever you decide to pick, the person should be able to clearly demonstrate the kind of professional relationship you had with them, your shared experiences and comment upon your skills and work ethic.
This means that an inevitable criteria while providing recommendations is that the recommender needs to know you well and should be able to authentically comment on your work. Be careful to select someone who has positive thoughts on your work.
Additionally, the person should also have time to write you a good letter.
Summarising, pick someone
● who can reinforce your focus theme and key skill
● who knows you well
● who thinks positively about your work
● who has the time to write you a good letter
The first and foremost rule when it comes to requesting recommendations is that you should communicate with your recommender about the opportunity you are applying to and request for a letter of recommendation.
Now how should you communicate and what should you convey for them to write an effective LoR?
An email is always the recommended medium for you to send in a request. But if your recommender is comfortable with speaking with you over call or meeting you in person, these work fine as well.
When you do communicate with your recommender, be sure to provide information about:
● The opportunity you are applying to. (Share relevant websites and info here)
● Why are you applying to the opportunity and what do you expect to gain from it?
● What is a key skill or accomplishment of your that you want the recommender to focus on in their LoR?
● Why did you pick this person as your recommender?
Sharing your application with you recommender might also be a good idea to help them understand how you have positioned yourself throughout.
You may also request your recommenders to share their LoR with you. Once you receive the LoR, you should look to proofread it. While reading through, if you notice something seriously awry with the letter of recommendation – an error in dates, for example, or a misspelled company name – it’s perfectly OK to ask the recommender for a quick fix.
When requesting for recommendations, you should always look to make it easier for your recommender to write in the LoR. Be sure to respect their time and share all information they might need upfront. Throughout the process, if they have any queries, do make time to help them navigate. Finally, ensure that you thank them for taking out time for you.
This really varies from opportunity to opportunity. See to it that you read through the details mentioned by the particular opportunity before you make a conclusion.
In most cases, there are no hard and fast rules about how the letter must be written. Some opportunities may require your recommender to comment on specific points. In such cases, your recommender should definitely address those points.
Some opportunities also require the recommender to save the letter in a specific format or name the letter in a particular way. These details must also be kept in mind before submitting the letter.
A fellow student may be able to recommend you provided the student has clearly worked with you in an organisation and has directly managed/lead or supervised your work.
It is generally advised that your family members do not recommend for you. However if you have a clear professional working experience with them to showcase, such as working under them in a Project or Organisation, then they may be able to recommend you strictly on the basis of your professional experience.
If this family member is only your mentor/coach or guide, it is best that you do not list her as your recommender.