Letter of Recommendations
One important way you can contribute to your students’ job search is to write a strong letter of recommendation for a job or graduate school application. In order to help you with that sometimes daunting task, we have put together some guidelines to assist you.
It is important to first decide whether you will, in fact, agree to write a letter at all. Before you agree, ask yourself whether you feel you can honestly write a positive letter given the student’s career goals. If you decide to write a letter, or for more information in order to make that decision, we strongly recommend you request the following items (if applicable) from your student. These documents will allow you to better understand the student’s goals, other experience and or involvement, and how it may align with that school or particular position they are applying to.
- Personal statement, letter of intent, rationale or statement of goals
- The student’s résumé
- Job description or recommendation form
Once you have gathered the student’s information and reviewed any relevant records of your own (grades, projects, performance evaluations, etc.) you should be ready to write. Future employers as well as graduate schools will be evaluating candidates on the basis of the following factors, among others:
- communication skills (written and oral)
- willingness to take initiative
- level of motivation
- planning and organizational skills
- technical or professional knowledge or skills
- interpersonal skills
- willingness to accept responsibility/leadership
- analytical/problem-solving ability
- group interaction and team-working skills
Any information you can give to support the student's candidacy with reference to these attributes would be helpful. Avoid potentially discriminatory references (race, religion, national origin, marital status, age, etc.). Accent the positive and try to qualify any negative statements with evidence of the ways in which a student is dealing with the problem. If you feel you cannot give a positive recommendation, it is best not to agree in the first place!
For a sample letter and more guidance on formatting, please see our sample Letter of Recommendation.