Helpful Hints for Writing Letters of Recommendation
In today's competitive job market, job applicants are being forced to use every available tool to be successful.
Writing a letter of recommendation is not a simple task and must be taken seriously, because it could mean the
difference between being hired or being rejected. The job hunter has little control over letters of
recommendation, so we offer the following only as suggestions on how to be an effective evaluator. Please
return the recommendation promptly, because a job may depend on the punctuality of the recommendation.
1. Include your affiliation/ relationship with the person. Were you a supervisor? President of an
organization? Advisor? Professor? It is important to indicate this because a professor may see the
academic skills while a supervisor may be able to identify work habits.
2. Concentrate on several different aspects of the person. Specifically identify his/her skills, attitudes,
personal attributes and growth, as well as his/her contributions to and performance within your
classroom. It is extremely important to include examples where possible. It is one thing to state that
someone had some good ideas and another to say, "John integrated reading. and writing into a language
experience program with an emphasis on comprehension." Also, if you do make negative comments, back
them up with facts.
3. The appearance of the letter is a reflection on both you and the candidate and it can also determine
whether it will be read or not. Please type your recommendations neatly!
4. A recent national publication (1999 AAEE Annual) listed the following eight intangibles as important
when evaluating teacher candidates: a) empathy, b) native intelligence,
c) a divergent, abstract thinking style, d) a high level of commitment, e) the ability to be a "self starter," f) a
high energy level, g) the recognition that excellence is a journey, not a destination, and g) the potential ability
5. Don't reference characteristics that can be the basis of discrimination, such as race, color, nationality,
gender, religion, age, appearance, any handicapping condition, marital or parental status, or political
point of view!
6. Beware of the power of words! Some words seem harmless in every day conversation, but carry
positive or negative connotations to a prospective employer.
Avoid bland words such as:
Nice Good Fairly Reasonable Decent Satisfactory
Powerful words which are appropriate to use include:
Articulate Effective Sophisticated Intelligent
Observant Significant Expressive Creative
Efficient Cooperative Imaginative Assertive
Dependable Mature Innovative
The following list of attributes (complied by the College Placement Council)) is often listed by employers as tools on
which to base eventual selection. So, these are excellent points to address: a) ability to communicate, b)
intelligence, c) self-confidence, d) willingness to accept responsibility,
e) initiative, f) leadership, g) energy level, h) imagination, i) flexibility, j) interpersonal skills,
k) self-knowledge, 1) ability to handle conflict, m) goal achievement, n) competitiveness, o) appropriate vocational skills,
Be honest! Be specific! Be accurate!