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letters of recommendation for employment

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									                                          PAHC 2007-2008 LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS
THREE TYPES OF RECOMMENDATION LETTERS                                                    Include other pertinent information about you-- things not
                                                                                          readily apparent from admission test scores or transcripts
Letters of recommendation differ based on who writes them and for
what purpose. There are three basic types.                                      CHARACTER REFERENCES

                                                                                  Character reference letters are a special category of
Type of letter                           From            Usual purpose
                                                                                  recommendation because they are usually written by friends,
Employment recommendation                Employer        Getting a job            neighbors or relatives. These letters meet a variety of non-
                                                                                  employment and non-academic related needs. Everything from
                                         Teacher,        Getting into college or graduate school, receiving a
Academic recommendation                                                           gaining memberships and winning awards to child custody and
                                         professor       scholarship or fellowship
                                                                                  adoptions. Character reference letters can also be useful in job
                                         Friend,                                  seeking. For adoption, court
                                                         Getting a job, winning an award, childsample character letters and more information on this
Character reference
                                         relative        hearing, etc.            kind of recommendation

These distinctions are not carved in stone. Professors often write              Requesting a letter of recommendation
letters aimed at helping students secure employment. Employers
often write letters to help current or former employees gain                    You not only need the letter, you need it to be as effective as
admission to academic programs.                                                 possible. So it's important to plan your request.

EMPLOYMENT RECOMMENDATIONS                                                      WHO TO ASK

Whether you are laid off or leave your job on your own accord a                 Given a choice about who to ask, ask someone who
letter of recommendation from your employer can be a valuable tool
for finding a new job. Such a letter is often preferable to listing your                 Is comfortable writing a letter for you
supervisor and his or her phone number on your resume. A                                 Can write well and write easily
reference letter
                                                                                         Has experience writing letters of recommendation
                                                                                         Is familiar with your work
         Provides an organized analysis of your attributes and                          Knows you well enough to be able to include personal
          abilities                                                                       anecdotes in the letter
         Is a "fresh when written" appraisal not clouded by time                        Has the highest and/or most relevant job title
         Creates an unchanging assessment
         Saves future employers the effort of interviewing your                These guidelines apply to both supervisors and teachers. Keep in
          former supervisor                                                     mind that if you've been working in Payroll but want a new career in
         Saves your former supervisor the time and trouble of                  Marketing, a letter from the Sales Manager of your old company will
          being interviewed                                                     carry more weight than one from the Accounting Manager. Also,
                                                                                the higher up the writer the more clout the letter will carry. For
Importantly, obtaining a written letter also gives you insight into how         example, a letter of recommendation from a full professor is more
your former employer perceives you-- on balance either favorably or             valuable than one from an assistant professor.
unfavorably. With this information in hand you can spotlight a good
reference or downplay a poor one.                                               WHEN TO ASK

ACADEMIC RECOMMENDATIONS                                                        Situations vary, but the more time you can allow for receiving your
                                                                                letter the better. As a general rule request your letter at least a
Letters of recommendation are required for acceptance to the vast               month or two in advance.
majority of both undergraduate and graduate degree
programs. Often applicants must provide three or more letters.
                                                                                HOW TO ASK
While requirements differ by institution, program and concentration,
                                                                                Always be forthright when requesting a letter of
generally speaking successful academic recommendations should
                                                                                recommendation. Explain exactly why the letter is needed and its
                                                                                importance to you. In addition
         Provide testimony to your aptitude, curiosity and
                                                                                         Lead up to the request if possible. Get a sense of the
         Demonstrate your maturity and seriousness of purpose
                                                                                          writer's comfort level before actually making the request
         Speak to your leadership ability
                                                                                         Never put the writer on the spot
         Paint you as "well rounded"
         Compliment your character

                                                                                                          E. Aying |
                                             PAHC 2007-2008 LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS
            Always offer to provide information that makes the writing                        recommendation are almost always the same. In other words, good
             task easier (biographical data, employment or attendance                          recommendation letters are highly formulaic. So, approaching your
             timelines, etc.)                                                                  letter from this context will not only make your writing easier-- it will
            As a practical matter, if writing the letter will clearly be a                    make your recommendation more useful.
             favor make sure the writer knows you understand that
            If the subject is broached by the writer, offer to compose                        PUT YOURSELF IN THE READER'S SHOES
             the letter yourself for the writer to sign
                                                                                               The reader of your letter will most likely have read hundreds of
WRITING A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION                                                             recommendations before, and will have only limited time to devote
                                                                                               to it.
                                                                                               The business reader will have the applicant's resume. The
Never agree to write a letter of recommendation unless you                                     academic reader will have the applicant's transcript and his or her
                                                                                               standardized test scores. Additionally, both types of readers will
                                                                                               have the opportunity to interview their respective candidate. What
            Have the time to write it
                                                                                               they need from you are four things.
            Know the individual well enough to discuss him or her in a
             tangible way
            Honestly feel comfortable writing the letter                                                   A sense that your credentials are meaningful and
                                                                                                             therefore what you say in your letter is worth listening to
                                                                                                            A sense that you know the candidate well enough to form
It is easier and better for all involved to politely say no when any of
                                                                                                             sound judgments
these conditions are not met.
                                                                                                            A sense of whether or not you are vouching for the
                                                                                                            Insights into the candidate's personal
                                                                                                             dimensions. Insights that cannot be gleaned from a
While it's true that the more personalized a letter of                                                       resume or transcript, and often not from an interview.
recommendation is the more effective it will probably be. And it's
true that writing a letter, any letter, involves a certain amount of
                                                                                               These four items form the underlying dynamics of recommendation
creativity. It's also true that in terms of their underlying dynamics,
                                                                                               letters. Include all four in your letter, make them easily discernable,
what they cover and how they are organized-- letters of
                                                                                               and you will have accomplished your task.

  Each of the four underlying dynamics plays a role in determining the ultimate value of a recommendation, but only one requires much writing.

Dynamic                                    Comment                                                            How communicated
                                           What is writer's expertise? How important is writer? How
Writer's credibility                       relevant is writer's background to his or her                      On letterhead and/or signature title
                                           Is writer individual's supervisor, professor, co-worker? How
                                                                                                              In second sentence in opening paragraph of letter (see letter format
Writer's relationship to individual        long has writer been in a position to judge individual's talent
                                                                                                              section below)
                                           and performance?
                                                                                                              Made clear in first sentence of opening paragraph and reiterated in
                                           Is the writer strongly positive about individual, lukewarm, or
Writer's overall opinion of individual                                                                        closing (see section below on communicating your overall opinion of
                                           something else?
                                                                                                              the individual)
                                            Business examples
                                            Problem solver?
                                            Can stand the heat?                                               Addressed in the body of the letter. Covering these or other similar
How individual rates on personal dimensions Good character?                                                   dimensions makes up the bulk of the letter (see letter format section
                                           Academic examples
                                           Love of field?
                                           Serious about studies?
                                           Can stand the rigor?
                                           Leadership potential?

                                                                                                                                E. Aying |
                                                 PAHC 2007-2008 LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS
                                              Well rounded?
                                              Good character?


As a rule letters of recommendation are organized into three sections. They usually contain between five and nine paragraphs. Total word
count can range from 200 to 600.

Section                                         Length                               Content
                                                                                     Sentence 1-- State the purpose of the letter, namely that you're writing a recommendation
                                                                                     concerning the individual
                                                1 paragraph of a couple
                                                sentences                            Sentence 2-- Explain how you know the individual. State from where and for how long
                                                                                     you've known him or her. Be very clear about the working relationship involved. That is,
                                                                                     explain whether he or she was your subordinate, co-worker, student, etc.
                                                                                     Paragraph 2-- Ease into the specifics contained in the rest of the body. Use this paragraph
                                                                                     to characterize the individual in general terms.

                                                                                     Paragraphs 3 thru 6-- Address personal dimensions such as those listed above that you feel
                                                2 to 6 paragraphs of 2 to 4
Body                                                                                 are pertinent and for which you have direct knowledge. Include anecdotes to back-up your
                                                sentences each
                                                                                     assessments. Cover 1 or 2 dimensions per paragraph.

                                                                                     Final paragraph of body section-- If relevant, explain why the individual is seeking a new
                                                                                     assignment. For example, if he or she was laid off mention why.
                                                1 or 2 paragraphs of a couple        Express your level of confidence in the individual. Explain the extent to which you believe
                                                sentences                            he or she is suited to the job or program sought.


Longer is not necessarily better. The reader, either the personnel professional or the admissions officer, is not likely to hang on every
word. More probably, he or she will be doing a quick take on each of the four dynamics outlined earlier. What is important is that letter length in
and of itself affects the reader's perceptions.

Dynamic                                                 Comment                                                                           Expected length
Writer's credibility                                    The more important the writer's title the less time the writer can devote         Shorter letter
                                                        The closer the writer is to the individual the more likely the writer will
Writer's relationship to individual                                                                                                       Longer letter
                                                        include anecdotes
Writer's overall opinion of individual                  Communicated in opening and reinforced in closing                                 Does not influence letter length
                                                        The more the individual stands out on a particular dimension the more
How individual rates on personal dimensions                                                                                               One or more longer paragraphs
                                                        apt that dimension will be covered at length.


When you combine the likelihood that the reader will not be devoting much time to reading with the truism that first impressions are not only
potent but hard to overcome, it's becomes clear that communicating your overall opinion of the individual should be done very early in your

In fact, recommendation letter writers almost always communicate most if not all of their true opinion when they open their letters. The trouble
is it is often unconscious. So, it's important to understand the message you send when you open and to make sure it matches the tone of the
rest of your letter.

Example opening words                                                                     Opinion of individual
This letter is in reference to                                                            Very low
This serves as a letter of reference for                                                  Fairly low

                                                                                                                                     E. Aying |
                                            PAHC 2007-2008 LETTER OF RECOMMENDATIONS
I am pleased to write this letter of recommendation for                        Average
I am pleased to recommend                                                      Fairly high
It is a genuine pleasure and honor for me to recommend                         Very high


Since writing a letter of recommendation can easily consume 1 to 2 hours, it is not unusual for a busy manager or professor to hand all or part of
the writing task back to the individual making a request. If you find yourself composing your own recommendation keep in mind

          You have two audiences, the signer and the recipient. While you must satisfy both, the signer is more important. So try to write from
his or her perspective.
          Follow the letter of recommendation format outlined above.
          Address several personal dimensions. Obviously you want to emphasize your strongest points, but be aware that too much attention
to one or two things is often perceived as a lack of breadth.
          Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Don't let overcompensation for weaknesses drive what you say.
          Unless asked to do otherwise, only deliver a complete, polished version of the letter-- one theoretically ready for signing. If the signer
nevertheless wishes to add or delete something, accept his or her changes gracefully.


To Whom It May Concern:

As Principal of George Mason High School I am delighted to recommend to you a stellar member of our teaching staff, Mr. Samuel Cohen, and to write this
letter on his behalf. Sam has taught American History at the school for three years. He is one of our most popular and effective instructors and has already won
several teaching awards.

He came to us directly upon completion of his bachelor’s degree, but immediately settled in as if an old pro. Sam is a master of all of the ingredients of
successful teaching, especially the ability to inspire.

This gentleman is highly professional in both dress and demeanor. To my knowledge Sam has never come to work without both a suit and tie, more times than
not a bow tie. The majority of others at the school, both teachers and students, dress differently and lean to more informality. Never once, however, has Sam’s
manner of dress elicited the slightest comment. Why? It is simply because Sam’s attire seems entirely natural given his dignified comportment.

That comportment in turn is driven by Sam’s love and respect for American History. Sam views himself as the messenger for something serious and important,
and this is reflected in the way he teaches and in the way his students respond.

Reaction to Sam’s classes has been overwhelmingly positive. So much so that more than once it has been reported to me that study hall students have been
spotted lingering outside the door to Sam’s classroom listening to his lessons.

Sam’s impact has even been felt outside the school with the parents themselves. His section on the importance of voting has inspired students to cajole their
parents to register to vote. Several have mentioned this to me at parent-teacher meetings. One even called the school to have me pass on their thanks to Mr.

The only thing that we in the school administration have ever worried about in regard to Sam is the prospect of funding his bottled water. Sam is such a
passionate and prolific speaker that he needs a steady supply to maintain his voice. So far we have gotten a pass on this, as students have bought it for him,
including what must have been a year’s supply on his last birthday.

It will be a sad day when we announce that Sam will be pursuing his graduate degree on a fulltime basis. We can only hope that he keeps his promise and
returns to us as soon as the ink is dry on his new diploma.


Harold W. Brown
George Mason High School

                                                                                                                   E. Aying |

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