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Tips for Writing Letters of Reference
In today's competitive job market, job applicants are forced to use
every available tool to be successful. A letter of recommendation must
be taken seriously. It could mean the difference between being hired or
1. The appearance of a 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 recommendation, put on official letterhead, and mail it directly to the Career Development Center. Do not give it to the student to deliver.
2. Include your affiliation/relationship with the person. Were you a supervisor? President of the company? Adviser? 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.
3. Give honest and factual information. When approached to write a recommendation, ask yourself if you honestly know the person's qualities. If you have not had much contact with the person you cannot give an accurate description. It would be better to decline to write a recommendation than to write a vague or irrelevant one.
4. Have the person give you a list of accomplishments, organizations that he/she belongs to, or any other relevant information. It might surprise you to see how much that person has done outside of your contact with them. This can also help you get a more accurate picture of the individual. Having the person give you a copy of his/her resume is an easy way to have this information at hand.
5. 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 organization. Also, if you do make negative comments, back them up with facts.
6. 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.
7. 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
Use powerful words such as: articulate, effective, sophisticated, intelligent, observant, significant, expressive, creative, efficient, cooperative, imaginative, assertive, dependable, mature, innovative
8. The following list of attributes (compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers) is often listed by employers as tools on which to base eventual selection. So, these are excellent points to address:
ability to communicate, intelligence, self-confidence, willingness to accept responsibility
initiative, leadership, energy level, imagination, flexibility, interpersonal skills, self-knowledge
ability to handle conflict, goal achievement, competitiveness, appropriate vocational skills
9. A recent national publication (1991 ASCUS Annual) listed the following eight intangibles as important when evaluating teaching candidates:
empathy, native intelligence, a divergent, abstract thinking style, a high level of commitment,
the ability to be a "self-starter," a high energy level, the recognition that excellence is a journey, not a destination, and the potential ability to lead.
10. Please return the recommendation promptly, because a job may depend on the punctuality of the recommendation.
Points to Consider in Writing Recommendations for Teacher
Where to send your letter:
Career Development Center
For more information about the above or any of the programs and services offered through the Career Development Center, contact the Center in 110 Netzer, phone: (607) 436-2534, e-mail: email@example.com.
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