Asking for a Letter of Recommendation - Continued

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Business School, Professional School, and Job Applicants:

Whereas academic letter writers usually have a great deal of practice writing letters of recommendation, company employees -- even in the higher echelons -- vary widely in their experiences with recommendations. This is one among many great reasons to get the process started as early as you can.

In addition, it's a good idea to continuously build your recommendation portfolio. Ask your employer or supervisor to write you a letter whenever you leave a job, branch, or office (assuming you are leaving in good terms) where you have a made a considerable contribution to the firm. A copy of the letter will prove invaluable later on if you ever decide to go for an MBA or apply for a position that requires such a letter, and it will help your by-then former employer to remember your specific qualities and accomplishments.


When asking someone to write you a letter of rec, don't simply send an email or leave a voicemail message. It's to your advantage to ask the person face-to-face; not only does this allow you to clarify any doubts about the request, it automatically conveys to the recommendation writer just how important this letter is to you.


About yourself.

Many instructors and supervisors deal with dozens of recommendation requests every year. Even if you are a stellar student or employee, they might not remember that smashingly astute comment you made on Kant's Categorical Imperative back in March, or the speed with which you smoothened loan negotiations during that Korea project. Along with the letter of recommendation form and materials (see below), include a vivid reminder of your past accomplishments, particularly those with which your instructor or supervisor is already familiar. You might include a resume, a pared-down version of your personal statement, and/or a relevant writing sample (preferably one written for that particular instructor, and one which earned you a high grade or evaluation). 

About Your Plans.

If you intend to study agronomy and your instructor is under the impression you are planning on pursuing astronomy, your admissions readers might end up with either a hysterical or quizzical letter of recommendation. Make sure that your letter of recommendation writer is aware of your plans, even if they seem hazy to you at this point. State your plans clearly: "Mr. Guzman, I am applying to Colby College." "Prof. Leary, I am applying to the PhD program in biochemistry at the University of Iowa." "Hank, I am applying to the Information Technology track of ISU's MBA program." Write down your plans somewhere; that way, Mr. Guzman, Prof. Leary, and Hank won't get confused.

Again, handing in a concise outline or summary of your personal statement is not a bad idea, especially if you focus on your achievements in that instructor's class or under his/her supervision. Also consider giving your instructor or supervisor a copy of your resume, which should remind him/her that you are an individual with both focus and broad interests.


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