Now that you’ve gained a thorough understanding of SOPs and have learnt a trick or two to create an effective SOP, let’s move to the next important stage—approaching your professors or employers for a letter of recommendation. The Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is an important piece of document that provides supporting evidence for the facts and experiences mentioned in the SOP. Hence, you should give the recommender enough time to prepare the letter. Most universities require 2 LORs from a reputable third person who can vouch for your skills and abilities such as your professor or employer. As a recommender, there are certain points that you should keep in mind while preparing an LOR. Hence, it would be a good idea to intimate your professor or employer about the same months before the due date.
Here are some more tips to help you write a powerful LOR that can help your student or subordinate acquire admission in his/her choice of university:
1. Find the Name of the Addressee: Before you sit down to write an LOR make sure that you have the addressee’s name. Once you’ve done that, find out more about the person in terms of the role and position. This will set the tone for the rest of the letter. For instance, you will use certain words and terms for an HR professional and would use a different set of words for an entrepreneur.
2. Adopt the CAR Approach: While writing an LOR, use the Challenge, Action, Results approach to highlight achievements. In other words, you will first talk about the challenge, mention the action steps taken to ward off that challenge and highlight the outcome or results. This approach will help you create a personalized and unique LOR that showcases noteworthy achievements.
3. State Facts Rather Than Unsubstantiated Claims: While talking about achievements, be as specific as possible by digging into the minutest details. Avoid making vague claims. Remember, the admissions officers are not interested in reading about whether the given candidate is hardworking or diligent. They want facts and figures. For instance, you could say, “XYZ’s willingness to adapt to new learning environments and positive approach made a significant contribution to our marketing team. He/she played an active role in the brainstorming process and provided innovative strategies to boost sales. He/she was a valuable asset to our team.
4. Include Testimonials: While drafting the LOR, check the student/subordinate’s file to see if there are any testimonials from happy clients. Be sure to add these in the letter as they add more weightage. Testimonials are excellent tools to demonstrate the mentee’s skills and expertise.
5. Share a Success Story: Rather than describing the mentee’s characteristics, include a short anecdote mentioning a particular instance when the candidate maintained her calm, solved an issue or went out of her way to solve problems.
While preparing an LOR, you should keep in mind the specific format mentioned in the admission requirements. For example, the general length of an LOR is 400-500 words. Please look at the following list to get a basic understanding of the other requirements:
1. Types of LOR: Universities usually require 2 LORs—an academic LOR from a professor or faculty member of your previous institution and as professional LOR from a supervisor or manager. The former letter requires the teacher to highlight the candidate’s accomplishments as a student. These letters are usually required for graduate or postgraduate programs in foreign institutes. The latter requires the supervisor/manager to throw light on the applicant’s teambuilding skills and leadership qualities that will determine his/her progress in professional programs. These letters are required for business programs in foreign universities. Hence, go through the admission requirements in detail to understand what the officers are requesting.
2. Using the Official Letterhead of the institute: Most universities request the letter to be written on the official letterhead. For academic LORs, this would refer to the letterhead of the institute, while a professional LOR would have to be written on the letterhead of the company. Make sure that your supervisor or manager hasn’t changed companies by then.
3. Unique Content: As a candidate, you must take special care to ensure that the two LORs are diametrically opposite and are not identical copies. In short, both the LORs should portray different aspects of the candidate’s personality and add depth to his/her character.
While choosing your recommender, be sure to select someone who knows you inside out and who will be able to describe unique facets of your personality. After all, a positive recommendation can enhance the value of your application and can facilitate the admission process.