Letters of Recommendation: A letter of recommendation is a letter in which the writer assesses the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the person being recommended in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. Recommendation letters are always specifically requested to be written about someone and are therefore addressed to a particular requestor.

Who should recommend you?

Think about a person who knows your abilities best - this is not always the teacher / professor of the class you received the highest grades in. Consider teachers in whose classes you initially struggled, and then succeeded. Take recommendations from people who are familiar with different aspects of your skills and experiences to be able to put forth your qualities to the admissions committee. It is much more effective to have a reference from someone who knows you well enough to comment on your strengths and may be mention a few potential areas of improvement as well.

Who should write them?

Who your recommender should be depends on the program requirements or as mentioned in the program guidelines. Following are the recommendation sources for various program categories :

  • For academic pursuits: if you are applying for undergraduate or a post-graduate degree that does not require work experience, your course instructors or academic mentors can be your reference. Approach someone who has coached you for a longer duration, is well aware of your progress over the course, have interacted closely on thesis/project work and with whom you share a level of comfort and understanding.
  • For professional course: Professional programs like MBA, executive trainings that require work experience ask for professional LOR’s. In this case, it is better to get your recommendation letter from your direct supervisor with whom you have worked on projects, and who knows your style of functioning. However, you can approach your CEO or someone in a higher position if you have had a one-to-one collaboration with the person on high impact assignments.

What points should my recommenders highlight on?

The content of the recommendation is of prime importance. It is as much essential to emphasize on what is to be written as how it is to be presented. The presentation of the letter also plays a crucial part to make your recommender’s perception of you look genuine.
  • From the thematic point of view, the matter must focus on your capabilities, academic achievements, fields of interests, leadership traits, emotional quotient, community service etc.
  • In terms of style, the write-up must be in simple and reader friendly language using clear and lucid expressions. Don’t only adjectives, or mere descriptions, instead corroborate your accomplishments by citing solid examples that the person as your mentor/teacher has observed.
  • Provide relevant details pertaining to your achievements in the relevant domain, eg, internships, exchange programs, research work, participation and presentation in seminars etc.
  • It must throw light on your softer faculties namely communication skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, team work, analytical abilities, enterprising outlook and contribution to the institution.
  • It is important that the tone does not reflect exaggeration or a biased perception but grounded on fair judgment and assessment based on observation.

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