Letters of recommendation (LoRs) have long been an essential component of application materials for employment, academic pursuits, and special learning experiences to make the best match between applicant and a desired position, program, scholarship, or award. The pandemic forced many interviews to occur virtually, without the applicant ever touring the environment or meeting interviewers in person, thereby rendering LoRs even more valuable to decision makers. Requesting, writing, and reading LoRs can be an ominous task when so much is riding on the outcome. An attempt is made here to consolidate guidance from multiple sources and covering the basics of LoRs across a variety of disciplines. Bibliographic references are provided for additional reading.
The content is derived from a variety of sources and is divided between the three sets of needs:
1. How the applicant for employment, academic program, experience, award, or a scholarship might approach someone to request a letter and what information should be provided for a meaningful letter.
2. Guidance for LoR writers to organize the information while composing an accurate description of the applicant to assist in their selection for the position or award.
3. Suggestions on how to interpret letters and what might be inferred by potentially-ambiguous language.