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Letters of Recommendation Resources

Considerations when requesting letters of recommendation (LoRs) for employment, further academic study, gap year experiences, or a technical school.


  1. When requesting an individual to write a LoR, you should be acquainted with the writer well enough to be confident in their ability to compose a factual and supportive letter.
  2. Aside from being evaluated on your character and personal successes, your LoR is taken more seriously if written by an individual well known in the field. However, it is more beneficial to have a strong letter written from a lesser-known individual in the field, than a letter from a well-known individual who does not know you well and may write a letter that comes across as generic and uninspiring.
  3. Keep an evolving list of potential letter writers on hand, as not everyone will be available to write a letter for you at a particular time. Also, as former supervisors age, retire, change careers, or move, your pool of names may need to expand or reach further back in your work history.
  4. As you progress in your studies or job, older letters should be updated to reflect new achievements.
  5. Unless  acknowledging why a gap in studies or employment exists, it is normally advised to omit marital status, children, physical characteristics, and disabilities from LoR. If necessary, explanations can be presented later in the process or during interviews. Discussions between requestors and writers are important to ensure both parties understand what is to be presented in a LoR. Make your preferences known, so they can be considered.
  6. Make your request for a LoR at least three weeks prior to the due date.
  7. If your request for a LoR is declined, you may want to ask for suggestions of other individuals within the department.
  8. Make enough photocopies of each LoR to bring to each interview.


Sources for Letters of Recommendation:

  1. Instructors
  2. Advisors/school counselors
  3. Current/past employers 
  4. Artistic directors
  5. Literary managers
  6. Laboratory supervisors



Information to provide to letter writer

  • Reasons why position/program is of interest and the right fit
  • Position description/ school application information
  • Description of characteristics and qualities applicant exemplifies that match program or position
  • Related accomplishments or skills that will point to future success in workplace or academia
  • Specific information future employer/school should know about you
  • Academic and career successes, especially those in which there was substantial guidance from recommender on a project or assignment
  • Most impressive achievements at current position
  • Experiences that the writer can use to fully describe qualifications for potential position/program
  • Informal teaching experience
  • Personal circumstances that hindered study or work performance, resulting in lower grades, employment gaps, or questionable job evaluation
  • Interests, community service/school activities, creative output, as appropriate. (This may be needed more for young students, who have not developed an employment history, but most of the time it is best to include only the information that pertains to the job, program, etc.)
  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Transcript, if appropriate
  • If course grades or other parts of the educational record will strengthen the letter, provide the writer with  a release for the  federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act  of 1974 (FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment (20 USC S. 1232g).
  • A decision whether to waive your rights to inspect the LoR written by the individual who recommends you.

Resources for letter requestors

  1. Pechenik, Jan A. (2016) Writing Letters of Application. In A Short Guide to Writing about Biology. Pearson Education Inc.. Boston, MA. p.239-253.
  2.  Walfish, Steven., and Allen K. Hess. (2001) Succeeding in Graduate School : the Career Guide for Psychology Students. L. Erlbaum Associates, 
  3. Goldsmith, John A., et al. (2001) The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career : a Portable Mentor for Scholars from Graduate School through Tenure. University of Chicago Press.
  4. Kovac, J., (2018) The Ethical Chemist: Professionalism and Ethics in Science. 2nd ed.; Oxford University Press: New York, N.Y.
  5. Roberts, Laura Weiss, and Gabrielle Termuehlen.(2014) (Honest) Letters of Recommendation. Academic Psychiatry, vol. 37, no. 1, Springer-Verlag,  pp. 55–59, (Includes excerpts from sample letters and potential reader's inferences.)
  6. Berger, Lauren (2012) All Work, No Pay : Finding an Internship, Building Your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience. Ten Speed Press. New York, N.Y.
  7. Volz, Jim (2011). Working in American Theatre: a Brief History, Career Guide and Resource Book for over 1,000 Theatres. Methuen Drama, New York, N.Y.