Guide to Write Effective Recommendation Letter

31 December, 2022

A Short Guide to Writing a Recommendation Letter

Most universities for applying to Masters/ MBA or MIM programs abroad require a letter of recommendation (LOR) from persons qualified to evaluate a candidate’s academic and professional credentials. As a recommender, you are expected to be familiar with the individual’s academic and professional achievements and depict certainty as you exemplify their qualities and potential to succeed in their desired academic setting.

This guide is a framework for writing an effective LOR, focusing on the key elements that allow the Admission Committee to independently assess the candidate.

Before drafting any LOR, you must gather relevant information pertaining to the candidate’s application, including their motivation essay(s) and résumé, to evaluate how they have positioned themselves. Subsequently, provide context and examples depicting the applicant’s attributes consistent with the content given in the application packet.

LOR acts as a supporting evidence for the points mentioned in the application essays, thus highlighting similar attributes makes the application packet coherent.

LOR Type

Academic and Professional

LOR Format

  • A single letter sent independently by the recommender
  • Questions and grid form requiring recommender’s responses

Framework for Academic LOR

Academic recommendation letters are to be issued only on the university or college letterhead. Recommenders should provide their official/university e-mail id for all correspondence. Most universities directly request recommenders to upload their LOR, thus you must be attentive to such e-mails, be informed by your student about their application procedure and timely upload the LOR for the candidate.

  • Include the subject(s) taught, including any research/project supervised, and provide a brief context of your relationship with the candidate.
  • Mention the candidate’s academic performance, overall and particular subject of interest; describe how the candidate has been consistent in their interests.
  • Mention relevant projects or research work where the candidate demonstrated critical thinking, diligence, excellence, punctuality, curiosity or any other relevant trait that sets them as exemplary students.
  • Provide details about candidate’s cocurricular engagements and achievements, or any specific incidents that covey their expertise, integrity or the like.
  • Do not mention grades or scores unless you’re interpreting academic details about them; otherwise, they will merely seem to be a repetition of what has been mentioned in their resume or transcript.
  • Do not state their qualities/characteristics without context or examples; otherwise, it may lead to doubt about the authenticity of the LOR.
  • Highlight how the candidate will benefit from the applied course and mention the capacity they show to be contributing students.

Framework for Professional LOR

Professional recommendation letters are to be issued only on the organization letterhead, duly signed and stamped. These are primarily expected by technical and business schools that demand a particular amount of work experience from the applicants. Professional LORs provide insight into candidate’s leadership, managerial or technical abilities.

  • Mention the candidate’s designation; if the candidate joined as an intern and moved to full time, or has similarly shown growth in acquiring performance-based promotions, demonstrate the trajectory that exemplifies their efforts.
  • Provide instances wherein the candidate took initiatives for projects/activities beyond their roles in their contribution to the organisation.
  • Describe the candidate’s areas of expertise, how well do they process the information provided and how efficiently do they convert their knowledge into practice.
  • In any case wherein the candidate was given constructive feedback, describe how the candidate received it, how they worked upon it and how did the candidate grow from that experience. (Some question format LORs tend to directly this question; therefore, take an easy example, which can be shown to have developed in a short time, to convince the admission committee, rather than personality- or belief-related trait, which is difficult to change soon.)
  • Give examples of candidate’s integrity or any soft skill that you the candidate demonstrated. Begin with your understanding of integrity and move on to illustrate the candidate’s actions.
  • Discuss the candidates career aspirations and how has the candidate been working towards pursuing the chosen career path.
  • Describe an instance when the candidate’s actions had a significant impact on your organization or discuss observations you have made concerning their leadership abilities, team and/or group skills.
  • How often does the candidate train, share knowledge or review their colleague’s or new joiner’s work? Illustrate any team playing or managerial attributes exemplified by the candidate in their communication with different office members.
  • Do not derive various qualities from one event; provide relevant context for particular qualities that have a logical connection and thus are convincing.
  • Only focussing on professional experience is not necessary; your comments on the candidate’s candour, humour or disposition are equally relevant in giving the admission committee a holistic picture.

Best Practices for LOR

  • Cover those qualities that cannot be otherwise communicated, thus building credibility of your recommendation.
  • Simplify your language for greater impact.
  • Provide your observations of the candidate in the form of a clear message.
  • Ensure that there are no grammatical or spelling errors.
  • For LORs in question format, do not deviate from the question and avoid providing repetitive instances or observations for different questions.
  • Discuss the candidate’s strengths, goals and interest amply while drafting the recommendation letter.

Finally, templates can be very handy in writing a recommendation letter that has a logical flow and structure.. Moreover, many universities when they ask for recommendation letters are specific about what they’re looking for in the content. Read their question and guidelines, if any, carefully before drafting the letter.

In case of any further queries, feel free to contact your IMS consultant or write to us at consulting@imsindia.com

Author –

Dipti Pal

Head, Admission Consulting

IMS

LinkedIn

Ilika M

Editor, Admission Consulting

IMS

LinkedIn

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