I relish the opportunity to write recommendations for others I have come to know through my roles as a professor, higher education administrator, consultant, and leader in business and professional organizations. As I have written many such letters over the years, my challenge is to craft documents that crackle with energy while capturing the qualities and achievements that make each person I encounter different. Here’s how I meet this challenge:
- I must know the individual well enough to have the basis for a recommendation, more specifically in terms of having substantive experience of their work in one or more areas by virtue of the particular role I filled (e.g., higher education administrator).
- I limit the scope of my recommendation to these areas as they pertain to my role. I would never, for example, comment on an individual’s public speaking skills if I had not heard him or her speak.
- I identify and comment on the positive attributes or behaviors the individual displayed in these same areas. Using this general guideline, I have always been able to find many things to write about! If for some reason I couldn’t find anything positive to discuss about a person, I would gracefully decline the opportunity to write the recommendation.
- I create each recommendation letter from scratch, neither using a past document as an example nor consulting words or phrases I tend to incorporate in such writing. Instead, I want to craft a document as spontaneously as possible after reflecting on my experience of the individual and assessing their strengths and positive attributes
The bottom line is that I feel comfortable and confident writing recommendations based on these general guidelines, and look forward to many more opportunities to do so in the coming years.
This post is the third in a three part series on written recommendations. Read the other articles in the series: “8 Reasons to Seek Written Recommendations” and “6 Topics to Consider When Seeking a Written Recommendation.”