How to Make an Impressive Letter of Recommendation (LOR)?
By now, I am sure you are well aware that your letter of recommendation is one of the essential documents of your application. Choosing the right recommender essentially depends on your equation and association with the recommender. Your selected recommender must be able to present and justify your candidature in the most effective manner, preferably with the aid of instances and anecdotes. The recommender must have a clear idea about specific attributes, project work, and instances that can be cited in the recommendation. Also, it is important not to simply mention the instances but also the manner in which the same is presented would add value to the LOR.
While preparing your LORs, one aspect of the LOR that is of paramount importance is that all the LORs should preferably contain unique content. This means that you need to include unique anecdotes pertaining to your academic and professional experiences and proficiencies. Hence, choose two recommenders who can offer a similar perspective though from two rather different instances of your association.
Elaborating on the same, say we are talking about a LOR for an MS course. If you have submitted two Academic LORs, then you must focus on getting two recommenders who can talk about two rather different things. For instance, one of your professors can talk about your learning during your internship, while the other talks about maybe one of your seminars or workshops. For instance, if one of your recommenders mentions “ABC’s technical as well as managerial skills were demonstrated during one of his projects titled 'Enhancing Efficiency of Screw Press Oil Expeller Roller', where he proved his expertise in problem-solving, innovation, design and manufacturing”, the other recommenders must present some other achievements of yours.
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Even while preparing your professional LORs for MBA Courses, you must brief your recommenders about this. For example, if the recommender says something like “I remember when we were discussing some technical options and upgrades to the basic design of our product, ABC voraciously read various online journals, company operations profiles, and user-interaction details. This helped us to choose the best architecture option for the availability and performance of the application focused on the target customer needs. We saved a lot of time and effort by choosing the right path early and ABC played the key role in making this happen”. The other recommenders, even if they belong to the same organization, must make it a point not to include this example. Also, until and unless specified, the format for MBA LOR would only vary in content from that of an MS LOR.
Format of a Letter of Recommendation
A basic letter of recommendation can be divided into 5 paragraphs. The letter of recommendation must have the following sections:
- Name of the recipient
- Recipient title
- Address of the recipient
- Personal introduction: Start the body of your letter by introducing who you are and what is your relationship with the applicant
- Recommendation: What makes an applicant a good fit? You can provide specific examples of skills or qualifications
- Contact information
How to write a good LOR?
Given below are some of the tips on how to write an LOR. These will help the LOR stand out in front of the admission officers, potential employers, or anyone who is going to review the letter.
- The given information should be accurate and relevant
- Avoid copying from online samples. The Admissions Committee is very strict when it comes to plagiarism. Take inspiration, do not copy!
- The recommender should write positive traits about the individual
- The language and composition of the LOR should be simple and lucid
- During the final brush-up of your LOR, take a close look at all the grammatical mistakes and rectify them
- The most important aspect of an impressive LOR is that the sentences are short and on point. Lengthy sentences tend to break the flow of the LOR and fail to convey the crux of what is stated, to the reader
- LORs should be crisp and written in not more than 500-600 word limit, fitting one page
- In a professional LOR, ‘discuss’ the role and responsibilities of the individual and highlight the traits displayed. Do not ‘describe’ job responsibilities, or else it would sound more like a CV rather than a LOR.
- The recommender should have known you for at least six months
- It is also important to provide the accurate contact details of the recommender
Some detailed tips on how to write a LOR
- Do your own research: The recommenders can ask the applicants to provide the academic program requirements or job description, their resume, any specific achievements, or qualifications that they want to highlight. By doing this, one can focus on what is actually the need for the skills and qualifications that are specific to the role for which the applicant is applying.
- Be specific: One can use the template to write a letter of recommendation. But, remember it should appear formal. Cite examples and anecdotes to illustrate why the applicant is the best candidate. Try to choose strong adjectives to describe the applicants rather than specifying the general terms or clichés.
- Stay positive: The recommendation letter should confirm the fact that this applicant is a strong contender for the role to which they are applying. Portray strong enthusiasm, and avoid any comments that show the candidate in a negative light.
- Follow the instructions: Remember that via a letter of recommendation, a recommender is vouching for a particular applicant. So, be sure to follow the submission guidelines carefully and submit the letter on time.
- Use active voice: In order to make a letter of recommendation appear strong, construct the sentences in the active voice instead of the passive voice. This will also make the letter of recommendation appear more crisp and concise.
LORs should have a very accurate assessment of the applicant’s eligibility and suitability: This means that a letter of recommendation should specify the eligibility and suitability of an applicant for the course or program of study. In a way, the emphasis should be more on suitability rather than the recommender sounding more like an advocate. For example, the recommender should specify how you fared in a class, like were you in the top 3 or top 1% in the class / university.
Do not specify any grades or scores of competitive tests: A good letter of recommendation (LOR) should not mention any grades or scores of competitive tests unless there is a requirement to interpret some academic details. These details are already mentioned in your application, so repeating these again in your LOR is a big no.
Do not mention any private information: Any sensitive or private information about the applicant should be only included in a letter of recommendation only if it has any relevance or is considered absolutely necessary.
What are the Skills to be Highlighted in LOR?
An individual might have a lot of skill sets that can be highlighted while recommending. However, it is difficult to include all of these traits in a single-page document. Hence, little care should be taken to think about which skills have to be included in the LOR. Given below are the skills that can be highlighted in a LOR.
For an Academic Letter of Recommendation
- Teamwork skills
- Academic performance
- Leadership ability
- Awards and recognition
- Analytical research skills
For a Professional Letter of Recommendation
- Decision-making skills
- Summary of job responsibilities
- Time management and multi-tasking
- Management abilities and strengths
- Ability to overcome challenges
- Ability to come up with innovative and creative ideas
- Leadership abilities
- Teamwork skills
- Qualities like reliability and integrity
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Letter of Recommendation (LOR) FAQs
Q. How to write a good LOR?
Q. How can one make a letter of recommendation appear strong?
Q. Is 500-word LOR too long?
Q. What are the mistakes that one should avoid making in a letter of recommendation?
Q. How can one make the letter of recommendation stand out?
Q. What do admission officers look for in a Letter of Recommendation (LOR)?
Q. How long should a letter of recommendation be?
Q. What is the best way to end a letter of recommendation?
Q. What does a good LOR may look if it is coming from a professor?