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4 Ways to Get Killer Letters of Recommendation

4 Ways to Get Killer Letters of Recommendation

Steve Berman | HRPeople

March 21, 2011

For many, attempting to get someone to write a letter of recommendation for school or a new job can be an extremely intimidating experience. Especially for those who fear rejection, don’t easily accept compliments, or just don’t like tooting their own horn.

However, like filling out an application or writing a resume, getting someone to write a letter of recommendation is a process. If you follow a few basic steps, it should actually end up being one of the easier and most effective ways to help you achieve your ultimate goal – getting into school or getting hired.

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1. Decide whom you want to write the letter

A lot depends on how many letters of recommendation you need and how much time you have. If you need three letters or more, it’s best to throw out a wider net. If you only need one letter, focus on the one person who will do the best job.

The best types of people to approach have several good qualities, the most important being the ability to communicate effectively. Even if the person is respected in their field and appreciates your work, it won’t help you if you know their letter-writing skills would probably be poor.

Besides making sure that the person likes you and is willing to put in the time to help you succeed, the people you choose to ask to write a letter on your behalf would preferably be in a position of power, such as a person who oversaw you for a significant period of time (a year or more is optimal) — a former manager or professor, for instance. Getting a letter of recommendation from a family friend or colleague isn’t useless, but won’t carry the same weight as someone who routinely evaluated your performance.

Also, choose someone you know will have a relatively easy time remembering you. When it comes to school, choose professors from classes where you participated in discussions and visited him or her frequently during office hours if at all possible. For work references, choose people who’ll remember you as a strong contributor in meetings, who wasn’t simply happy to perform busy work. You will want to be remembered for strong ideas and dedication to your craft.

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