Tips for Getting a Great Letter of Recommendation

Previously we covered how to ask one of your instructors for a letter of recommendation.  Here we offer advice for ways to ensure that, when you ask, your instructor can say yes.

  • Turn in your assignments on time.  Your instructor wants to be able to write that you are reliable and can fulfill the requirements of your internship or job as directed.
  • Pay attention to the details.  If you are asked to write a paper in MLA, make sure you format everything correctly.  If you are asked to provide a cover sheet or double-space or use certain margins, do it.  People like to work with people who make their jobs easier by following directions.
  • Pay attention in class.  It’s respectful and it demonstrates that you try to make the most of your time.  No one wants to recommend a person who will disappear during work hours to check their phone for 30 minutes in the bathroom.
  • Treat your class with respect.  If you disagree with someone’s opinion in class, offer your viewpoint in a respectful manner, without attacking the other person.  Wait your turn to speak and don’t shout over anyone.  When the instructor indicates they want to move the discussion somewhere else, accept their decision.  There are tons of people just as smart as you.  That means employers have their pick.  They’d rather pick someone who’s both smart and easy to work with.
  • Treat your instructor with respect.  If you are unhappy with your grade or another aspect of the class, politely let your instructor know that you would like to discuss it.  Don’t start off by telling them that they are wrong and that you don’t, in fact, deserve that “C.”  Probably your instructor spent a long time thinking about your work and didn’t assign a grade arbitrarily out of spite.  Listen to what they have to say, even if you’re angry.  They’ll be impressed with your maturity, even if they don’t change your grade.
  • Get to know your instructor.  Go to office hours! Instructors can’t write a stellar letter for a student they barely remember.
  • Do your best. Your best may not mean an “A,” but instructors appreciate when you put forth effort and when you try even when you’re dealing with homesickness, family matters, and other things.  They’ll remember your perseverance and dedication when it comes time to write you a letter.

Krysta 64

3 thoughts on “Tips for Getting a Great Letter of Recommendation

  1. TeacherofYA says:

    I’m thinking of getting one from several of my professors to have in reserve. Is there a way to get one that’s just a blanketed letter, or should you only ask them when you actually need it for something? I’m afraid by that time the professor will have forgotten me…well, maybe not forgotten, but not remember enough to write one.
    Do people just ask for one for the future?


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve always asked for specific letters. I think that many times instructors prefer this because 1) they can write a better letter if they can tailor it to the specific job/internship/school program and 2) they feel better if they know what they’re recommending you for and if they have control over the letter (that is, they can send it directly to the place in question). I have no evidence of this, but it seems to me that if the instructor is the one sending the letter (and you potentially even waive your right to read it, which some schools will give as an option), it’s going to look like a more honest letter to the committee reading it.

      In my personal life, I only know of one person who asked for a generic letter to use for a job search and it was…very generic. “So-and-so is a dedicated worker, etc., etc.” All the buzz words you’d see in any letter of recommendation. So you can ask for a generic letter if you feel you need one, but I think if you want the best letter possible you should consider asking the writer to tailor them to the specific position you’re applying. If you end up asking a few years down the road, you can always remind the instructor that you’re whoever and you took X class with them.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s