As I was doing a little prewriting for a letter of recommendation for one of my awesome former students, I was just thinking about how few meaningful resources are available to help people to compose this type of letter. Although I do not need any assistance in writing letters of recommendation, I know many people who would love to benefit from valuable assistance with writing letters of recommendation. I know many more people who really need to benefit from assistance with writing letters of recommendation, but they are not really aware they need assistance.
I find it to be an honor to write a letter of recommendation for anyone. If you think about it for a moment, the individual who asks you to pen a letter of recommendation for him or her could have asked anyone but he or she chose you. What an honor! When you agree to compose a letter of recommendation for someone, you should do a thorough and quality job with it. If you are not going to do a thorough and quality job with writing the letter of recommendation, then don’t agree to pen it. Moreover, if you are not going to write a good letter of recommendation for someone, then don’t agree to write one for the person. One of the most hateful things you can do is agree to compose a letter of recommendation for someone who you intend on speaking ill of in the letter.
For those seeking letters of recommendation, you should provide your recommenders with resumes, personal statements, and etc. to help make the job of crafting the letter even more successful for the recommenders. Even if you know that your recommender knows you well, you should provide this information to him or her. If the recommender knows that he or she does not need this information to craft the letter, then he or she should not pretend like the letter cannot be composed until receiving this information.
Many people have a hard time asking for letters of recommendation. My advice to you is to simply ask. If someone does not want to write a letter of recommendation for you, then you have not lost anything. You will simply move on to the next person. In fact, you don’t want just anyone writing a letter of recommendation for you. The most ideal person to write a letter of recommendation for you is one who is a good writer, knows you well, knows your work well, and likes in you in some way.
When someone writes a recommendation for you, be sure to tell him or her thank you. You might even send him or her a card, flowers, gift, or something as a kind gesture because you may need him or her to write another one. Of course, a thank you is enough for me. To recommenders, if you agree to compose a letter of recommendation for someone, please let him or her know that you have sent it off and don’t take all year to write it.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison