How to Request a Strong Letter of Recommendation (Based on form developed by Drew Appleby)
A . The first step in this process is to ask me the following question: "Can you write me a strong letter of recommendation for a job or a graduate school application?" I can write anyone a letter of recommendation, but I cannot write everyone a strong letter of recommendation. I must be familiar with you and your work so I can provide specific positive examples of the knowledge, skills, and characteristics that your potential employer or graduate school admissions committee is interested in knowing about you (i.e., they will not be impressed if I tell them what a good person you are, but fail to support my assertions with strong evidence). If my answer to this question is yes, then proceed to the next step. If my answer is no, it is not because I do not like you as a person. It is because I sincerely believe that I cannot write you a letter that will help you to obtain a job or gain admission to graduate school.
B . Read theInformation that Can Help Me Write You a Strong Letter of Recommendation for a Job (or Graduate School) form very carefully. Then choose a minimum of four characteristics you would like me to comment on in your letter of recommendation, and give me very specific examples of what you have done during your undergraduate career that I can use as evidence to support these characteristics. For example, if you want me to say you possess Research Skills (from the graduate school form), you may want to describe:
• how you developed a research proposal and conducted research in my lab,
• how you presented the results of your study at a convention
If you want me to say that you have shown initiative and persistence (from the job form), you may want to describe:
• how you proposed a new activity for the Psychology Club or other organization
• wrote a proposal to obtain funding from student government,
Please be sure you describe actual behaviors that you have engaged in, not just descriptions of your personality
It is not necessary to fill in all the blanks on these forms; no one possesses all these skills and characteristics. Give this task some careful thought. Your time will be well spent, and I will be able to write a stronger letter of recommendation because it will contain specific evidence to support the positive characteristics I will describe.
Then, take these concrete steps:
First open a new folder on your hard drive, thumb drive, or shared network drive. Name it “Recommendations.” Fill the folder with the following materials:
1) a current copy of your resume file
2) your completed "Information that Can Help Me Write You a Strong Letter of Recommendation for a Job (or Graduate School)" form (see below). This file should be named “yourlastname rec info”.
3) All of the recommendation forms (in pdf or doc format) you have received from your potential employers or graduate programs—make sure you have filled in all the parts of these forms you are supposed to complete (e.g., the program, your signature, the date, and the waiver form—I suggest you waive your right to see the letter). A program that can be helpful for filling out pdf forms is: PDF-XCHANGE viewer (just google it). IF you only have physical copies, they can be included in a physical manila folder.
Second , send me an email. Make sure to give me at least a month to complete these letters.
a. Attach the rec info form, your resume/cv and any relevant other forms or documents
b. In the body of the email you send me should be a section for each school, including:
i. the deadline by which the graduate school or employer must receive my letter,
ii. where the letter is to be sent (i.e., the employer or graduate school or to you)
1. make sure to specify hard copy or web form
iii. contact information and mailing address (or web address, whatever is applicable)
iv. the specific graduate program or job for which you are applying
Third , if physical copies or forms are expected, then give me a folder with your name and the forms and stamped envelopes that are addressed to each employer or graduate program