To Draft a Letter of Recommendation

Staff are frequently asked to write a letter of recommendation. When you request a recommendation, communicate your needs in a straightforward way. Explain what you are applying for and ask if the person can provide you with a good recommendation. Be pro-active and include a first draft of the letter that he or she will then may modify and sign. If someone exhibits any uneasiness about providing you with a strong recommendation, be polite, thank him or her for their time and then look elsewhere.

Choose someone who:

  • can provide a well-written letter,
  • knows you well enough to be credible,
  • thinks highly of you and your abilities,
  • holds a respected position.

Give him/her:

  • A current resume or a list of your activities and honours. Be sure to include internships, work/research experience, extra-curricular activities, community service, conference papers/presentations, other creative or leadership experiences.
  • A copy of your personal statement (1-2 pages), stating descriptive information from you on career plans, study progress, exam results, foreign travel experience and non-academic interests.
  • Any pertinent reminders about the work you have done for the staff member that will help you highlight what makes you a strong candidate; past papers or exam results are especially helpful.
  • A copy of your grade transcript (especially when applying for a nationally competitive fellowship). This can be an unofficial copy and is to give your recommender an overview of your academic program to-date as well as your grades. If your grades are not as expected, be ready to identify any extenuating circumstances (e.g. family or other responsibilities, number or level of courses taken).
  • A draft letter of recommendation.
  • Information on the date of issuing the letter.

Begin a letter of recommendation by providing an accurate assessment of your strengths without dwelling on limitations. Letters of recommendation are intended to be positive and realistic evaluations of performance, competence, and capability. Look at the following suggestions:

  • List your strengths, talents, and abilities. These may include diligence, punctuality, etc. and include relevant examples,
  • Highlight your strengths and accomplishments without bragging,
  • Choose several of your qualities and strengths that match the current situation; do not list everything you have ever done,
  • Use a professional vocabulary and style; write as if you were the employer providing the letter.