If you missed part one of these tips, please go check it out! Let’s get started on part two!
- Ask about the strength of the letter. In your request, always ask if the recommender if he or she can write you a strong letter. I know this seems silly, but you can’t assume someone is going to feel the same way about you the way you may feel about them in terms of writing a strong letter, and you deserve to know that. You want to make sure you have the best chances of getting the position you want. I like to think most academic faculty are honest and will let you know if they feel they can or cannot write you a strong letter. In fact, there was one rotation where I performed strongly and my attending wrote me a really kind evaluation. I thought, she might be a great person for me to ask since I spent two weeks out of the 4 weeks of that rotation with her. Turns out, her standards in terms of writing a letter of recommendation for someone are very different and did not feel she knew me quite enough to write as strong of a letter as I deserved even though she was still willing to write me one. I appreciated her honesty, and it allowed me to shift my gears toward other faculty who ended up writing me letters that I do not think could have been better! I think this is one of the most important tips because people are so afraid to talk about it!
- Don’t make them all from the same specialty or class subject. This is more residency related, and if you’re not there yet then this may relate in terms of major or class subject. But in relation to the tip above, I changed my specialty choice pretty late in the game, and I only had one month of rotating through said specialty; hence, why I asked the attending I spent two out of the four weeks. I also realized that it’s okay to have variety in your letters from different specialties, and if anything, I feel it’s encouraged! They want to know you are a team player and can play nice and perform well in the other specialties as all areas of medicine are connected! So I ended up with two letters in my specialty of choice, one letter in another specialty, and my last letter in another specialty. They’re all very different, and I think it made for a stronger point that I am well-rounded, a team player, and can play well with others truly valuing what the different specialties have to offer. The same could be said about class subjects. If you’re a biology major, do you really want all of your letters from biology? I think it negates the point that you’re well rounded.
- Waive your right to read the letter. This is so key! You don’t want any program or institution to see that you’re reading the letter. It sends the message you’re worried so you have to check what’s written about you. Also, they assume the letter is less honest. Confidential letters carry more weight, and it allows the recommender to write a more candid letter.
- Friendly reminder. Don’t be afraid to send the recommender a friendly reminder about the deadline, and ask to be notified by email once the recommendation has been sent/complete if possible. I think there’s a polite and professional way to do this, so be sure to approach it in that manner.
- Say thank you! It is classy, professional, and respectful. I think it goes without saying you should always be appreciative and kind, so just say thank you—whether it’s a handwritten card, e-card, or email. Show your appreciation!
I hope these tips help you! Good luck on your quest in asking for LoRs!