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24 Nov Recommendation Letters Demystified

There is a lot of confusion about recommendation letters.

Recommendation letters are often referred to in a number of different ways including: letters of recommendation, reference letters, letters of reference, commendation letters, and sometimes even, performance evaluation letters.

This terminology can be quite confusing, especially when these terms are often used interchangeably, sometimes to mean the same thing, sometimes to mean something different.

Below are some definitions that should clear up any confusion, followed by some tips and strategies on how best to deal with recommendation letters.

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

Employment-Related

Also called a recommendation letter, it is an employment- related letter that is specifically requested by the person the letter is being written about. Such a letter is normally positive in nature, and written by someone who knows the subject well enough to comment on the skills, abilities, and specific work attributes of that person.

Typically, an employment-related recommendation letter conveys one person’s view of the work performance and general workplace demeanor of a person that has worked under their direct supervision. The requestor of the letter normally requires it when applying for a promotion or a new job.

These letters are usually addressed to a specific person to whom the requestor has been asked to submit the letter.

Graduate School Related

Another situation where recommendation letters are a common requirement is for entry into post-graduate programs at a college or university. Graduate programs often require two or more letters of recommendation as part of the program admission requirements.

Normally these graduate program recommendation letters are written at the request of the program applicant by poeple who are familiar with their academic career to-date, and their future education and career aspirations. These people could include: school faculty members, administrators, academic supervisors, and/or employers.

These letters are always addressed to a specific person and are normally included as part of the program admission application.

LETTERS OF REFERENCE

These are more general letters that are often requested by employees when they leave the employ of an organization. Normally factual in nature, they are usually addressed, “to whom it may concern” and provide basic information such as: work history, dates of employment, positions held, academic credentials, etc.

Reference letters sometimes contain a general statement (as long as a positive one can be made), about the employee’s work record with the company that they are leaving. Employees often submit these letters with job applications in the hope that the letter will reflect favorably on their chances for the new position.

Character reference letters are sometimes required by employers when hiring individuals to perform personal or residential services such as child care, domestic services, etc. These letters are usually drafted by a former employer and deal with such characteristics as honesty, dependability and work ethic/performance.

COMMENDATION LETTERS

These are unsolicited letters, which typically commend an employee to their supervisor for something outstanding or noteworthy that the employee has done. Normally, these are written by co-workers, or managers from another area of the organization who were suitably impressed while supervising the person on a short-term project.

EVALUATION LETTERS

These are usually detailed assessments of an employee’s work performance as part of an organization’s regular employee review process. Typically, they are written by the employee’s supervisor and are attached to the individual’s performance appraisal and placed on their personnel file.



Shaun Fawcett

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