A guide to write the best letter of recommendation

Letter of recommendation format

Queries regarding the best letter of recommendation (LOR) format are natural, considering the fact that the LOR is a vital document for admissions into any University. The importance of the LOR format can be gauged from the fact that this document is carefully scrutinized by admission authorities before finalizing any candidate for admission into their institutions. Letter of Recommendation or LOR aims at providing a better insight into the achievements, background, contributions, experiences, and skillsets of applicants as far as admissions officers are concerned. Any student venturing abroad for higher studies will need a LOR, irrespective of the course and country. At least three LORs are required from their professional backgrounds/colleges. UG students may obtain LORs from teachers, principals, school counselors, or professors while MS students will require them from college professors or internship supervisors and even manager/team lead from companies they have worked with. MBA applicants will require professional LORs, particularly if they have experience of 3 years or higher. Recently graduated MBA and Ph.D. aspirants may get LORs from project guides or college professors. 

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Letter of Recommendation Format- Academic LOR 

The letter of recommendation format for academic purposes is usually given by a faculty member of the earlier institution. Universities usually seek 2-3 LORs from the earlier institution so work out the LOR format accordingly. The letter of recommendation for Indian students from faculty will vary with regard to content. The teacher/professor will have to highlight the accomplishments of the applicant as a student of a particular course. The question and answer format is usually followed. Running formats are standardized, usually about 400 words, and divided into four equal paragraphs. 

Here are some key pointers worth noting: 

1. The first paragraph will have the following details (of the recommender) – designation, college name, affiliated with university name, department, the capacity of association with the applicant, number of years/duration of association, subjects taught to the applicant and semesters. Write the name of the project undertaken and the semester when undertaken for project guides. 

2. The second paragraph will have the following details- seminar, project, internship, and workshop (names and contributions of the applicant). The recommender should mention what especially impressed him/her. The project guide should write about the applicant’s role in the project and what he/she guided the applicant on. 

3. Third paragraph will have the following details- As per the applicable format of letter for recommendation, the third paragraph will have 1-2 classroom instances where the recommender was impressed by the applicant’s participation/contribution/involvement. Examples of queries/discussions will suffice. Out of the box solutions given by applicants may also work. Details of activities may be given by the recommender or entrepreneurial attributes and aptitude for instance. 

4. The fourth paragraph should have the recommender talking about the applicant’s extra-curricular and co-curricular achievements and activities. The LOR should end with the name, designation, city, college, department, city, contact, and email details of the recommender. 

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LOR Format- Professional LOR 

The Professional LOR (Letter of Recommendation) format comes into play when applicants are applying for MBA in universities and colleges abroad who have pre-stated work experience criteria. The professional LOR from a supervisor is different from an academic LOR by way of specifically tailored content emphasizing the ability of the applicant to work with teams, exposure to any particular domain, and his/her leadership skills. 

Most MBA programs have a form-based LOR with standardized questions that the recommender has to answer. Universities may sometimes seek a LOR in a running LOR format like the Academic LOR format. The key difference here is in the content type rather than the font style or word limit. A professional LOR will also be divided into four paragraphs of approximately 100 words each. Here are some key tips worth noting in this regard: 

1. The first paragraph will offer these details about the recommender- designation, department, organization name, city and capacity of association with the applicant and duration/number of years of this association. The recommender should mention the organizational department and designation of the applicant without fail. He/she should talk about the responsibilities and roles of the applicant which impressed him/her. 

2. The second paragraph will have the recommender talking about the professional achievements of the applicant. For example, an applicant may have helped in lowering process costs, quantifying things, and also helping achieve any particular company goals. The recommender should mention any appreciation from clients received by the applicant in this section along with talking about the skills of the applicant for handling teams and how he/she motivated team members towards success or the achievement of business excellence. Leadership skills of the applicant are the core focus of this paragraph. 

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3. The third paragraph will talk about projects, workshops, seminars, and so on. This will have details of their names and the contribution of the applicant towards the same. The recommender should state aspects about these activities and the role of the applicant in various scenarios which impressed him/her considerably. The recommender may also offer instances where theoretical concepts were practically applied for the best results by the applicant and which impressed him/her greatly. The recommender can give details about any activity linked to business development, research, and academics that the applicant took part in and which the recommender wishes to share with the university’s admission committee. The recommender can also talk about the research interests of the applicant in this section and his/her attributes and aptitude for knowledge gathering and research work. 

4. The fourth paragraph will have the recommender talking about extra-curricular or co-curricular activities undertaken by the applicant at the workplace and his/her achievements with the same as well. The LOR should conclude with the details of the recommender including his/her name, designation, department, organization, and contact information. Email is also mandatory in these cases. Applicants should note that the LOR should clearly mention their relationships with recommenders. 

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