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Writing a Valuable Letter of Recommendation

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Writing aHelpfulLetter of Recommendation
Jeff Harrison, MDDepartment of Family MedicineFaculty Development
How hard can it be to write a letter of recommendationAfter all…..weare highly educatedYou would be surprised at the frequency of unhelpful letters we see
My Qualifications
18 years of reading letter of recommendation for residency applicants15 years of reading letters of recommendation for medical school applicantsWriting multiple letters of recommendation for medical students, residents and faculty
Learners will attain knowledge regarding key component's of a helpful letter of recommendationLearner’s will gain skills in crafting an effective letter of recommendationsL:earner’s will recognize common errors made by letter writer’s
LOR Fundamentals
Statement ofsupportto helpthe candidate +Present awell documented evaluationof the candidate for the selection committee +/-Addressa specificpurpose – academic, character, leader, teacher +/-Written in adefined structure– have a plan +/-
You are asked to write a letter of recommendation -now what?
Do I know the candidate?Is information available regarding the position specifications?Am I an appropriate information source?Is the time frame reasonable?Can I write a supportive letter?If your answer is NO to any of these then proceed slowly
3 Kinds of Letter’s
Easy:you know the candidate well and think very highly of themNot as Easy: you know the candidate and have no issues with their performanceReally Easy:you don’t them well or have reservations about performance
You have accepted the challenge
Try and meet with candidate unless you know them well and are very familiar with the selection processGet their CVAsk for the detailed specifications put forth by the selection committee – criteria and format
Building the LLOR
HeadingsOpening ParagraphSupporting ParagraphsSummation and closing
Generic greeting vs specific:Dear Dr.xxxxxDear Program DirectorDear Selection CommitteeIdentifying information for candidate:AAMC #NRMP #DOB
Opening Paragraph – more aboutyou
Intent of letterYour relationship to the candidateLength of association and settingYourqualificationsto make an assessment
I am writing in support of Donald Trump who is applying to your medical school.I have known Mr. Trump for 2 years; he has shadowed me in my busy clinical practice during holiday breaks and summer vacations.I am an Associate Professor in the DFM at UNMC and havepreceptedinnumerable student and residents over the past 8 years; as such I feel qualified to assess Mr. Trumps qualifications.
Supporting Evidence – about the candidate
Address the selection criteriaNeed to provide supporting evidence for your claims – examplesNeed more than just superlativesThis is not Lake Woebegone – all cannot be above average
Supporting Evidence II
If you can’t honestly say this candidate is in the top 5% of all students/residents – then don’tYou can say they are well qualified to meet the expectations of the position. “demonstrated the qualities to be a successful medical student”
Supporting Evidence - specific
Academic: scores, boards, researchService: volunteer, leadership, timeTeaching: evaluations, recognitionLeadership: elected positions, appointed positions, outcomes
Academic Examples
Dr. Sanders has exhibited outstanding medical knowledge as evidenced by scoring in the top 5% of all family medicine residents on the national In-Training examination in each of the past 3 years.Dr. Clinton has demonstrated superior scholarly work during residency. She was recognized as having the top poster presentation at the Department of Family Medicine annual residency research symposium and again at the NAFP Annual Scientific Assembly.
Service Examples
Student Cruz has demonstrated strong commitment to community service as evidenced by his ongoing performance as the physician recruiter for the SHARING Clinic. This is a nationally recognized student run clinic that helps meet the needs of Omaha’s large un-insured population. The role of physician recruiter requires diligence, persistence and commitment to providing outstanding oversight for this group of patients.
Dr.Kasichhas demonstrated outstanding teaching skills during his residency and would be a valued asset to your fellowship. His supervisory evaluations routinely note his strength as a teacher. He was in fact, voted resident teacher of the year by his peers.
Mr. Carson has been a proven and successful leader during is medical school training. He was elected President of the Family Medicine Interest Group during his M2 year. This is one of the largest student organizations on campus. He led the organization and implementation of a highly successful residency fair as well as numerous procedural workshops.
Summary Paragraph
Global assessment - use your superlativesMeet the criteria for position as outlined aboveWillingness to answer questionsThanks for considerationWaived right to seeletter
Several Last Comments
Make Miss Jenkins Happy
Written on letter headSpell checkedOrganizedFont and type size –NEVER HAND WRITTENProseProof read
Why do I care about Miss Jenkin’s 35 years later?
Sloppy letters suggest a lack of support for your candidateHard to read letters are hard to readYour own credibility in your institution
Goldilocks Rule:Not too long, not to short, just right1-2 pages should be your targetToo short says you don’t know or really don’t careToo long loses the readerCheck expectations (ERAS no more than 1 page)
Ensure you should write this LORGather data: CV, criteriaStructure:Opening - about youSupporting - evidence of qualificationSummary – global and re-iteration of qualificationLength and format
Don’t’ s
Write letters for those you don’t know or likeWrite without knowing the criteria being evaluatedMake claims that can’t be substantiatedWait until the last minute
Most of us will be asked to write a letter or recommendation for a student, resident or colleague – we need to make ithelpfulfor the applicant and selection committeeGathering a little data and following a structure makes this a fairly simple processKeep your good letters on file – the format can be recycled
Your Turn – choose one and share
Write an opening sentence or two for a pre medical student who has shadowed you in clinic.Write a supporting statement for a resident applying for a Sports Medicine Fellowship that requires teaching residents and students.Write a supporting statement for your colleague who is going up for promotion to Associate Professor – teaching focus.





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Writing a Valuable Letter of Recommendation