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Letter of Recommendation

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Whenever someone is looking to attain an academic qualification or trying to apply for a job at a prestigious organization, they generally need to submit one or more Letters of Recommendation (LOR) to help the assessment committee understand whether they are a suitable fit for the course or work profile. A LOR is usually written by a previous employer or a professor who knows the person well enough to become a referee and suggests the organization shortlist the prospective candidate. This blog aims to provide you with a comprehensive guide on the central aspects of a letter of recommendation, LOR formats and the major things you need to keep in mind while writing one.

Types of LOR

Most of us might not know about it but, there are two types of Letters of Recommendation. This distinction between them is made on the basis of the nature of the provider or recommender. Let us go through and understand the two types of LOR.

Academic LOR

The Letter of recommendation that is provided by a faculty member belonging to an academic institution that you have previously studied at can be referred to as an academic LOR. Universities abroad demand at least one academic LOR. In such cases, you can refer to your previous academic institution for this help. This type of LOR open highlights the student’s ability to pursue that course as it aligned with their prior accomplishments. 

Professional LOR

The majority of the universities abroad ask for prior work experience, especially during master’s admission. Professional LOR can be provided by your senior or a colleague belonging to your last organisation. Students must know that it is necessary that the professional LOR is stated on the letterhead. Professional LOR focuses on determining the candidate’s ability to work in diverse environments, and teamwork and cites their exposure regarding the domain. 

Who Needs LOR and Why? 

All those who are looking forward to pursuing higher education will mandatorily need LORs, especially those who are planning to study abroad. Regardless of the study level, course and field of study; students usually require 2 LORs belonging to academic as well as professional backgrounds. Many times, students enrolling in UG-level courses do not have prior work experience; thus, they can request a LOR from school teachers, institute teachers, professors, counselors etc. Whereas those who are all said to pursue a masters abroad, they can avail their LOR from the last employer, internship manager, college professors and so on. 

LOR Formats

The letters of recommendation are usually spread across 4 to 5 paragraphs which thoroughly describe candidates’ ability for upcoming endeavors. Each paragraph is usually devoted to a particular section that delivers the required information about the individual. Letters understand the basic structure of a LOR through these LOR formats.

LOR Formats

First Paragraph
The first paragraph establishes the nature of the association between the student and the recommender. It is usually begun by stating the professional designation along with the individual’s education and can be concluded by subtly mentioning why the recommender is happy to share the reference. 

Second Paragraph
The second paragraph of the LOR should talk about the potential strengths of the candidate along with the qualities that will help her/him align more with the upcoming course. Make sure that the mentioned qualities

Third Paragraph
Here in the third paragraph, you must mention factual scenarios stating the candidate’s abilities as well as dedication towards meeting the set goal. 

Fourth Paragraph
This is the final paragraph that will conclude your LOR by describing how your capabilities make you a perfect candidate for the course you are about to enrol in. 

Fifth Paragraph
For further assistance, in this paragraph, the recommender must provide their contact details along with the institution or organisation they are part of.  

LOR formats or Letter of Recommendation Template

To assist you more on the topic of how to write a LOR, we have devised the template for you-

To Whom This May Concern

My name is ——- (Recommender Name) and I am obliged to offer my recommendation of —– (Candidate’s full name) to whom I have personally known for —— (number of years or months) at ——- (location). 

During the course of my relationship with —- (candidate’s name), I have observed that she/he shows up earlier than asked, is a team player, works hard and carries her/his work in a humble and polite manner. Being a diligent employee, —- (Candidate’s name) best quality is to get the most out of others while maintaining the decorum of the workplace. Hence, without any reservation, I recommend ——- (Candidate’s full name) for this program at ——- (University’s name). 

For any queries, you can contact me at- 

Mobile Number——-

Qualities to Mention in LOR

As we are discussing the format of a LOR, you may have noticed the emphasis upon stating the right sort of qualities and capabilities, but what are the qualities that one should mention in their LOR? To help you out with this, below we have mentioned the qualities that must be included in a LOR- 

Qualities for Professional LOR

  • Leadership skills 
  • Decision making abilities
  • Team adaptability and teamwork
  • Skills regarding management
  • Dedication for role
  • Reliability and integrity
  • Time management
  • Multitasking
  • Creativity 
  • Diligent

Qualities for Academic LOR

  • Teamwork skills 
  • Passion and creativity 
  • Leadership abilities 
  • Fluent research skills 
  • Hardworking
  • Academic performance 
  • Awards, recognitions and highlights

LOR Essential Features

A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) holds extreme importance for a candidate who has applied for a course or a job profile. The assessment committee allotted to determine the worthiness of a candidate haven’t met them in person or have known them on a personal level and they would not know how talented and capable the candidate is unless their submitted documents highlight their personality and traits. Below mentioned are some of the key pointers you should know while drafting LOR: 

  • A letter of recommendation needs to be comprehensive and precisely elucidated. It essentially needs to be concise and resourceful so as to provide the reader with insights about the applicant and their personality. 
  • It doesn’t need to be over-embellished because then it would seem like the person writing is trying to project an exaggerated image of the candidate. 
  • A LOR must be written with a holistic approach so that as much as a candidate’s strengths and achievements are highlighted, their weak points must also be discussed thus creating a balance between the two. 
  • It should have a personal touch along with a sense of originality because it should not appear to be copied from somewhere else. 
  • It should principally highlight the perspective of the person writing it so that the admission committee or the HR department gets a gist of the candidate’s personality from someone who has known them professionally and to an extent, personally.

What Should be Written in a Letter of Recommendation?

To help you understand what a letter of recommendation must contain, we have created a questionnaire with the help of our head coaches that you must take a look at: 

What is your relationship with the applicant? 

The person writing a letter of recommendation needs to primarily elaborate on how they have known the candidate in order to establish their credentials and reliability.

What do you think are the applicant’s monumental achievements that highlight their talents and characteristics? 

While answering this question, the referee needs to support their reasons with specific instances when the candidate exhibited their talents and proved themselves to be worthy despite the hardships they faced. Then, the candidate’s strengths can be related to how they are suitable for the chosen program or career profile. 

What are the applicant’s major weaknesses? 

Jotting down the weaknesses can be a tricky thing as you need to implement a balanced approach as a recommender. For this aspect of a letter of recommendation, you can’t mention the negative traits of the candidate but mention those things that can still improve. While saying that someone works too hard can seem insincere, you can opt for a rather mediated style and say that they have a strong work ethic.

To what extent does the applicant elucidate originality and independence? 

Writing a letter of recommendation for someone who has applied for a managerial position in a firm or a business administration course, the recommender is required to ensure that the candidate has prospective qualities and skills for their chosen profile or program. Alongside, you have to ensure that you highlight their originality of thoughts and how they exhibit a flair of independence in their actions. This can be through citing instances or through certain personality traits.

How will the program/career profile help the applicant realize their goals? 

Concluding the letter of recommendation, you need to add an overall outline of how the course or the job profile is an opportunity for the applicant to grow professionally as well as personally. Connect the candidate’s traits with their chosen program or work opportunity and highlight the key pointers mentioning how it is a suitable choice for them to realize their career goals.

LOR Formats for Recommendation for Students

Dear Admission Committee, 

I Priyanka Bahuguna had the pleasure of teaching Ansh Srivastava English during classes 11th and 12th at Ryan International School. From the start of the session, Ansh impressed me with his creativity toward the topics of literature as well as his skills to articulate difficult concepts. His sensitivity towards social and cultural topics along with the constant zeal to perform better in reading and writing seems one of his best qualities. 

I fondly remember that during the summer holidays home he prepared an extraordinary thesis on the novel prescribed in the syllabus. His meticulousness with respect to the topic conveyed his deep interest in the domain. During the group presentation of the thesis, he showcased special skills in public speaking and leadership at an early age. His insights in the conclusion stated his command over the language. Analysing all this about Ansh Srivastava, my star student, I without any reservation recommend him for BA English Honours at the University of Essex. 

For any queries, you may contact me at-

Priyanka Bahuguna
Head of English Department
Ryan International School
21/ 01/ 2021

LOR for Top Programs

While the general standards for academic and professional letters of reference for students are the same, the prerequisites and prompts differ per course. The following are the prerequisites and structure for select top courses:

ProgramNo. of LORsType of LORsTheme
LOR for MSThreeAt least 2 Academic LORsPlace a strong emphasis on academic accomplishments, talents, hobbies, and professional objectives.
LOR for MBATwo to threeAt least 1 Professional LORProblem-solving abilities, leadership traits, strengths, and opportunities for progress should all be highlighted.
LOR for PhD.Two to threeAcademic LORsDiscuss your topic understanding, past research and publications, and academic success.
LOR for UGOne or twoAcademic LORAcademic accomplishments and peer relationships should be stressed.

Common Mistakes in LOR

There are a number of frequent blunders that both recommenders and students seeking recommendations must avoid. Here are some pointers on how to write a superb LOR while avoiding frequent blunders:

Not writing an individualized LOR

Copying and copying a generic LOR from the internet is the easiest pitfall to fall into. Not only does this seriously impact your chances of an offer letter, but also wastes a golden opportunity to showcase your talents and skills.

Choosing the wrong referee

While getting a LOR from that great, witty professor who taught you in your third semester may seem appealing, it is unlikely to help you. Your referee must be familiar with you and qualified to write your reference.

Inability to maintain proper protocol

Your LOR must be typed (not handwritten) and sent in a sealed envelope with university letterhead. Otherwise, the veracity of your LOR is in doubt.

Lack of relevant information

Ensures that you provide enough information about yourself to your recommender. To assist them in drafting a successful LOR, send them your SOP, CV, and any other credentials. Make sure your referee has at least a month to complete the letter. After all, hurry work is a substandard job.

Politically incorrect language

Today, one must be extra careful not to offend people’s sensibilities. By utilizing specific phrases or words, one may accidentally cause harm to others.

LOR Popular Questions

Some of the most frequently asked questions about letters of recommendation include:

Ques. What is the difference between a LOR and an SOP?

Ans. One of the most significant distinctions between a Statement of Purpose and a recommendation letter is that the former is written by the candidate, whilst the latter is prepared by someone else.

Ques. What is the optimum LOR length?

While there is no strict word restriction in the Letter of Recommendation style, a word count of 500-600 words is optimal. Recommenders should keep their reference letters to one side of a single A-4 size sheet unless otherwise instructed.

How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?

Ans. Email or phone calls are the best ways to contact a recommender. Ask them nicely and provide them with all the information they need, such as submission procedures and prerequisites. Also, when requesting a LOR, be sure to include any special talents or accomplishments you want them to highlight.


What should you do if you need a letter of recommendation for your MS programme?

Ans. While the majority of students require academic LORs for MS programmes, only a few colleges demand professional LORs. As a result, students must seek the advice of their academic supervisors, instructors, counsellors, and others.

Which form of LOR should I send for my graduate degree programme if it isn’t specified?

Ans. If you have any relevant job experience, you should submit at least one academic and one professional letter of recommendation.

Ques. Do letters of recommendation have an expiration date? How current should your letters of recommendation be?

Ans. Your letters of recommendation, especially academic letters of recommendation, should be no more than 1-2 months old.

We hope that this blog has helped you understand what a letter of recommendation is and how you can effectively draft it. If you need further expert guidance, you can always reach out to our Oversea Edu experts and we’ll guide you in writing impressive LORs and SOPs to ensure that you get shortlisted for your dream course and university!


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