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Letter of Recommendation- 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Written by  Rachit Agrawal, MBA

Published on Sat, November 18, 2017 10:42 AM   Updated on Mon, December 16, 2019 6:39 AM   6 mins read

A Letter of Recommendation, better known as the (LOR) is a document in which the writer assesses the qualities and capabilities of the person being recommended in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. These are related to employment and are used for admission and job reference. It is written for the person in question and is addressed to the requester.

LOR is quite an influential document and affects the admission of an individual in an institution greatly. It basically, acts as a validating document for the claims you’ve made in your CV, personal statement or essays. Also, it is used to analyze and evaluate your reputation among your peers. One must never overlook the importance of this document as it puts a huge weight on your CV, directing your way to your favorite destination.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

In order to help the aspiring students, get along with the best of LOR and make their way to their dream university, we are listing down some common mistakes that should be avoided while drafting a Letter of Recommendation-

Choice of the Recommender

Making a right choice of the recommender is of paramount importance. Before drafting your LOR it is important to analyze who might be able to pull off your weaknesses with utmost grace supplementing it with your strengths. One who must have worked with you closely and for a longer duration. It might happen sometimes that you have worked in an extremely reputed place but were not closely associated with people there-leaving them with least knowledge about you.

Therefore, it is important to choose the one who knows you in and out and can give a true feedback of your professional life.

Association with the Recommender

This is somewhere synonymous with the choice of recommender but is also different and holds utmost importance. Therefore, it is important to understand that after the choice of Recommender it is important to understand your association with him at the hierarchy level.

For instance, an Assistant Professor who has taught you even one subject during your course may be a better choice as a recommender than the College Principal who may have just seen you participate in a few events in the college.

LOR in the 11th Hour

Not just in case of a LOR, a student should ensure his punctuality but in everything he does, time holds the most valuable position.

Rushing up to your recommender in the 11th hour and expecting him to come up with an impactful LOR is the most common assumption students make and this results in their biggest mistake. In such short notice, no recommender would be able to do justice to your LOR, thereby affecting your admission as the last minute hurry would definitely reflect on your recommendation and weaken your chances of securing a seat.

Thus, it is wise to request your recommender well in advance of your application timeline and keep reminding them after regular intervals. The minimum time you must allocate for your recommenders should be a month.

Supplement with valid instances

A wordsay should always be supplemented by strong instances to gain the required weight.  A recommendation letter that talks only about generic content without any relevant examples or instances fail miserably in leaving a positive impression on admission council.

When a recommender fails in providing strong proofs of your positive traits it clearly shows that he is following a set standard of saying good things about the person in question without actually giving valid reasons to supplement it. This somewhere reduces the chances of success as it gives a negative impact on the authority going through it.

This brings us to another important aspect that should be kept in mind while drafting a LOR- How much emphasis should be given to the positive aspects of your personality?

Lesser emphasis on Self-appreciation

As it is said, everything beyond a limit often leads to negative impact.

One should resist from showing that he/she is flawless and have the best of achievements to their credit. An admission council is a group of trained staffs who very well can differentiate between what is true and what is fabricated. Therefore, trying to leave a false impression might actually result in leaving a negative impression.

One should understand that nobody is perfect and it is no wrong in mentioning one’s weaknesses too. Therefore, wisdom is in drafting a LOR which gracefully strikes a balance between your strengths and weaknesses.

Usage of a Dull tone

It is very important to keep in mind the fact that the person going through a document should feel it. Therefore, the recommender should maintain a tone of warmth and calm while writing a LOR.

A cold dry tone makes the recommendation letter less attractive and the person loses his interest while reading it. This somewhere decreases your chance when compared to the one with a more happy tone and relatable recommendation letter.

For instance; using the applicant’s full name at the start of the LOR followed by addressing them by their first name in the rest of the draft instead of “The applicant” is always a good idea.

Avoid Drafting your own Recommendation Letter

As stated earlier, Recommendation Letter-the word itself is explanatory.

Therefore, one should avoid drafting his own letter and let it be done by the recommender. Even though a recommender asks you to do so for any reason; it should be avoided. The most legit reason for this is that it is firstly, against the rules. Secondly, readers are experts and they can very well recognize the pattern of writing because they can compare it to the type of essay or answer you will write.

Therefore, due to any reason, if this situation comes up, the better option to exercise will be to send the recommender your ideas on which they can elaborate as they deem fit.

Any candidate who presents a genuine letter often stands more chances as compared to the fabricated ones. An admission council is a group of experts who very well know their job and easily recognize the bona fide representation.

But besides all this, the significant concern is, regardless of the outcome, one must ensure to thank the people who recommended them and appreciate their efforts. A handwritten note to express your thanks is a nice touch in this digital age.

Also Visit:
  1. Letter of Recommendation – Complete Overview
  2. Letter of Recommendation – LOR Samples
  3. Letter of Recommendation – LOR Format
  4. Letter of Recommendation – Writing Tips
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About the Author & Expert


Rachit Agrawal

Author • MBA • 20 Years

Rachit believes in the power of education and has studied from the top institutes of IIIT Allahabad, IIM Calcutta, and Francois Rabelias in France. He has worked as Software Developer with Microsoft and Adobe. Post his MBA, he worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group across multiple geographies US, South-East Asia and Europe.

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