How To Get A Letter Of Recommendation (By Writing It Yourself)

Your Business Blogger(R), also known as Your Business Professor has written dozens of recommendations for hundreds of students, clients, friends, vendors.

Question:  If I wrote dozens of letters, then how did hundreds of people get a written recommendation from this very generous, very perceptive and very busy business consultant?

Answer:  I didn’t write them.

***

I used to write recommendations all the time.

Before I got smart.  (This took a long time…)

Referance_letter_of_recommendation012.jpg

Linked here is a glowing recommendation from a United States Congressman for Your Business Professor for a presidential appointment.  Note the glowing language.  The detailed biography.  The compelling argument.

Wow!  That Congressman must really know Jack! Were they roommates in college? Are they cousins? Did they serve jail time together?

Nope.

The Good Congressman hardly knows me to send me anything other than a Christmas card.

No, the Good Congressman didn’t actually write my recommendation.

I did.

***

Why did a Very Busy Big Boss sign-off on a letter to Your (unknown) Business Professor?

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., the late Speaker of the House during Reagan’s presidency, directed his staff to, don’t take nobody that nobody brought.  That the Speaker would only use his resources for someone who was sponsored by a trusted adviser.

A trusted third party—

To get a recommendation from a Very Busy Big Boss, find a friend who the Boss trusts.  A trusted staffer.

With input from the trusted staffer, I composed a draft of my recommendation, which was, of course, fact checked, spell checked and signature ready for the Big Endorser’s OK.

This is important:  Very Important Busy People don’t have time to write anything.  They have speech writers.

If you want an endorsement or a recommendation, you will need to become a speech writer.

For your own content.

This is the first lesson in Completed Staff Work for subordinates.  The Big Boss should only make decisions and sign his name.

The Boss does not do any work.

“Work” in the form that the individual contributor or staffer would recognized.

So.  I tell Interested Parties if they want a written recommendation from me on why someone should hire them—the Interested Party must first draft the letter so that I would know why I would make such suggestion.

Some one is going to have to do the thinking and the work for me.

This is how senior management works.

Some Interested Parties might suggest that Your Business Blogger(R) is not very bright and certainly very lazy.

Perhaps so.  But.

This is how senior management works.

***

Now that the Alert Reader understands who really does the thinking and the working, let’s review what should go into the writing of the recommendation as my students at The Catholic University of America and Northern Virginia Community College know well.

Symmetry and Chemistry

The letter is written for a Big Boss to be read by another Big Boss.  Well, OK, maybe not.  Maybe your letter will be signed by an auto-pen (or secretary) and read by a trust adviser (or secretary).

The Letter of Recommendation has two purposes,

1) To assure the gate-keeper that your criminal record is irrelevant or that those tattoos are not visible with modest clothing (noticeable only in that YouTube video that you can’t get deleted). And,

2) To get you a face-to-face appointment for the interview.

The Big Boss probably will not see your letter and/or resume until you walk in his office. (Remember, he’s got staff to work and to think for him.)

The Hiring Manager is looking to answer two questions with Symmetry and Chemistry:

  • Do we have the same values?
  • Will we all get along?

Your Letter of Recommendation gets you two together.  So what should it look like?

Personnel is Policy

The wife of Your Business Professor, Charmaine, worked in the Office of Presidential Personnel for Ronald Reagan who often said, “Personnel is Policy.”  No President or senior leader can make every decision at every level but he can have have trusted deputies who can act in the president’s best interest—making decisions that the president would make if he had enough time.

Your Letter of Recommendation should indicate that you will make recommendations and think and act just as The Boss would think and act.

Academics, journalists, consultants and even real managers will tell you that they are looking for independent, free-thinking individuals who advance independent thought and action.

This, of course, is a lie.

Managers want subordinates who will offer well thought-out recommendations and work to persuade The Boss—But once The Boss makes a decision, the subordinate will implement the decision as if the decision were the subordinate’s.

You will be hired for your wisdom and judgment.

Problem, Solution, Result

Give a short example of a problem you faced, a solution you devised and the result of your initiative.

”[Problem] When faced with a sudden snow storm, Mr. Jones rented a snow plow [solution] and cleared the parking lot assuring that customers could get to the store front where he worked as a cashier.  His initiative not only provided a customer service and safety but increased the store’s daily sales [results].”

Atta-Boys and Girls

What actions won you what awards?  What superlative? All-American? Honor Roll?

“Mr. Jones never missed a session in my Business 100 class.”

“Miss Jones volunteered as a researcher to find a solution to a BlackBoard software problem I was having.”

“Mr. Jones would bring guests to my open lectures.”

“Miss Jones got an “A” in my class and regularly contributed to the discussion.”

“Mr. Jones was consistently on time.”

“Miss Jones worked part-time while attending and completing her undergraduate course work.”

Look and Feel

The letter should be a single page, single spaced, 12 point type, on 8-1/2 X 11 inch, with a conventional front like Times New Roman.

Your draft should allow space for the Big Boss letter head and signature block.

If there is an address to a third party, provide it in the body.

Be sure to (gently) alert the Big Boss of any deadlines or suspense dates.

If the letter is to be mailed directly from the Big Boss to a third party, request a blind copy to be mailed to you.  We want to know how the Big Boss Staff may have modified your draft.

Ask someone to preview your social networking pages.  Not sure about that bikini picture on Facebook?  Take it down.  Never have a picture taken with any, ANY kind of beverage in your hand—alcohol or not.  Water looks like vodka.

So, put the drink down and take your name tag off when the cameras are close. Including cell phone cameras—especially cell phone cameras.

Do not use your too-familiar nick-name, Corky.  Change your too-familiar email address, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

...So What?

Your reference letter or letter of recommendation is a one-page sales sheet; a marketing campaign to get you hired.

If you have had a real problem in your past, like that really interesting YouTube, email me for a consult.  (Hint: I was young and needed the money is not a defense.)

Your Business Blogger(R) was still able to get a job after that unfortunate bar fight, street racing and other assorted events in his wasted youth.  (No, no, not THAT wasted…)

And no, I do not need to see that video. Really.

###

Four steps to getting a job.

Helping sentences for employee evaluations.

Tattoos on your job search.

Examples done for (by!) recent students and forwarded on NOVA letterhead:

George Mason University
Office of Admissions
4400 University Drive, MSN 3A4
Fairfax, Virginia 22030 March 30, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of recommendation for Miss xxx xx xxx.  She is currently one of the best students in my Business 100 class at the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Virginia.  She is earning top grades and consistently contributes to the class.

She attended Yonsei University and University of Akron and will be applying to George Mason University to study commerce.  (She knows that her business professor earned his MBA from George Mason.)

She has a demonstrated track record in her desire to learn more about business.

In the summer of 2007 she took an internship in a small accounting office in South Korea. In the summer 2008 she was an intern at the information center of the Korean Embassy in Washington D.C. which was a great motivator for her to begin to build toward her career goal as a marketing manager.

As an intern in the Embassy, she was the lead on two research projects. On one project she conducted a survey on improving Korean cultural events and on another project she studied the habits of listeners of Korean Radio broadcasting.

She began her management training as a vice president in her high school and as a leader of
English Discussion Group in Yonsei University.

After watching her bring these experiences to my classroom, I believe she would make a terrific addition to my alma mater GMU.

Jack Yoest
Adjunct Professor
Business and Technology Division

***

Undergraduate Admissions
University of Idaho
PO BOX 444264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

April 29, 2009

Dear Admissions Committee at the University of Idaho,

I teach at Northern Virginia Community College and I am writing to strongly recommend xxxxx xxxxx for admittance to the University of Idaho.  He has proven himself this semester to be well suited for a rigorous intellectual environment in terms of academic skills, maturity, and motivation.

Mr. xxxxx has been an industrious student in my Intro to Business class.  With only a few weeks remaining in the semester, he has a strong “A” average.  This grade in my class suggests that he has both the intellectual capacity and diligence to participate in higher education.  He thinks and communicates clearly and creatively, actively contributes to class discussions, writes fluently, and interacts well with both students and teachers.

Mr. xxxxx has shown himself to be a mature and motivated student throughout this semester. He is well-prepared for classes and excels on my assignments, projects, and tests.  He is committed to excellence as a college student and is highly motivated to contribute and succeed.

I strongly recommend xxxx to you.  He will be a positive addition to the University of Idaho student body and I expect will continue to excel academically.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you desire further information.

Sincerely,

John Yoest
Adjunct Professor, Business
Cell:  202.215.2434

***

May 12, 2008
Robert xxx
xxx Recruiting Coordinator
Six Metro Tech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Dear Mr. xxx,

This is a letter of recommendation for Mr. xxx xxxx xxxx.  He is a remarkable young man and an outstanding student who earned an “A” in my Introduction to Business class.  I am very pleased to recommend him for admission to your program.

I have been impressed by his commitment to continuous learning, attention to detail and follow-up.  Mr. xxxxx has outstanding organizational skills and was able to complete multiple tasks on time successfully.

He prepared and delivered a compelling presentation on the condition of the real estate market in the United States as part of a semester project.  His work ethic combined with his interest in business and the construction sciences would make him a desirable candidate for your construction management program.

Mr. xxxx xxxx xxxx is a diligent student who seldom missed a class.  Cultivated and highly motivated, Mr. xxxx xxxx xxxxx speaks fluent French, Russian and, of course, English.  He actively participated in leading class discussions.

If you have any questions regarding his abilities or this recommendation, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Jack
Adjunct Professor
Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria Campus
202.215.2434

***

Office of Undergraduate Admissions                                                                     September 8, 2009
James Madison University

Sonner Hall, MSC 0101

481 Bluestone Dr.

Harrisonburg, VA 22807
Dear Admission Committee at James Madison University,

This is a letter of recommendation for xxxx xxx xxx. I teach at the Northern Virginia Community College and I am writing to strongly recommend xxxx xxx xxx for admittance to James Madison University. He had proven himself last semester to be well suited for a rigorous intellectual environment in terms of academic skills, maturity, and motivation.

Mr. xxxx xxx xxx was an industrious student in my Intro to Business class. He never missed a section of my class and always on time. He earned top scores for all of my tests and was awarded an “A.” His extra effort in my class suggests that he has both the intellectual capacity and diligence to participate in higher education. He thinks and communicates clearly and creatively, actively contributes to class discussions, writes fluently, and interacts well with both students and faculty.

Mr. xxxx xxx xxx had shown himself to be a mature and motivated student throughout the semester. He is well-prepared for classes and excelled on assignments, projects, and tests. He is committed to outstanding performance as a college student and is highly motivated to contribute and succeed.

I strongly recommend xxxx xxx xxx to James Madison University. He will be a positive addition to JMU’s student body and I expect that he will continue to excel academically.

Please contact me if you would like further information.

Sincerely,

John Yoest
Adjunct Professor, Business & Technology, Alexandria Campus
Cell: 202.215.2434

Follow me on Twitter:  @JackYoest

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