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La_chica_gomela's avatar

Letters of Recomendation: Which of these is most preferred?

Asked by La_chica_gomela (12488 points ) October 2nd, 2009

A: Someone who has only known you for a month but can write stellar things about how great you’ve been so far

B: Someone who has known you for over a year, but your work for the has had its ups and downs, and ended on kind of a “down” note (but you have no reason to think they have any ill feelings toward you about it)

C: Someone who has known you for three years but they aren’t really involved with any work, be it stellar or crappy that you’ve done.

Trying to figure out who I should ask. The recs will be used for multiple purposes, not one specific one. Any insight you can provide is appreciated.

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18 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

Ask them all and then decide which to use.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@DarkScribe: So let’s say I already asked all of them and they all agreed, who should I choose?

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Oh and I almost forgot option D

D: The one who has known you for three years, you’ve done some great work and some mediocre work, but the person nevertheless has a really high opinion of you, is a great writer, and has written others you know great letters, but the person is going through some personal issues which you’re afraid might distract them or that it would be rude to even ask them given that they just found out they have cancer.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@La_chica_gomela I think you should disregard the descriptions you’ve listed here, and go with the one who has the highest credentials and looks the most impressive on paper. You want to impress your interviewers by having someone of a status write a letter of recommendation for you, and just the fact that they are writing it should make an impact. Not sure of your situation, but for example if you’re applying to graduate school, have the most respected professor of your major at that college write it. If you’re applying for a job, have your previous regional director write it, etc.

Cupcake's avatar

Good point @BBSDTfamily, although usually recommendations from people who have known you over time have more credibility.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I have never “collected” reference letters to send or have on hand for multiple purposes, nor have I ever had anyone send me a copy of the reference letter that they wrote for me. Usually they go directly to the entity that requires the reference. Likewise, never put “references furnished on request” on a resume. That’s a given. Also, don’t include references unless you’re asked.

nikipedia's avatar

Along the lines of what @BBSDTfamily said, I would pick the person who is going to be the best advocate for you. Sometimes that has more to do with identifying a person who knows how to “play the game” so to speak rather than someone who has a specific relationship to you.

That said—I assume you are filling out an application of some sort? Are the people who have known you for over a year referenced elsewhere in the application? If so, and you don’t ask for a letter from them, that might be a red flag. Otherwise, I’d go for the person who will write the strongest letter.

marinelife's avatar

Have them write the letters and give them to you. Then you can decide which ones to use for which purpose.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@BBSDTfamily: They’re pretty much all equally respectable.

@nikipedia: I’m confused. I mean, if I take a class with someone that has a big impact on me, or do an independent research project with them, then I’m likely to write about it in my resume, personal statement, and applications, and at the same time, I’m also likely to ask them to write a letter. I don’t understand why that would be a “red flag”.

@Marina: That’s not how it works. Grant funds, organizations, etc, want letters submitted directly by the recommender online and/or mailed by them in a sealed envelope. I’ve never had the option to do it any other way for anything I’ve ever applied for that asked for letters of recommendation.

nikipedia's avatar

@La_chica_gomela: Right. If you write about them and do not include a letter, that is a red flag.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

oooooooooohhhh. sorry, i missed the ‘and’. got it.

marinelife's avatar

@La_chica_gomela You could do as I suggest as a trial run to see what they will say. Alternatively, you could have a friend call them for a recommendation (for a fictional job) to hear what they say.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Marina: That’s really not respectful of their time or their right to be treated with honesty and courtesy. No thanks.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I’d use a mix of all of them. I’ve been on several search/hiring comittees. Our discussions on the rec letters get pretty interesting. We do notice how long you have known the person and how you know the person. It is better to submit all three (not d, i wouldn’t bother that person right now at all, i’ve been through my own hard times and got a bit frustrated when people ‘wanted of me’). You could then ask to save all three so you don’t have to re-ask each time you need them. The reason I recommend using all three is because you don’t have the ideal mix for a rec letter which would be you’ve worked for them over a year and they have a great review of you.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@RedPowerLady: Right, I think so too, I’m trying to get a good mix. I’ve picked my two “main” recs, but I need a third one, and none of these people fits my idea of a “perfect” rec, so I’m trying to decide which one to ask.

Save all three what?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Save all three rec letters if you can get them to give you a hard-copy.

If you have two good ones already then I’d go for C. Sometimes a personal note can be fantastic. The one month rec really might be passed over and I would never risk getting a bad rec (like you could get from B).

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@RedPowerLady: You mean ask A, B, and C, and then save them all?

Thank you for actually answering the question I asked! I love reading everyone’s feedback and information, but I really need to make a decision between these three. Your answer gives me something to think about! I really appreciate it!

RedPowerLady's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Ya that’s what I’d do, ask them all and save them. Save the other two as well if you can. You can’t save them for too long but a couple years is reasonable. I know when you are looking for a job or volunteer work or trying to get into school it can be tedious to keep looking for references with each application. It can also be a lifesaver if you find out the deadline is say in a week and you have no time to get rec letters. They are also helpful to look back on when you have job apps that ask specifically what former employers think of you.

Anytime :)

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