Two Pills Tips: Don't be a Dreader of Letters of Recommendation!

This Two Pills Tip aims to help those oft-dreaded letters of recommendation become less of a burden!

Episode Trainscription:

  • Article describes “heavy burden of letters of recommendation”

  • Important component of residency applications

  • Often direct and a good assessment of candidate’s qualifications

  • Keys to success:

  • Being asked with plenty of time. References I saw listed 1-3 months notice.

  • This prevents you from writing letters over the holidays, during finals, and other busy times in your schedule

  • Students should be an active part of this process. They should definitely send their CV. I also request students to create a spreadsheet of the programs, contact information, and specific reasons they want to attend that program. If applicable, I also have them connect projects/assignments they completed on my rotation or in my courses so that I can be sure to reference them in the letter.

  • Only write letters for students whose letters would be positive. Easier said than done, but important. If a student is focused on outpatient/ambulatory care, a letter from a faculty member who observed them in that field may be more appropriate than an inpatient faculty member like myself.

  • One of the reasons I always tell my advisees to get to know a faculty mentor or two while in school is the importance of the letter writer knowing the student well. It is very clear in letters who writers know well and who they only have a superficial relationship with.

  • Typical outline of a letter: minimum of 3 paragraphs

  • First paragraph: affiliation to candidate, including how long you have known them and in what context

  • Second: exceptional strengths and qualities that make candidate ideal for position, use specific examples for stronger letter

  • Final paragraph: summarizes recommendation, may “rank” candidate out of all students you have taught or precepted

  • Also want to list whether “recommend” or “highly recommend”-lots of ways to phrase this, can find samples online

  • Hopefully this helps letters to be less of a burden! Congratulations on students seeing you as a mentor. Thank you again for tuning into Two Pills Podcast!