Letters of Recommendation,
supplying names for reference
I am asked to write many letters of recommendation every year. This takes a lot of my time, so I ask you to please make my job easier, and help me and others you might ask to write you a better letter, by following these guidelines. The teachers and others you ask to write you a letter of recommendation will be presenting you to the selection committee. They will be comparing you to other students and applicants. These comparisons will help those in charge of employment or selection to understand whether they should consider you. In turn, you should consider carefully how to seek a good recommendation.
References. Even if you do not ask for a letter of recommendation, ask for permission before you use someone’s name as a reference. This is not just a courtesy, but ensures you that they will be willing to give you a positive recommendation and they will be prepared for being contacted – not taken by surprise. Heed the warnings below about eliciting lukewarm or cold recommendations.
Good letters of recommendation. When asking people to write for you, ask them if they can write you a good letter of recommendation. You should pick people who can not only write well, but write well about you. If they seem uncomfortable with the idea of writing a letter of recommendation for you, ask them to suggest someone else who might be a better choice. A negative or lukewarm letter will not help your prospects, regardless of the prestige of the recommender. If someone tells you that they don't know you well enough to write you a letter, believe them! If you insist, then you will likely get a letter that states "I do not know this person well enough to write him a letter of recommendation." Your application is much stronger with two good letters than it would be with two good letters and a very weak, obviously reluctant, or negative letter. Moreover, be careful not to avoid asking for recommendation from someone who is well known to be associated with the field to which you apply, if you have had reasonably good contact with them. You do not want your prospective employer or grantor to wonder why you did not ask someone they think you should have known and consulted for a specific field or purpose.
With a number of recommenders to consider, choose people who are most relevant to the application you are submitting. For example, ask art professors to write recommendation letters for application to MFA programs, not English teachers. If you seek a teaching position, your art history professor will have limited or no knowledge that you will make a good teacher. BUT…All else being equal, it is better to ask someone who has known you longer and/or who is more familiar with various aspects of your background for the position and who seems impressed by your qualifications. (NOT the one who gave you Cs)
Depending on the nature of the application, you should consider asking teachers, professors, employers, coaches, directors of community services where you volunteered, and anybody who knows you, your qualifications and your work well. Never, however, ask a family member to write a letter on your behalf.
The purpose is to provide prospective employer, internship committee, grad school, etc., with information and validation of your qualifications, and abilities. They want opinions of those familiar with your background and those who know you well, even better if compared with other students or employees.
What is need from you, before someone will write a letter of recommendation