Your recommenders are doing you a favor, so the least you can do is make their job easier by following proper LOR etiquette. Breaking these important letter of rec rules may result in your recommenders deciding not to dish out the most favorable review. Stay on their good side, help them stay organized, and most importantly, make sure you DO NOT commit any of these LOR mistakes:
1. Do Not Give them short notice. Your recommenders have full-time jobs, lives, and potentially other recommendations to write. If you ask for their recommendation too close to the deadline, you may end up without a recommendation.
2. Do Not Give them an incomplete package of materials. There are a number of must-include documents that you need to submit to your recommender if you want the greatest chance of a) receiving a good recommendation and b) receiving a good recommendation submitted on time. These include:
• A copy of your resume/CV
• Information about the school/program you’re applying to
• A letter detailing your interests and goals related to the degree you’re pursuing
• A clear link with instructions on what they need to do/include in their recommendation letter
• A clear deadline
• An addressed and stamped envelope to the school (if that’s what’s required, though most schools will want an online submission)
3. Do Not Give them attitude. Writing these letters takes time – an irreplaceable, valuable commodity. Be polite and gracious when asking for a recommendation.
Provide all of the above materials in an organized, labeled fashion so that your recommenders can easily review what you’ve given them and then get started writing, without needing to sort through a jumble of messy papers or unclear links or instructions. The better you present yourself and your materials, the easier you’ll make their job, the more impressed with you they’ll be, and – if all goes well – the better your recommendation will turn out.
It’s also a good idea – not to mention, simple good manners – to send your recommender a thank you note.
We have tips for writers of letters of recommendation in each category (med, law, grad, MBA, and college). It may be smart to send one of those links to your recommenders to provide more guidance and inspiration for their writing.