by Terra L. Dourlain,
President of Faith, Winter & Grace, Inc.
Although letters of
recommendation will not secure you a job, they are a very
important part of the process. They are valuable to employers when
many candidates have very similar qualifications. It is in these
situations that the letters of recommendation add valuable
information to your profile that your resume is not capable of
So, what makes one letter of recommendation
stronger than another? The person writing the letter is very
important. The reference's position and title are key as well as
the context of your relationship with them. If you reported to
them, then that is a much stronger recommendation than one from a
peer. By far the most valuable letters of recommendation come from
the people to whom you reported.
You should also consider whether the letters
are serving their purpose any longer. For example, once you have
been employed, recommendations from teachers or professors no
longer carry value. Likewise, letters written from several years
ago do not accurately reflect your current abilities.
Once you have identified the best authors, now
you must evaluate the value of their content. The more specific
the statements made the better. A strong letter of recommendation
does not just state what a nice person you are. A strong letter of
recommendation will state specifically how uniquely talented you
are for the position you are pursuing. Ideally the information
provided will include: your personal characteristics, subject
knowledge, skill set, specific accomplishments and areas of
Truth be told, the use of letters of
recommendation is fast becoming passι. The fact is that the
concept of writing letters of recommendation started back in the
time when communication was extremely difficult and employers
viewed employees as kin. Terry Devlin, Vice President, Counseling
for Career Management International states, "They should only be
provided upon the request of the employer. Most employers accept
letters of recommendation politely, and ignore them. After all,
the candidate is the provider of the letters, and as such, can
ensure only the most glowing are presented. Going to an interview
armed with letters of recommendation may well brand a person as
naive, and serve to eliminate the candidate from consideration."
This makes the use references in your job
search increasingly important. Providing letters of recommendation
is simply not enough. A potential employer is going to call your
references and the people to whom reported in order to get a
better understanding of your abilities and qualifications.
Likewise, the authors of your letters of recommendation are still
likely to be called. This is done as a means of uncovering fraud.
Is the letter authentic or did the employee write it themselves?
Therefore, the verbal statement provided by these authors is
critical, or the letter loses all value and is actually harmful as
it appears fraudulent.
About the author:
Terra L. Dourlain is a Career Transition Specialist and
Executive Career Coach with an extensive background in employee
training and development. As President of Faith, Winter & Grace,
Inc. she has assisted hundreds of senior level candidates through
successful transitions. Currently, Terra is the Managing Director
(an Allison & Taylor Company), the nation's oldest professional
employment verification and reference checking firm. Please visit
their site at
or call (800) 422-3905 to learn more about this valuable service.