I am a programmer/engineer who has been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a colleague, who wishes it to help him pursue higher education.
Since I feel it necessary, to be very professional and very impartial in the letter I am about to put together for him. And at the same time I wish to bring out the best qualities which I have seen in him, namely power of analysis and clear thought, openness to novel and even left-field ideas.
I am looking for sources where I can refer to for constructing such a letter - I hit stackoverflow by force of habit, then to english.stackexchange.com and was surprised not to find any results. Some Googling gave me only mundane and glossy samples, which did not sound very authentic to me because of all the power verbs cramped together in an non-cohesive way.
I will edit the question summarizing your answers daily, thank you.
Based on comments, here is an example, to help narrow down the question. (I cannot however put a draft here and ask for feedback, because finding any version of my letter sitting on the internet, will reduce the authenticity of it.) Here is a sample of what I did not like for the above mentioned reasons :
X is a well disciplined, industrious student with a pleasant personality. She is unstinting in her efforts to keep abreast with the latest technologies, indefatigable in showing the applications of theory to practice in any work she does. Besides academics, X as a member of the association for communication engineers in this college takes part enthusiastically in various co-curricular activities of the department. She played a major role in organizing ‘SOME_EVENT’, a national level technical symposium conducted by the Department. In my unbiased opinion she has a rich blend of creativity, temperament and discipline required for a person who desires a career in computer engineering. I strongly recommend her to the graduate program in your esteemed university with full assistantship.
Note all the power verbs/nouns, and the general rosy smell of the text. It is so living in an ideal world, and does little to strike true to a practical CEO of a company, or the financial officer of an institution - he who decides to give financial assistance or not. Also I feel it is way too generic - See i can now replace X with anyone from a set of million students, and letter still holds up, if you call it holding up.
Joshin has given a valuable new perspective on this for me :
- He has asked me to step into the mind of the target organization (in this case a grad school)
- That LOR can be used to help resolve tough hire/fire decisions, for the organization
- The organization may actually be looking for letter writers, with whom they can relate to, like folks who worked for a long time in their domain, or in an influential well known (for them) organization.
- The last section (sort of reduces the impact of the previous point) The readers may find something of value, from an unexpected direction, even if the letter writer is in an alien domain.
My conclusion, is that I will write him a LOR anyway (banking on the last point), while asking him to get one (or two) more letters from his university professors and head of departments.
Standback put in an awesome answer himself! He has made his point well, the last two deserves reiteration:
In his last point, an honest sincere recommendation may very well be interpreted as an unenthusiastic one, or even a snub. This is a risk, which needs to be taken after researching the target audience.
Priority on establishing my credentials instead of impartiality is also something I can relate to. Some words with a negative connotation, may end up in the LOR while you are trying to sound impartial, which happened in my case. This is something to be avoided at all costs in LORs as such words unconsciously such words go to the readers mind, no matter the context.
I would however invite more people to give their thoughts on this. I am still looking for sources where I can refer to, and this thread may very well be it, or have links pointing to other critiques, examples and so on.