As spring commences, two of a professor's less desirable job requirements come to fruition: ordering fall books, and writing letters of recommendation (LOR) for students. One of favorite web sites, Rate Your Students, recently discussed the topic of letters, and a colleague was ruing the demand that would be placed upon him.
I told him that I have basically created a "Mad Libs" LOR form:
- In the first paragraph is the student's name and how I know him/her (usually from the classes they have taken from me)
- In the second paragraph, I discuss in a sentence or two what each class required, rank the student compared to others I've taught (as I think that telling the employer/grad school that someone is in the top 5% is different from the top 25, 30, or even 50% of students I have ever taught), and try to tailor a couple sentences toward a specific job/grad school application
- In the final paragraph, I recommend/highly recommend the student and urge you to consider interviewing him/her for the position