Wednesday 11 July 2012

Letter Of Recommendation For Residency Applicants Made Simple

Process of letter of recommendation made simple

For the applicant

  1. Select your referee well – don’t just select anybody who is willing to write a letter. Select someone who knows you and is willing to work with you to draft the letter
  2. Discuss your goals with the letter writer – both professional goals and the goal of getting into a residency. Many a times the referees do not have a clue as to what they need to write for residency applications – guide them in this matter.
  3. Discuss if you want to have a letter unique to a specialty or you want a relatively not specialized letter OR you can ask for both!
  4. Provide clear cut instructions on how to write the letter, how long, what to write, what to include and how to sign etc (blue ink versus black ink)
  5. Provide detailed instructions on what they need to do with the letter after they are done writing. Be explicit in letting them know NOT to mail it back to you but to send it to ERAS

For the referee (letter writer)

  1. They must be reputable and be heavy hitters (medical director, Dean, higher up administrators etc)
  2. Preferably in the US medical system – but if not possible to get US LOR then its still is OK
  3. Can back up your recommendation letter with personal phone call if needed
  4. Believe in you
  5. Knows you personally
  6. Can comment on who you are as a person and who you can do

For the letter of recommendation itself

  1. Must be on a professional or institutional letterhead – just looks official!
  2. Must include contact information should the PD or program decide to call and verify – they can do that and they definitely do (not all cases but those they have selected to match into the program)
  3. Must be meaningful in content – hence discuss with the writer how you want to proceed with the letter
  4. must make a note of personality, professionalism, leadership quality, interpersonal behavior, clinical and personal skills that make you unique.
  5. May waive or chose to not waive the letter – I recommend to waive if possible.
  6. The importance of letter depends on where it is issued from, check out the order of importance of LoR to make sure you have one which makes the highest impact.

This is it, as simple as it can get. Start working on the process of getting a super stellar LOR and it will help you secure interviews for residency. Remember Deans letter (MSPE) is not considered as a letter of recommendation. Hopefully these pointers will help you secure a wonderful letter of recommendation and help match into a good program. If you wish to be in touch and get the latest posts and updates, join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.


  1. Unmatched applicants can use the letters from last year for next year? If the LoRs are uploaded by the applicants, it can't be called " waived", is it true? Is it possible to ask the letter writers to upload it again this year?

    1. the LORs have to come directly from the letter writer, if they do not, it is generally considered that you were privy to the information in the letter and hence it wont be an unbiased assessment of you and your performance, so it will be considered "not waived". since you did not waive your right to examine the contents of the letter. you can certainly ask the referees to write a new letter (or even repurpose the old one) with a new date and have it sent to eRAS. good luck!

  2. Thank you for share this informative post.


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