Over at his blog, Massimo Boninsegni breaks down the process of strategically crafting a recommendation letter to strengthen a trainee's candidacy for a tenure-track position at a research institution. As he's both written and read these documents, Boninsengni says it is critical that a recommendation letter's opening makes it immediately apparent that it's not "the same 'boiler plate' letter … sent out to a dozen other places." Here, too, a PI should discuss the candidate's strengths that are most relevant to the requirements of the position: "Because your institution is a research university ... I am going to devote the bulk of my letter to discuss the candidate's research ability," Boninsengni writes in a hypothetical recommendation. For the rest of the letter, he says that PIs should disclose how they came to meet the candidate, describe the experiences of working together, and propose how the applicant's strengths could benefit the institution. He warns against using hyperbole or comparisons; phrases such as "the brightest young scientist whom I have ever met" or "simply the best around" are not appropriate for letters of recommendation, Boninsegni says. Be sure to check out the full post to read Boninsegni's take on the importance of disclosing a candidate's potential weaknesses as well as caveats specific to certain application scenarios.
How to Help, But Not Overhype, Your Trainee
Dec 01, 2010