Over the years, I’ve been asked to write reference letters for a number of students and faculty. The secret to writing a good reference letter is to add specific key words that pop off the page. To help them “pop,” I think it’s even okay to put such words in bold – words such as innovative or leader. No one really reads references with the intent of savoring every word. After all, the reference letter has a certain form and follows specific, mutually-agreed upon criteria. Actually, most readers of reference letters are simply looking for what you don’t say. Death by omission.
I’ve found that the hardest references to write are the ones for people I don’t know that well. A surprising number of students ask instructors for a reference letter after just a semester (and sometimes not even that long). And, as a direct supervisor of faculty, I sometimes need to write a reference letter for someone that I haven’t observed teach. How can I tell someone that Dr. X is a good teacher when I haven’t even seen her teach?
I know we’re all in trouble when I feel the need to pull out my “one size fits all” reference letter template.
Now, imagine that God asked you for a reference letter. What would you list as strengths? What would be your evaluation of the work performed on the job? And what words would you include that would pop off the page that would encourage employers to believe that God was right for the position?
“Since God created man in His own image how often has man endeavored to render a similar service to God?”