Part of securing your residency is going to be submitting a letter of recommendation. In fact, along with your grades and interview, the letter of recommendation might be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. How do you determine the best person to write your letter, and what should they include in it? In this blog, we’ll answer these questions in addition to providing you with a sample letter of recommendation for residency.
Let’s dive in!
How to Pick the Best Person to Write Your Letter of Recommendation
This is where it all starts.
It’s vital that you pick someone who knows you on multiple levels: academically, professionally, and personally. This needs to be a person who has seen your clinical experience and also knows your interpersonal skills. They need a well-rounded idea of who you are as a person, overall.
You’ll likely find it best to select someone from your fourth-year clinical rotation. This is when you’re most experienced, and the work you’re doing is a better reflection of what you’re aiming for with your residency, in terms of your specialty.
While certain factors can make the possible letter writer a better choice — for instance, choosing a senior faculty member over a junior one — it’s more important that the person knows you very well.
Next, let’s move on to what a sample residency letter of recommendation should cover.
What Should Your Letter of Recommendation Include?
You’re going to want your letter to cover specific things, so let’s break it down.
To begin, the person writing your letter of recommendation should make it clear that they know you well, in what way, and for how long. In what environment did you work together? What was your relationship to each other? This is how you set the stage so that the reader better understands your relationship to one another.
The real “meat” of the letter will be the reasons for the recommendation. This should include specific examples of things you’ve done to excel in your field. Instead of simply writing that you’re highly qualified, the letter should provide exact reasons why.
Keep in mind any details more specific to your desired residency and specialty. Tailor the letter to that as much as possible. (Note: If you’re considering more than one specialty, you need to have a letter of recommendation for each! Do not use the same one for both.)
If it’s possible to provide statistics, do so. For instance, was the student in the top 5% of the class? This is a great detail to include in your recommendation letter for residency. How about your leadership skills — are they above average? Did you participate in any notable extracurricular activities? Get into the nitty-gritty, because these specifics can really make a difference.
It’s not unusual to include “weaknesses” in the letter. However, they should be shared from a position of positivity. For example, you wouldn’t want to say that you struggled with patient interaction. Rather, you might share how you worked hard to improve patient relationships and communication.
Working in the medical field is going to have you interacting with a lot of different people. In addition to explaining your relationship with the letter writer in the introduction, the letter should also cover how you interact with other people, in general. Are you easy to get along and communicate with? Do you work well both in a group and individually? Can people rely on you to be accountable and responsible?
Afterward, the recommendation letter for residency can include any additional details that aren’t necessarily as specific but still highlight the excellence of the student. For example, if you spent significant time on relevant volunteer work, it might be worth mentioning here, especially if it’s closely related to your specialty.
The closing paragraph should provide a brief recap of the student’s attributes and why they’d make an excellent resident. Readers often remember the last thing they read, so be sure to end on a strong note.
How Long Should a Letter of Recommendation for Residency Be?
While there isn’t an exact word count, here are a few helpful guidelines.
The letter should be at least three paragraphs:
- An introduction, which explains your relationship.
- The body of the letter, which details your ability and attributes.
- A conclusion, to recap everything and wrap it up.
This will very likely take up at least a full page, but stronger letters tend to go into approximately two pages. One word of caution, though: Don’t extend the length of the letter simply to take up more pages. The quality of what the writer shares is still what matters most.
Now that you know what your letter should include, let’s look at an example together. Sometimes, it helps to work from a template. For a sample letter of recommendation, you can view one here.Back to All Articles