Common Mistakes to Avoid in LOR


Samarpita Goswami
Updated on Jun 03, 2023 01:16 AM IST

Submitting an LOR is a major step in the process of applying for admission to a university abroad. While it's important to prepare for the task, there are some common mistakes that people make in an LOR. Find out what these are!

Common Mistakes to Avoid in LOR

Table of Contents

Common Mistakes to Avoid in LOR: A letter of recommendation is a type of letter that a person can give to a client or former employer to recommend their work or academic performance. The goal is to highlight the person's abilities and achievements that would make them a great fit for a job or college program. LORs are usually written by a professor or colleague requested by the potential student to be sent to the admissions committee.

Put simply, an LOR is a vital document that influences your admission to a university abroad. It summarises all of the claims that you made in your CV and is used to evaluate and rank your achievements. It also serves as an important part of your academic CV as it influences your selection process.

Well, given how important an LOR is, it is extremely significant for your recommender to avoid making mistakes in it and ensure that it is only perfect. But which mistakes should you definitely avoid in an LOR? Let us find out!

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8 Common Mistakes to Avoid in LOR

Being asked to submit an LOR, also known as a recommendation letter, can be a big responsibility. Before you begin, it's important to read through the requirements carefully.

1. Choosing the Wrong Recommender

Before you draft your letter of recommendation, it's important to analyse and establish who you would like to recommend. Ideally, the person who should be your recommender should have the necessary knowledge and skills to present your recommendations in a convincing manner. 

The person who has the least amount of knowledge about you should not be considered as a recommender. An assistant professor may be an ideal choice since he or she has taught you about one subject.

2. Repetition of Your SOP and Resume

Your LOR should not be a rehash of your SOP and Student CV. It should also introduce new qualities and skills that you did not mention in your CV and SOP. Your LOR should be written in a way that draws the reader's mind to the complete personality of the person who would be interviewing you.

Repeating factual details and figures from your resume will make the admission officer uncomfortable.

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3. Access to Irrelevant Information

Make sure that you provide enough information about yourself to make a good recommendation. Make sure that your referee has plenty of time to draft the letter. This ensures that the referee has enough time to highlight the qualities that you should include in the LOR. If there's a backup referee, make a list of them and provide them with all the information that they need in a Word document.

On the other hand, you can also craft your own LOR with the necessary information and correct format and request your recommender to add instances or examples that they can provide as examples to add in the letter. This can further streamline the process of writing, receiving and editing a LOR before having to submit them to the desired institution.

4. A Letter Too Short

A good letter of recommendation should have around 500 to 600 words. It should also be written on an A4 page. A longer letter can be more advantageous for a prospective student due to its complexity. A study revealed that the more details a prospective student has in their recommendation letter, the better it is for them. Ideally, a recommendation should be crisp and long enough to cover all the important details.

5. Not Including Examples

A LOR that is devoid of examples or instances does not hold much value in the application process.  In other words, not including examples that provide proof of your candidature for a particular course may make your LOR seem bland and lacking value.

Either way, the referee remains unsuccessful in delivering a convincing LOR. A good LOR should include a specific example or instance to validate the claim made by the recommender. Including instances or examples where the referee witnessed a display of the skills and qualities that make them a good candidate for a particular course or position will only authenticate the claims much more.

Ideally, the recommender should state their claim in an example that shows how or why they were able to implement a theoretical concept in their class or lab.

6. Making Your LOR Too Positive

Having too many positive words in the LOR can lead to uncertainties and doubt in the mind of the committee. While you must highlight your strengths, skills and qualities, it is also imperative to include instances where you were able to overcome a challenge or a mistake. Including instances that highlight your low points and how you overcame them can help paint a better picture of your personality. One thing to avoid is using the clichéd phrase “being a perfectionist”. So, make sure that you include at least one weakness or challenge that you were able to overcome in your LOR.

7. Spelling Mistakes

The admission officer's credibility can be jeopardized by the presence of spelling or grammatical errors in the recommendation letter. It can also affect the credibility of the person who is recommending you. Make sure that you check your LORs at least twice for spelling and grammatical errors before submitting them to the desired university or institution.

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8. Politically Incorrect Language

Today, one has to be very careful about what they say and use in public. It is also important that the referee is aware of the exact words that they use. The referee has to be very careful when it comes to the usage of words and phrases in the LOR. There are certain words that can hurt feelings.

9. Generalised LOR

As can be understood from the above points, a LOR is supposed to be individualised and unique to each individual. Each LOR should contain information that highlights the quirks and strengths of an individual. Therefore, picking up a LOR from the internet or asking a friend for a draft LOR, is a risk you should not take. It is crucial that you create a LOR that highlights, your abilities, strengths, initiatives and quirks that make you the perfect fit for a particular course or programme.

It sends a strong message of appreciation to the former employee or student, and it lets them know that you valued their work. A great letter of recommendation can make or break a person’s chances of obtaining a job or entering a college program. Due to the importance of a great letter of recommendation, it is very important that the writer has time and effort to draft one that will be effective.

How to Improve Your LOR?

Here are some of the suggestions on how you can improve your chances of admission by writing a great LOR:

1. Use a Customized LOR for Every Programme You Apply for: While it’s possible to create a basic template, make sure that you customize it with specific details to highlight the qualities and qualifications of the candidate as per the requirements of each course. A good template should also include a general outline so that you can easily remember all of the key points that you want to include in the letter.

2. Check your CV and Resume Thoroughly: Before you begin writing a letter, take a look at the candidate or student’s resume to get a full overview of their previous work experience. Having a good understanding of the candidate's background can help you create a more detailed and focused letter. You can also ask the candidate or student to provide feedback on areas that need improvement.

3. Prepare a List of Abilities and Associates Examples: As you review the job description and the candidate's resume, compile a list of the candidate's qualities and accomplishments, which you believe highlight their qualifications. For the candidate, share the most marketable assets that you think they could use for their next job.

4. Use Active Voice in LOR: Instead of using passive voice, use active voice. Active voice also makes your message more clear and concise by reducing the number of words needed to express the action. For instance, if the subject is first in the sentence, it makes it clear who is doing the action. 

Some believe that the letter of recommendation is the most important part of an application, while others believe that it's not as important as previously thought. They also believe that it's used to evaluate the student's credibility, as well as how the seniors would perceive him/her. 

Since the LOR is not the only document that's included in the application, many students tend to overlook it. While they might have worked on a great resume and statement of purpose, failing to provide a compelling LOR could affect their chances of being accepted. 

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Can I repeat information written in SOP in my LOR with different universities?

Your chances of being accepted into a university abroad would be severely hampered if your LOR contained nothing but repetitions of the information on your resume. Repeating information from your CV might convey the impression that the LOR's author is aloof from the applicant and does not have a good relationship with them. Even though there can be some overlap, your LOR should provide a unique viewpoint on you as a student and graduate school candidate by highlighting traits and abilities that are not covered in your SOP.

How to avoid a lack of information in your LOR?

Make sure you give your recommender enough information about yourself. Send in your SOP, CV, and any other certifications that will assist them in writing a winning LOR. Make sure your referee has at least a month to review the letter. After all, hurry work is a substandard job. Maintain a roster of backup referees in case one of your major referees declines. Provide all pertinent information in a nicely typed-out Word document.

What happens when you don’t give enough time to your recommender?

One of the most prevalent mistakes to avoid in a LOR is not providing your recommender adequate time. You must give your recommender at least a month to prepare an attractive LOR for you. Notify them well in advance and provide periodic reminders so that they can work on your LOR. We're afraid you're in trouble if you approach them at the last minute and hurry them up hoping to be given an outstanding LOR. The haste would undoubtedly reflect on your LOR, reducing your prospects of admission to the university of your choosing.

What happens if you don’t back your statements with examples in your LOR?

To be honest, a LOR that is devoid of examples and situations is not very valuable. Your LOR is distinctive due to examples and cases. They distinguish it. The admissions committee won't even read half of a LOR before throwing it aside and moving on to the next one if it only contains boilerplate compliments. If the person writing your recommendation claims that you have been a model student who consistently thinks creatively and offers the best workable answers to any challenge, they must provide evidence for their claim. 

What happens when you do not mention your areas of improvement in your LOR?

It is okay to use flattering language in your LOR to support your candidature, but you should know when to stop. Showing the admissions committee that you are a stickler for detail will do nothing to improve your LOR; on the contrary, it will make it seem generic and uninteresting. You would rather address your areas for improvement alongside your areas of strength in a courteous manner, supporting them with the examples and situations stated in the prior sections. This will make your LOR appear to be an authentic document that accurately describes your candidature.

What happens when you choose the wrong recommender for your LOR to study abroad?

The first decision to make while writing your LOR is deciding who will serve as your recommenders. They need to be able to write a persuasive recommendation letter for the admissions committee and be someone aware of your qualities and talents. They must be aware of the job you have completed, your position and duties, your accomplishments, and even your faults. Selecting a recommender who does not have any experience working with you might be catastrophic for your LOR since they could not have anything insightful to say about you. 

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