Requesting a letter of recommendation (LOR) is an important step in your academic and professional journey. Here are some best practices for asking your preceptor for an LOR:
- Choose the Right Person: Ensure that your preceptor knows you well and can speak to your abilities, work ethic, and character. It’s better to ask someone who can provide specific and detailed information about you. Make sure you secure any contact info needed before leaving your clinical experience and ask the preceptor when the best time is to follow up in the future.
- Timing is Important: Ask for the LOR well in advance, we usually recommend around the 3rd week of a 4-week experience. Don’t wait until the last minute or after you have already left your clinical experience. This shows respect for your preceptor’s time and gives them ample time to write a thoughtful letter.
- Ask in Person then Follow Up via Email: Always ask your preceptor first in person to make sure you have discussed this with them directly and professionally. This will help you gauge their willingness and interest in writing the letter. If an in-person request isn’t possible, send a polite and formal email or give their office a call directly.
- Be Clear and Specific: Clearly state why you need the letter, what it is for, and any deadlines associated with it. Provide all the necessary information such as the application deadline, where the letter should be sent, and any specific forms or guidelines to follow. For residency applicants, keep in mind that the norm is to have your preceptor upload the LOR directly to ERAS. ERAS only starts accepting LOR uploads at specific times of the year, usually a couple of months before the residency application system opens (roughly around mid to late September meaning the LOR upload system will only open roughly around mid-Summer each year).
- Provide Necessary Materials: If there are specific forms or documents that need to accompany the letter, provide them along with your request. This makes it easier for your preceptor and ensures that they have all the information they need. It is usually helpful to submit a picture of yourself along with an up to date CV and contact info to help your preceptor with necessary identifying info. Another helpful tip is to ask for a picture with your preceptor during your experience, which you can also use to help them recall you specifically which is especially useful if there has been a significant time that has passed.
- Share Your Goals and Objectives: Briefly explain what you hope to achieve with the help of this letter. Whether it’s admission to a specific program, a scholarship, or a job application, let your preceptor know how important this opportunity is to you.
- Remind Them of Your Achievements: Politely remind your preceptor about the work you’ve done together. Mention specific projects, accomplishments, or any memorable interactions that might be relevant to the letter.
- Offer to Provide Talking Points: You can provide a list of key points you’d like your preceptor to address in the letter. This could include your strengths, achievements, and specific skills that are relevant to the application.
- Respect Their Decision: Understand that your preceptor might not be able to write the letter for various reasons. Respect their decision and thank them for considering your request.
- Follow Up and Express Gratitude: If they agree to write the letter, follow up a week or so before the deadline to ensure everything is on track. After the letter has been submitted, express your gratitude by sending a thank-you note or email.
- Keep Them Informed: Once you hear back about the outcome (whether it’s an acceptance, scholarship, etc.), let your preceptor know. They will appreciate knowing the impact of their recommendation.
Remember to always be proactive, polite, professional, and appreciative with your request. Your preceptor is doing you a very impactful and important favor, so make the process as smooth as possible for them.