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How To Get An Excellent Letter Of Recommendation For Residency

No matter how outstanding your profile is, the ERAS recruiter will not take a look at your profile until you have at least two letters of recommendation (LoR). LoRs are an excellent medium to tell the residency program about your unique qualities and help them decide if you are a good fit for the program.

But many students have questions about getting a good letter of recommendation to help them get selected for their intended residency programs. Hence, in this article, we will address some of the most common questions future residents have and also give some tips to get a strong LoR.

How many letters of recommendation do you need?

Most programs will request you three letters of recommendation. However, you can submit up to four letters but a minimum of two.

The residency program you are applying to will have a specific requirement about the number of LoRs. Therefore, it will be best if you stick with the number prescribed by the residency program.

What makes a great letter of recommendation?

A great letter of recommendation provides the context to how exactly the writer knows you. They must specify how and when you worked together, in what specialty, and your aptitude.

A strong LoR should be more than a page long and give a specific example of your performance. It should specify how you stand out from other students and your overall ranking among your peers. In addition, it should include information about your hobbies/extracurricular activities and the unique characteristics that make you an ideal candidate for the residency program.

How should you request the LoR?

When you want an LoR, it is a good idea to set up a short in-person meeting with the writer to request it. You can tell them about your chosen residency program and how you enjoyed working in their specialty.

Suppose you already know which residency program you are going to apply to. In that case, you can ask your attending at the start of your rotation if you need an LoR from them. It will help them to pay closer attention to you and give you a more accurate assessment in your LoR. Once you have told this to the attending, you should make sure to perform outstandingly in their specialty rotation.

You should make sure to give plenty of time to the attending to write the letter of recommendation. Also, you should provide them with the names of the fellows and residents with whom you have worked.

Tips for getting good LoRs

  1. Choose a good attending:

    The key to getting a good LoR is a good relationship with the attending from whom you want to write the letter. This way, when you ask them for the LoR, it will seem natural.

    You can schedule a mid-clerkship meeting with them to discuss your performance. In the meeting, you can introduce yourself and tell them what drives you and why you want them to write the LoR for you. Then, implement the feedback the attending will give you and let them see your improvement.

    Once the rotation is over, ask the attending if they will be willing to write a good letter of recommendation for you.
  2. Consider your letter writer's specialty:

    When you get a letter of recommendation from an attending who is from the same field that you want to pursue, it will have more significant weightage than an LoR from an attending from some other specialty.

    So make sure you have a good relationship with the attending of your desired specialty.
  3. Waive your right to read the letters:

    You do have the right to view the letter of recommendation. But unfortunately, using this right is used as a red flag for recruitment by the residency programs. It is because the recruiter may get suspicious about what you might have omitted from the letter after seeing it. Hence you must always waive your right to view the letters.
  4. Give your letter writers plenty of time:

    It is best to ask for the LoR in mid-July. Hence you should ensure that your resume and personal statement are in good shape at that time. Also, you should follow up to ensure that you will have your LoR when the ERAS mailbox opens for the programs.
  5. You shouldn't ask your friends or family for LoR:

    Please do not make a family or friend write you LoR testifying about your character unless they know you professionally.
  6. Avoid getting an LoR from a resident or fellow:

    An attending should write your letter. Even if the fellow or resident may know you better, you should always ask your attending to write the LoR.

Wrap Up:

A strong letter of recommendation is your ticket to enter the residency program of your choice. Hence you must make sure that you follow the above steps and play your cards right. A good LoR will make you stand out from your peers and tell the program about your excellent and trustworthy character.