Format of a
Please see the other posts for examples.
Is it required from an HOD?
Not really - what matters more is a good LOR from someone
who knows you well instead of a mediocre letter from a big
shot. Things that are looked at are how long the person has
known you, in what capacity and how well. Also a more
personalized letter makes more impact instead of one with
general things that you are hardworking, punctual, polite
It is nice if the letter is on a letter head - looks more
A letter from a private practitioner may be valid provided
you have at least 1-2 from someone in the medical college.
An article from
An important part of the medical residency application
process is getting strong letters of recommendation. These
reference letters are the residency program director’s
insight into your personality and clinical ability.
Therefore, the recommendation letters should depict you as a
confident, dependable and academically strong physician.
Remind the physician writer about your background,
accomplishments and medical career goals by giving him a
copy of your residency CV and personal statement. Medical
Residency applicants can then use the ERAS match system to
transmit the recommendation letters to the residency
programs of their choice.
Choosing your physician reference letter writer is a
difficult task. Enlist the help of colleagues and senior
residents to find the right one. An ideal physician letter
writer is one who…
· Has expressed appreciation of your medical work
· Has a good standing in the medical academic community
· Is well known to the residency or fellowship program you
are applying to
· Knows how to write a strong recommendation letter.
· Addresses the key points that residency program directors
are looking for (see below)
Fellowship applicants frequently apply to several programs
and it might be a good idea to provide stamps and mailing
addresses of the fellowship programs on a computer disk.
This helps the Physician reference letter writer and his
secretary to mail merge them easily. Expect Physician
writers to take 4 to 6 weeks to write your recommendation
letter and plan accordingly. Frequent reminders, say once a
week, though not always appreciated by the Physician
writers, may be necessary to get your recommendation letters
out in time. Remember to check with the medical residency
program’s secretary to make sure your reference letter has
been typed and mailed.
Finally, call the fellowship program to confirm that they
have received all your recommendation letters. This ensures
that your recommendation letters are not lost in the mail or
misfiled. We have heard horror stories of fellowship program
secretaries losing completed application forms and
recommendation letters. There have also been instances where
the fellowship interview invitations were sent to the wrong
(misspelt) e-mail addresses. Remember, your fellowship
application is not considered complete until the fellowship
program secretary receives all the letters of
recommendation. This could mean that your fellowship
application has not been reviewed by the program director
and has been gathering dust on the secretary’s desk.
Unnecessary delay can cause you to lose your competitive
edge by becoming the 213th applicant instead of the 26th
When applying to competitive fellowships, Residents from
community programs are sometimes perceived by fellowship
program directors as weak candidates. You can make yourself
appear as a serious candidate by requesting your Physician
reference letter writers to give your recommendation letter
on the official letterhead of the residency program. This
ensures that your university affiliation is prominently
Generally, letters of recommendation do not say negative
statements about you. They all say positive things. As
mentioned earlier, there are some key points that medical
residency and fellowship program directors look for in a
recommendation letter. These include…
· Communication and interpersonal skills
· Positive points in medical school
· Hospital work ethic
· Clinical skills and performance during medical rotations
· Fund of medical knowledge
· Relationship with colleagues and nursing staff
· How patients perceive you (like you, easily bond with you)
· Medical research experience
· Level of responsibility
· Efficiency and time management
· Easy to work with?
good resource - also has examples of a good and a poor LOR.
Also check out this site with a lot of other resources.
A word of caution - do not copy recommendation letter
samples you get from the internet. I know of a residency
applicant who was disqualified because of using a sample
letter from the internet verbatim - he was reported to the
NRMP and had some sanctions placed on him.