Best way to get a preceptor to write you a good letter of recommendation?

medskate16

2+ Year Member
May 23, 2016
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Just looking for some input/experience on getting letters of rec. I always feel bad asking for them because I know there a hassle for docs who are already busy to write. I want to know if theres a tried and true method or approach that anyone uses at the start of/during the rotation to make it easier for the doc to write the letter and actually get a good letter that is not generic and similar to all the other letters the doc writes. I know that next to board exams, letters are the most important thing for residency apps. Advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated, thanks
 

Spectreman

2+ Year Member
May 9, 2016
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Just looking for some input/experience on getting letters of rec. I always feel bad asking for them because I know there a hassle for docs who are already busy to write. I want to know if theres a tried and true method or approach that anyone uses at the start of/during the rotation to make it easier for the doc to write the letter and actually get a good letter that is not generic and similar to all the other letters the doc writes. I know that next to board exams, letters are the most important thing for residency apps. Advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated, thanks
Gonna go out on a limb and say the lack of response means there is not sure fire way to nail a good LOR. Every preceptor is different, so you really have to play the game hard and impress whatever way you can. I think the key really is that you need to establish early on you would like an LOR from this doc. Set clears expectations with them. Work hard to fulfill those and pray they don’t turn into a psychopath as the rotation moves along. My friend who was a program director and is now a CMO at a hospital told me his biggest thing is confidence, he hates it when students are looking down and very mopey. He also does his internal grading based on their hallway pt presentations. Even though he’s a surgeon that’s his biggest factor, not suturing or anatomy knowledge. So just keep practicing coherent pt pres in under 45 seconds, it’s the key to sounding smart and thoroughly read up on your patients.

of course I’m just another 3rd year struggling like you. All the best!
 

calvinhobbes

Physician
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May 24, 2006
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Ask politely and ask in advance :)
They’ll prob use a letter they used before for someone else and edit it for you specifically (also not joking about that lol) but don’t worry, just send them your CV and say how much you enjoyed working with them!
 

BorntobeDO?

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Nov 13, 2013
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If I wanted a letter from an attending I usually let them know early on, not immediately, but after the first week or two so that they could be comfortable with writing me one or not. If necessary offer to write a draft for them if they are a busy community doc or see heavy inpatient loads. Most won't need this, but I have had one taker who didn't write letters as often. You need to request a copy of the LOR's for away rotations. Just explain that this is becoming a new requirement and that you would appreciate if they would help you out. Asking again if they still would feel comfortable writing you a strong letter is good way to reinforce what you are looking for.
 

Sardonix

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Sep 6, 2010
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If I wanted a letter from an attending I usually let them know early on, not immediately, but after the first week or two so that they could be comfortable with writing me one or not. If necessary offer to write a draft for them if they are a busy community doc or see heavy inpatient loads. Most won't need this, but I have had one taker who didn't write letters as often. You need to request a copy of the LOR's for away rotations. Just explain that this is becoming a new requirement and that you would appreciate if they would help you out. Asking again if they still would feel comfortable writing you a strong letter is good way to reinforce what you are looking for.
Agreed. A prime opportunity is in the 2nd/3rd week (4th is okay too but not much notice) when they ask if you need anything.

"Well that wraps up today. Need anything before I head out?"

"Thanks for asking, Dr. SoandSo. As you might have guessed, I'm really interested in ___. I've really enjoyed rotating with you and was wondering if you would be comfortable writing me a letter of recommendation. I think it would be very valuable given that I'm planning on applying for ____."

They're docs and professionals. If they're young they'll hopefully remember the rat race. If they're older they'll have already done dozens of letters by now. It's not a big deal if you guys have a reasonable working relationship.
 

mistafab

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Oct 20, 2015
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The most tried and true approach to a good letter of rec is to do a good job.

Master the basics: 1. show up on time 2. be helpful 3. actually read 4. discuss interesting topics for the sake of further learning 5. be an excellent clinician 6. be a true professional 7. don't be a dick, ever 8. don't you dare pull out your damn phone.

Do all that and people will go to bat for you. The details of when or where to ask for the letter don't matter.
 
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group_theory

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Don't ask on the first day - I don't know you yet and I don't know if I can write a strong letter yet.
Don't ask on the last day. You're right - I have a lot of other obligations and it will fall by the wayside (plus you will loose your chance to remind me/hunt me down)

Ask after a week (if spending multiple weeks), or midweek (if we're together only a week at a time)

Ask if I feel comfortable writing a strong and personalized letter of recommendation.

If I agree to write a LOR - I like to include examples of why I think you're a good student and will be a good/strong resident. Hopefully I can include examples from the rotation. I personally don't want a CV or resume (some of my colleagues do) to help me write your LOR - I don't want to rehash your accomplishments - that will already be evident in the rest of your application. I want to write a good letter that says you are a good student, and will be a good resident without sounding like a form stock letter. This of course takes time.

Don't expect me to write that you're the greatest student that have ever rotated and that you operate at the level of an intern - unless it's true (the first part, definitely not the latter).