how to include strengths and weaknesses in a recommendation letter

Writing a recommendation letter is a great way to express your support for an individual’s application. While most recommendation letters primarily focus on highlighting a person’s strengths, it is also important to include information on potential weaknesses. Doing so can make a recommendation letter more credible, and ultimately increase its effectiveness in helping a potential employer or admissions officer assess an applicant. Including strengths and weaknesses in a recommendation letter can be a delicate process, as you don’t want to unduly damage a person’s prospects. In this blog post, we will discuss the best ways to include both strengths and weaknesses in a recommendation letter. We will focus on providing useful tips and advice to help you craft an effective and balanced recommendation letter.

How to write a letter of recommendation that includes strengths and weaknesses
  1. Gather your resources. …
  2. Discuss the letter with the applicant. …
  3. Determine the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. …
  4. Frame your examples. …
  5. Create an objective assessment. …
  6. Compose the letter. …
  7. Include your qualifications.

Elements of a strong recommendation letter

You don’t want it to appear that you aren’t genuinely endorsing the person, after all!

Writing a recommendation letter is complicated. Highlighting a worker’s advantages and disadvantages in a recommendation letter is even more crucial.

You also have to give examples. If a candidate has excellent communication skills, for instance, you might highlight how that talent has benefited the institution or organization.

When it comes to strengths, you can say a lot. You cannot, however, just state that the person for whom you are writing a recommendation is proficient in a certain field.

According to experts, listing an applicant’s flaws in a recommendation letter is not the best thing you can do.

Address Weaknesses With Solutions in Progress

The applicant’s flaws that they have already started to address are the best ones for a reference to highlight. Inadequate training in a particular skill or a poor performance on a professional test are examples of these kinds of weaknesses. Showing the applicant’s initiative to address these weaknesses is a good strategy for a recommendation letter if the applicant is already registered in classes to receive the necessary training or has registered to retake the test.

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Instead of citing flaws, elaborate on how the applicant would develop in the role. Say, for illustration, that you are composing a letter of recommendation for J, a recent graduate. Doe. Rather than saying:

Write something like:

Or, something along these lines that are true.

Also, this answer is US specific. In the US, a letter for a positive letter would almost never contain a critical statement. I have hear that other countries are different.

Say no if you don’t think you can write a letter well. Say “no” if you feel the need to mention a weakness.

Your letter should be positive. Don’t recommend someone if you can’t endorse them fully due to a weakness in that area. I very rarely see any negatives in recommendation letters.

When I do, I consider whether the applicant or student is aware of what one of their references is saying about them and whether they might choose a better letter writer if they were aware. It is more likely to raise questions about you than the candidate for the reader.

Another distinction between a weakness and room for improvement You can phrase room to grow positively. “This person is ready to lead a lab/write more grants/etc. It’s encouraging that they are willing to “step up to the plate,” so to speak, especially if this is the next logical step in their career.

The is primarily an American based answer.

Above all, your letter of recommendation should paint a truthful picture of the applicant. However, you are aware that other candidates will also receive recommendation letters from people who might be reluctant to point out flaws, so you don’t want to exaggerate. Finding the right balance is challenging, not whether to include weaknesses or not.

This means that if you are asked to write a recommendation letter for a good student who occasionally errs or has a minor disadvantage, don’t bring it up. On the other hand, it would be pointless to write a stellar letter if this student never adhered to deadlines and required things to be repeated four times. What will you write for students who are truly outstanding if you give that student top recommendations?

Make a mental ranking of this student in comparison to other students as a good exercise (also supported by science; see, for example, Kahneman: “Noise”), and then reflect that ranking in your letter. You could write that this student is in the top 20%, explain why, and also specify what it would take for them to be in the top 10%. Additionally, it doesn’t appear as though you are “slamming” a specific student.

When asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student, I typically inform the student that I am unable to provide a strong recommendation and advise them to find someone else who can do so. They usually appreciate the honesty.

In a statement of purpose, you shouldn’t discuss your weaknesses, according to several universities I’ve seen. I think the same rule applies to recommendation letters. Don’t write a recommendation letter for someone if the flaw you want to discuss is significant and you don’t feel comfortable doing so for that reason. If it’s not that critical, don’t mention the flaw and just avoid attributing blame for it to the person if you still want to recommend them. For instance, if someone is extremely talented and diligent but struggles to work well in a group, don’t mention this and instead focus solely on their talent, etc.

Everybody has a flaw, but since no one else is writing about others’ flaws, you writing about that flaw makes the person look bad. In fact, the letter’s title is “Recommendation Letter,” which I suppose means you should explain why you recommend this person to us rather than why you don’t, so focus on all of their positive traits and leave out any negative ones.

TL;DR: Always inquire about the region you are sending your recommendation letter to’s format and content requirements. Careers can depend on it.

According to what I’ve heard, there are significant regional differences in the expectations for reference letters, and unintentional “clashes” between cultures can have a big impact on academic careers. The example I heard (from a dependable source) involved the distinction between letters in STEM in the US and the UK. Evidently, it has become customary in the UK for letters to discuss a candidate’s shortcomings. However, in the US, anything other than an extremely positive letter is typically seen as a red flag. Any criticism of a weakness would eliminate any chance of landing a job, and the candidate (should they learn of the criticism) might consider it to be backstabbing.

As a result, there may have been serious issues in the past with getting recommendations from professors in the UK for jobs in the US and vice versa. However, thanks to the extensive cultural exchange that has taken place over the years, professors in the US and the UK now have a better understanding of cultural norms and practices in the two countries, which means that fewer issues arise (although it is by no means perfect).

Given that there is already a strong cultural connection between the two nations involved, it is crucial to always inquire about the region-specific requirements for reference letters if you are unsure. I applaud you for asking about what to do on this site and further advise that, before sending any letters, you get in touch with people who are aware of the regional expectations.

Generally speaking, a recommendation letter should be encouraging, highlight the student’s best qualities, and explain how the student can improve and benefit from the new challenge they are applying for. But you should also always tell the truth because lying on an application could result in your student being hired for a position that is beyond their qualifications. It might be preferable to decline the letter if you really feel you cannot write a very positive letter for someone than to harm the student’s chances of taking the next step in their career.

The DICAS dietetic internship program application requires your references to address your weaknesses. What should you add? Read below!

This week, I was asked an excellent question regarding assisting your reference in responding to the DICAS application’s inquiry regarding flaws or potential areas for development. I’ll give you some advice below, but generally speaking, you should adopt the same strategy as in your personal statement, which is to concentrate on how you are CURRENTLY improving something and present it in a positive light. More on that in a minute….

Be sure to first read my article, The Fool-Proof Ways to Choose Your Best References!

Comment on the areas where the applicant can improve in the second question. It’s definitely more difficult to address this, so I’ll do it now.


How do you mention a weakness in a letter of recommendation?

Mentioning weaknesses in the recommendation letter : The B-School Application
  1. Discuss the area of weakness, demonstrate how you are working to address it, and mention that while your improvement is impressive, more work needs to be done. – .
  2. Showing self-awareness on your weaknesses is important.

What should I say for weaknesses in a reference?

Examples of weaknesses related to your work ethic might include:
  • Leaving projects unfinished.
  • Providing too much detail in reports.
  • Shifting from one project to another (multitasking)
  • Taking credit for group projects.
  • Taking on too many projects at once.
  • Taking on too much responsibility.
  • Being too detail-oriented.

How do you write a strength letter of recommendation?

In a letter of recommendation, it’s a good idea to emphasize your leadership abilities, commitment, ability to concentrate, and speed of learning. A strong letter of recommendation strikes a balance between describing the applicant’s prior work and how it relates to their suitability for the position.

What should I put for areas of strength on a reference?

According to their professional references, the top areas where job candidates could improve are confidence, communication, knowledge, and time management.

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