Is Writing Your Own Letter of Recommendation Ethical?

Is it ethical to write your own letter of recommendation? This question has arisen frequently, often due to circumstances like time-pressured supervisors or distant contacts. This guide aims to clarify this issue based on the available information.

The Ethics Concern

Writing your own letter of recommendation might raise ethical concerns. By convention, this kind of letter should be a genuine and unbiased appraisal of your skills and abilities from a third party. When you write your own letter, there’s a risk of being perceived as disingenuous or biased.

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Potential Consequences

Taking this route could potentially undermine your credibility. Admissions committees, employers, and other entities that require these letters often have experienced members. They can sometimes identify when a candidate has written their own letter.

This can lead to your application being questioned, perhaps even resulting in your being waitlisted or rejected.

Practical Implications

Apart from ethical aspects, writing your own letter of recommendation has other implications. These may include:

  • Your letters sounding similar, especially when originating from the same workplace.
  • The voice and tone of your letter matching that of your other application essays, which could potentially raise suspicion.
  • Your letter may unintentionally reveal nonprofessional or irrelevant information that only you might know, again leading to suspicion.
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Better Alternatives

If asked to draft your own letter of recommendation, consider these alternatives:

  • Politely decline if you feel uncomfortable and ask someone else who knows you and your work better.
  • Provide your recommender with a list of accomplishments or strengths they can use as a basis to write the letter. This helps them and ensures your key points are mentioned.
  • Communicate clearly with your recommender, providing them with relevant information such as the destination, deadlines, and key points to highlight.

Guidelines if You Decide to Write

If you do decide to write your own letter, bear in mind:

  • Maintain professionalism and avoid overselling your accomplishments. Being genuine is important.
  • Provide specific, concrete examples of your achievements and how these have benefited your workplace or academic institution.
  • Ensure the tone and writing style differ from your own personal essays or application statements.
  • Keep the focus on your professional attributes and achievements, leaving out nonrelevant personal details.
  • Review thoroughly, ensuring grammatical correctness and avoiding mistakes.
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In conclusion, writing your own letter of recommendation is not generally recommended due to both ethical and practical considerations. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to write, be mindful of the tips provided. Be truthful, provide concrete examples, and maintain professionalism to ensure your recommendation letter is credible and effective in supporting your application.

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