Pierre Desrochers

Reference Letter

I am always willing to write recommendations letters for good students, but there are a few things you must first ask yourself. The most important is whether or not a letter from a human geographer will count for something in the graduate or professional school programs you are applying for. In my experience, the only way to know is to ask the people who run these programs. I have been told that a letter from me was OK in some medical schools, but not acceptable for a political science program (the political scientists there didn’t think highly of geographers it seems). Please do your homework before contacting me.

Once you’ve established that a letter from me can be helpful, follow these steps:

1) contact me by e-mail in order to set up an appointment. Attach your CV and a copy of your report card in your e-mail and make sure that I get the (graded) copies of the term papers you wrote for my courses before we meet (drop them in my departmental mailbox). My personal policy is to talk to you face-to-face for at least 15 minutes in order to assess how serious and realistic you are about the job or academic program you are applying for. If I think you have unrealistic expectations, expect me to tell you so and to suggest that you contact someone else.

2) Jodi Glickman Brown on her HBR blog summarizes the best way to get a good recommendation letter (please read her two entries here and here). In short, help me help you by: 1) highlighting your qualifications, 2) providing a template, and 3) offering a ?no questions asked? policy.

As I see it, the key to a good letter is that it must go beyond what your future employers or academic selection committee will find out by themselves when they read your CV and cover letter. Obviously, standing out in class and turning in very good work will go a long way when push comes to shove and I have to tell others how smart, reliable, creative and hard working you are.