Guidelines for writing letters of recommedation
We encourage our volunteers to help and support one another. Since we have received many inquiries about letters of recommendation, we put together a set of guidelines to help you in writing them for your fellow translators based on your experience of working with each other in the Open Translation Project.
What is a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is a written reference formated to offer information about a persons character and work ethic, as well as their qualities, characteristics, skills and capabilities, as relevant to a specific prospective job or position. Letters of recommendation are typically related to employment, admissions to institutions of higher education or scholarship eligibility.
Tips and guidelines
What to do
- Feel free to decline. If you do not feel you know the person enough, if you believe that their contribution has been too poor to recommend them, or you simply do not feel like doing it, just say “no.” Try to be polite and not hurt the other person’s feelings. Also, feel free to decline if they ask you to write it in a language you are not comfortable with, and suggest one that you prefer (they can always have the letter translated later).
- Include a short description of your position (reviewer, Language Coordinator) and how you worked with the person that you are writing this for in the OTP (for example, we encourage more communication between translators and reviewers than it is normally the case in the translation industry, which can be worth mentioning).
- Online, you can find many useful guides on how to structure a letter of recommendation. Some general tips: think about the purpose of the letter (what position are you recommending the person for?), be specific about their skills and qualifications (don’t just say “they are a good translator,” but explain how you know that), don’t be too brief (try to dig for some things that set that person apart from many other volunteers), do not exaggerate (be like a robot - only talk about things that you have evidence for - you can add your own judgment and opinion, of course).
- You can write about more than just language skills! Even though you have not worked together physically, you can still often tell a lot about the other person’s conduct from your online collaboration. Are they good at working together to achieve a better solution? Give useful and detailed feedback? Good with deadlines? Learn new tools quickly and help mentor other volunteers? Do not exaggerate, but try to search for qualities that you really have seen while working with that person in the OTP.
- Ask the person you are writing this for about what they would like to see in the recommendation letter. You do not have to comply with every suggestion, but this feedback may make it easier for you to decide what to write about.
- Depending on what would be useful for the specific position and what is usually expected in your country, you can consider including specific information about your colleague’s history in the OTP: the date they joined and the date you first worked together, the number of translations/transcripts/reviews that they created, a link to the translations section of their TED.com profile. You can ask the person who asked you for the letter of recommendation to provide you with all of that information.
- Do not hesitate to include information not directly related to the OTP. If the person you are writing this for is a TEDx organizer and they invited you to participate in their event, you can share your amazement at how wonderful their leadership skills are based on what you witnessed.
- Make yourself available for verification. Potential employers may wish to confirm the origin of the letter of recommendation, so we advise you to make your email and/or telephone number available for crosscheck. This may not be necessary in every case - if unsure, ask the person you are writing it for about what they prefer.
What to avoid
Do not phrase your letter in a way that would suggest that either you or the person you are writing it for have been employed by TED or the OTP. Explain that you have both contributed in a volunteer position.
Sample / template
Ιf you need more help writing your letter of recommendation, please refer to the sample/template we have prepared especially for the needs of the Open Translation Project. Remember that you are free to adapt this template based on the aim of the letter of recommendation and the conventions of the language you will be writing in.