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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Sep;143(3):327-30. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2010.03.017.

Improving the letter of recommendation.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.


The selection of applicants to otolaryngology training programs is a challenging task. Applicants and their evaluators rely on objective and subjective data to facilitate the selection process. Unfortunately, data are often less helpful than either side assumes, suffering from poor validity and reliability in predicting future performance. The traditional resume-based letter of recommendation bears some responsibility in this. It is often a lengthy reiteration of already available objective data and contains nonstandardized, superlative evaluations of personal attributes. As a result, many letters are similar, describing "excellent" candidates who have done well on previous examinations and clerkships. Research has indicated improved reliability and satisfaction as well as decreased time expenditure using standardized letters of recommendation. These letters demonstrate how basic, easy-to-implement improvements can create letters that provide accurate information, separate applicants, and improve the selection process. Consideration should be given to adopting these improvements at the program director and/or educational committee level.

Copyright 2010 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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