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J Pharm Pract. 2018 Apr;31(2):145-149. doi: 10.1177/0897190017702305. Epub 2017 Apr 5.

Analysis of PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident Candidate Letters of Recommendation at an Academically Affiliated Residency Program.

Author information

1 Department of Pharmacy Practice, Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, IL, USA.
2 HIV/ID Clinical Pharmacist, Department of Pharmacy, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL, USA.
3 Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy, Downers Grove, IL, USA.



Letters of recommendation (LORs) are a critical component for differentiating among similarly qualified pharmacy residency candidates. These letters contain information that is difficult to ascertain from curricula vitae and pharmacy school transcripts. LOR writers may use any words or phrases appropriate for each candidate as there is no set framework for LORs.


The objective of this study was to characterize descriptive themes in postgraduate year 1 (PGY-1) pharmacy residency candidates' LORs and to examine which themes of PGY-1 pharmacy residency candidates' LORs are predictive of an interview invitation at an academically affiliated residency program.


LORs for candidates from the Pharmacy Online Residency Centralized Application System (PhORCAS) from 2013 and 2014 for the Midwestern University PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency were analyzed. LOR characteristics and descriptive themes were collected. All scores for candidate characteristics and overall PhORCAS recommendation were also recorded.


A total of 351 LORs for 111 candidates from 2013 (n = 47 candidates) and 2014 (n = 64 candidates) were analyzed; 36 (32.4%) total candidates were offered an interview. Themes that were identified as predictors of an interview included a higher median (interquartile range) number of standout words (3 words [1.3-4] vs 3.8 words [2.5-5.5], P < .01) and teaching references (3.7 words [2.7-6] vs 5.7 words [3.7-7.8], P = .01).


For this residency program, standout words and teaching references were important when offering interviews.


interview; letter of recommendation; pharmacy residency

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