May 14, 2012

Highlight These 4 Things in Your Reference Letter

The aspects Americans and Indians find important in a reference letter may be similar, but there are a few key differences to keep in mind. 

1. Individual achievements matter  
American recruiters and managers want to bring people on board that can talk about their personal achievements. From some Indian viewpoints, this is seen as boasting, which is a different mindset altogether. In the U.S., it is important to set yourself apart from the rest. You are not like everyone else from your country, college, society, or family group. You are judged based on ‘you’ and your unique accomplishments, strengths, and challenges. Keep a file of your personal achievements and refer to the appropriate ones based on the application in hand.

2. Quantify, quantify, quantify   
When writing your personal achievements, quantify them in the best way possible using whole numbers or percentages. How did your achievement increase profits, client loyalty, save money and time, or bring about a positive change? Can you quantify it?

3. Problem solving or innovation on the job
How did you achieve your personal achievements? Have you taken a non-traditional approach or did you always follow the book? Do you follow the book sometimes and innovate otherwise? What in your personal style helps you to achieve your unique goals that are different from others? American managers and college representatives want to know if, when faced with a problem, you can think on your feet. You may refer to tried and tested methods which have not worked and led you to create and apply new solutions.

4. Rank or Status doesn’t always matter
Recommendations from those with status alone are meaningless to an American boss or recruiter. Principals, deans, Head of Departments (HODs), CEOs, bosses, and others of high status may have impressive titles, but an American will want to know, “Has this person worked directly with the applicant? How can this person attest to the applicant’s claims in the resume?” In the eyes of an American, it is better to get references from people of various ranks and titles who have worked directly with you, mentored or guided you, or who can personally attest to the good work and accomplishments noted on your resume.

When asking for a reference letter for a job, provide your referrer a copy of the job description and your resume. The key here is that whatever your reference writes about you should also be reflected in some way in your application materials.

Author, Jennifer Kumar provides coaching to Indians who have career aspirations that include interacting with Americans or living in the US. Learn more about online cultural preparation classes or in-person offerings in Kochi. Contact her here

Chris Sufi is a freelance editor who lives in Bangalore, India. Her personal interest in language and communication inspires her to contribute through proofreading and editing. She can be contacted here.  

Related Posts:
How to Identify and Talk About Accomplishments

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