This is quite a common occurrence: Writing a proper LOR can take hours to complete, so in a profession like medicine where every second counts, its no surprise that so many residency candidates find themselves nearly begging physicians [some to the point of harassment] to get their LORs. This tense situation is most common among international medical students (IMS), as well as U.S. and international medical graduates (USMG & IMG), and further escalated if/when:
- An LOR writer genuinely wants to do good by you, but fails to see that he/she is overwhelmed with daily tasks, has poor time-management skills, and is unable to say “No”;
- An LOR writer feels like he/she has already done a lot for this individual, and has not been compensated for his/her good-will gestures (as is often seen with free or uninsured externships);
- The residency candidate is not strong enough for their recommendation, resulting in cryptically written LORs (ex. a 1st paragraph opener of “I was asked to recommend” instead of “I am honored to recommend” is commonly a red-flag that the LOR was written under pressure, and for the reader to be aware);
- They waive their rights to see an LOR, forcing them to have to go back to the LOR writer for updates or when applying to off-cycle residency slots;
- They ask for updates to be made to their LORs;
- Asks for an LOR between July and October (around the start of Match);
- An LOR writer is approached months and even years after a clinical block for an LOR.
Writing an LOR on your own can be risky: LOR’s are one of the leading ways a program will evaluate your candidacy, and any mistakes will be highly scrutinized.
Dr. Pedram Mizani, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, AmeriClerkships
Best practices: Be observant and learn how adjust to the way your prospective LOR writer operates his/her daily medical practice and tackles each day.Physicians all do mean well, but they are pulled in so many directions by so many people that they often find themselves running constantly behind. Compounded with the “surprise filled nature of medicine”, and we end up with physicians who often follow through with non-patient matters, but not always. IF he/she:
- Is mostly on-time, follows through with all non-patient matters, and is not afraid of saying “No”: If they agree to write you an LOR, then you can probably trust that it will be written on time and it will serve you well, so long as you follow the AmeriClerkships recommended steps of how to ask for an LOR;
- Often runs late, faces daily time-management challenges, rarely says “No”: Unfortunately, these individual traits are quite common among physicians. They may agree to write an LOR, but it may take them 6-12 months to follow through (and some never do). To be safe, you should assume that this is the norm, and gauge if the write truly wants to recommend you by asking the write the following (you be the judge of best fit for your writer’s personality):
- I must submit my application by September 15th, so must upload my LORs by August 15th. Are you comfortable with these deadlines?
- Is there anything I can provide to help save you time? Such as: