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Letter Of Recommendation

The job market is very competitive these days. For most professional jobs there are several hundred applicants that send in their resumes. I am in charge of hiring staff for a large mental health center. I am finding that it is more and more difficult to weed out people through the paper work they turn in. Most applicants have done a good job of researching writing a good resume and cover letter. I do find that many times people do appear much better on paper than they do in person.

Recently I went through the process of hiring two therapists for our group. Their job duties included individual therapy sessions as well as co-facilitating a group for people with anger issues. I had narrowed down the applicants to ten that I would interview face to face. One applicant was granted an interview based on a letter of recommendation that was written by a former employer. I had been very impressed with the statements that were made. The letter of recommendation proclaimed that the applicant was skilled in working with people and also in documenting patient progress. When the applicant arrived I was very surprised that this was the same person mentioned in the letter of recommendation. They were not able to maintain eye contact and their answers did not fit the questions asked. The person stood up for part of the interview and paced as they answered the question. They made me very ill at ease and I knew that they would not be able to interact well with the clients we served. I thanked the person for taking the time to interview and moved on to other applicants.

At the end of the day I had found one person, but was not satisfied with any of the other interviewees so I went back to the stack of resumes. As I was going through them I noticed that another person had the same letter of recommendation as the applicant I interviewed earlier. I called the person that had written the letter of recommendation for both people. The letter had come from a large mental health center that is connected to a teaching hospital that has a psychiatric unit. Both applicants had completed a nine month internship with the program. The person that supplied the letter of recommendation was unable to recall either applicant. He stated that he has three letters that he posts on a website and he lets the interns pick the one that best match their skills and they fill in their personal data. Since hearing of this practice I no longer consider such letters when deciding on who will get an interview. I rely on questionnaires that I supply or telephone contacts with references.

 

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