Ask Matt: Do recommendation letters really set me apart?

Star Tribune
Originally published here –

Dear Matt: In addition to my résumé and cover letter, I’ve been sending letters of recommendation from past employers and colleagues. Another thing I’ve been doing is emailing my performance reviews to employers as well as adding quotes from my LinkedIn profile to my résumé. Do these help set me apart, or do employers find these wishy-washy?

Matt says: I often hear from job seekers whose sole goal is to provide the employer with as much information as possible. More information can be helpful, but it needs to be presented at the right time and the right way.

“As recruiters, we tend to focus more on the résumé than letters of recommendation or cover letters,” says Jenny Holte, lead recruiter with Twin Cities-based CorTalent (, a people management and consulting services firm. “I think letters of recommendation are great things to bring to an in-person interview with a hiring manager. When speaking about your past roles you can mention that you’ve received letters of recommendation from your previous employers. Let them know you have brought those letters with you and ask if the hiring manager would like to see them.”

Holte has seen individuals weave recommendations from LinkedIn or quotes from other sources into their résumé in such a way that it feels a part of the résumé, and she likes that. “I do think it’s a nice touch that can set some candidates apart from others, but it must be done well,” says Holte.

The key is to pick out one or two quotes — no more — that are specific and unique. Blend the recommendations into the résumé somewhere on the first page if you can (such as in a bulleted profile section), so that the reader has to look at them to get to the end. List the person’s name, title and company so there is a point of reference; individuals who managed you directly are best.

As for performance reviews, Holte does not recommend including them in the application process. Bring them with you to an interview and if appropriate, mention that you have copies if they would like to see them. However, overall, this method does not hold a lot of value.

No matter what add-ons you send, the key to any success in the job search is highlighting how your background fits that specific employers’ needs.

“Providing a clear picture of your capabilities, accomplishments and then adding an endorsement really gives the recruiter an idea of what it would be like to worth with you,” said Holte.

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