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Letters of Recommendation for a Postdoctoral Position

Updated on July 6, 2013

When you apply for a postdoctoral position, you should provide at least two-three letters of recommendation. Usually project advisors and faculty members who are familiar with the candidates work are eligible to write reference letters for postdoctoral fellows. The recommendation letter is a statement of support for the postdoctoral candidate.

The length of the letter will not be more than one to one and half pages and provides data about your accomplishments in the field. It helps the employer to make a decision to hire the candidate by weighing the strengths and weakness of a candidate in the related field.

Your reference letter will be outstanding if your project advisor/referee clearly explains your contribution to respective projects. This should include the title of the project; your unique role in performing the experiments; how your background and skills added in investigating the aims of the project, and how your data collection and analysis facilitated to obtain any funded projects. This hub helps you how to collect good recommendation letters from your mentors for a postdoctoral position.

Information that you should provide to your referee

If someone is willing to be your academic referee, then give him/her your full C.V. and a brief note about your accomplishments in the field. Professors will not spend their time in researching your educational background and accomplishments to write about you. It is your responsibility to provide details about your academic activities to the referee.

During a tenure in any particular lab, you might have learnt several methods/procedures, contributed to a number of projects and might have participated in various departmental activities, all of which may not have been followed by your mentor/referee. Therefore, it is your job to inform all those activities to your referee. The referee will go through all those details and will verify, acknowledges before sending it as a confidential letter to your future employer upon request. Usually it will be about your expertise in the field, techniques that you are familiar with, teaching experience and personality.

Technical expertise

One of the important aspects of the reference letter is to state about your technical expertise. Any kind of research adopts a specific set of techniques. Employers will be looking for evidence concerning your technical competence. Therefore, make sure with your supervisor to incorporate the techniques that you have mastered in his/her lab. If you have developed any novel methods or contributed in troubleshooting any techniques, bring that to his/her notice.

Teaching experience

Many employers desire their postdoc to have some teaching or training experience. If you have taught any courses during your Ph.D. work or as a postdoc inform about it to your supervisor. Provide a list of courses that you taught and the feedback you got from students. This will help the referee to write specifically about your teaching experience.

It is common in academia to teach and train students and visiting fellows in laboratory techniques. If you have trained your juniors or associates in any procedures inform about it to your referee.


Employer first looks at your publication record. Your publications will offer proof about your experience in any particular area of research and the quality of research. Typically, research papers are multi-authored. If you have co-authored any publications than your supervisor/referee should verify your contribution to that publication. The letter should point out your role (s) in designing the experiments, performing the experiments, analyzing the data, and in writing and publishing.

Additionally, your supervisor can also write about the abstracts that you have submitted for meetings and regarding any unpublished preliminary data collected by you and its significance.


Furthermore, the letter will also tell about your personality. The mentor/referee will write in brief about your leadership qualities, motivation and commitment to work. Additionally, it incorporates your general character and social behaviors in the lab/department. The letter also explains your ability to work independently as well as a team member. Therefore, try to maintain a good relationship with your supervisor and with other members of your group.

In summary, inform your referee about the position you are applying for. Give details about your academic accomplishments and request to write the recommendation letter for you. And finally to send it at the earliest to your future employer.

Good Luck!

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Below hubs may be useful for postdoctoral fellows and scientists.


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      Researcher 9 months ago

      extremely helpful and precise. No need to search the internet for more...

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      Selvam 4 years ago

      Useful information. Thanks a lot!

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      arash 5 years ago

      it was useful tnx