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I have been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student I formerly supervised at my place of employment (at university, but as a staff member). The graduate programs the student is applying to ask for a letter from an employer and I feel that I can write him a strong letter. However, the student is applying for MPH, a field I know little about. Is it important to directly connect my experience with the student to his intended field, or is it adequate to just state that I think the student can succeed in the field?

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In the letter, while you describe his duties, you could explain (and provide specific examples if possible) about skills that the former employee has developed and demonstrated that are transferable across all fields, including:

  • analytical skills

  • writing skills

  • interpersonal/collaborative skills

  • work ethic

  • initiative

Also consider if the person has written any published work, have they the potential for innovative research that could be a source of grant funding.

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    After talking with several hiring managers, I get the impression that many of them are more interested in factors such as work ethic and initiative then they are about background knowledge in the field. Not to oversimplify the problem, but domain expertise can be learned on the job more easily than a good attitude. When I've had a chance to hire and was asked about qualifications, I've sometimes answered by saying I have only two: must be (a) willing to work hard, and (b) be committed to excellence. Give me those two things and I'll be fine; leave them out and I'll be sorry I hired the person. – J.R. Oct 20 '14 at 9:54

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