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The Importance of Endorsement Letters

Endorsement letters are critically important in the evaluation process. The following from the APA Manual for Nominating Fellows applies also to SIOP:

The (APA) Committee then, and today, found meaningful evaluations by sponsors or endorsers to be the most helpful type of evidence in the evaluation of Nominees. The adequacy of the endorsement has been of critical value in evaluating those who are advancing psychology as a profession. What was true in the 1950s is equally true at present.

Many, perhaps most, decisions are substantially influenced by the endorsement letters. The Fellowship Committee considers carefully not only the text of an endorsement letter, but also the stature of the Endorser and the Endorser’s status relative to the Nominee.

Endorsements are always important, but they may be especially important when practice, teaching, service, or administration is a primary area of contribution and research publications are not the primary evidences of the impact of the nominee. When publications and other sources of information are limited, there should be a more diverse set of endorsements that document the outstanding contributions of the nominee.

Detailed evidence from Endorsers as to the exact nature of the nominee’s contributions is critical. It is not enough to know that the nominee was instrumental in establishing the “X” Center for Excellence in “Y” city. Instead, Endorsers should describe what role the Nominee played in establishing the Center of Excellence and how the Nominee’s role resulted in a significant contribution to the field of I-O psychology.

General Guidelines for Strong Letters of Endorsement

The entire Fellow nomination process is designed to communicate to the Fellowship Committee how the Nominee has contributed to I-O psychology. Strong endorsement letters convincingly demonstrate the impact that the Nominee has had and provide evidence that the contributions have indeed occurred.

A set of Endorsers who are all from the Nominee’s immediate organization, department or agency, or who are colleagues with whom the Nominee has worked closely, is not usually convincing and suggests limited impact. A more diverse set of endorsers is likely to be more impressive; letters may be written by other psychologists, executives, or individuals in the SIOP constituency most familiar with the contributions that has had such impact. Family members and relatives of the Nominee (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings, and spouse) do not ordinarily serve as Endorsers or Nominators, and such endorsements are not generally seen as objective.

An example of an endorsement that requires additional elaboration is “Dr. X is obviously qualified; he should have been a Fellow years ago,” or “I was surprised that Dr. Y was not already a Fellow.” Although eminent Fellows sometimes provide such endorsements, they do not help the Nominee or the Committee unless they back up their statements. Some Endorsers state that the Nominee has had impact without presenting meaningful evidence for the statement. Such an assertion is ineffective without evidence.

For an endorsement to be effective, it must specify how the contribution has impacted I-O psychology and what the Nominee’s role has been. That “Book X appears in every business library” may be notable, but the endorsement should specify what impact that has had on I-O psychology and its mission. That “Article Y has been cited 200 times” is not in itself convincing; has the article simply been cited, or has its content impacted I-O psychology? That “The Nominee had a major role in Project M” is not in itself convincing; what was the Nominee’s role and how has the work made impact?

Tips for Strong Letters of Endorsement for Practitioners

It is important to recognize that SIOP Fellowship is an honor that is bestowed on individuals for outstanding contributions to the field of I-O psychology. The individual’s contributions must have had meaningful and sustained impact on our discipline. Many individuals will have successful careers in psychology or have made significant contributions to their employers. The contributions of SIOP Fellows go beyond fulfilling one’s duties or impacting a given employer but rather influence the entire field of I-O psychology.

As you craft the letter of endorsement for your nominee, understand that the SIOP Fellowship Committee will be reading endorsement letters for many nominees who have had impressive careers. It is important that you communicate clearly and concretely the contributions of your nominee and present strong evidence that the nominee played a key role in the accomplishment of those contributions. Your opinions are not nearly as convincing as direct evidence of stellar contributions.

Structure of Your Endorsement Letter

  • The opening paragraph should strongly and clearly endorse the nominee. Provide a few summary statements of the major contributions of your nominee.
  • Specify your relationship with the nominee. That is, how do you know the nominee (e.g., your manager, your direct report, a colleague, someone you have worked with on various projects)?
  • Include four to six paragraphs detailing the specific contributions the nominee has made to the field of I-O psychology.
    • Provide clear examples of those contributions and how they have impacted the field and their professional colleagues.
    • Again, it is vital to focus on how the nominee contributed to the field of I-O psychology, not only to the success of their organization. What specific interventions, programs, assessments, tests, activities, intellectual property, and so on did the nominee develop and share with the wider professional community?
    • Please note that detailing the nominee’s rise up the organization’s ranks (e.g., from internal consultant to director to vice president) says little about his or her contributions to the field, and reviewers cannot read between the lines and fill in the blanks.
    • Highlight how this individual contributed to or served SIOP (e.g., committee membership, program reviewer, workshop facilitator, conference presenter, etc.).
    • Although the nominee might not have published in scholarly journals, highlight contributions to trade associations, important whitepapers and technical reports, interviews in business outlets (e.g., Business Week, Fortune, Wall Street Journal), in addition to publications in practitioner or professional journals. Identify whether the nominee has written or edited a widely read book in human resources or talent management.
    • Be specific and concrete. When possible, include metrics, facts, or other objective data to support your statements. They are much more persuasive than your opinions, beliefs, or personal views.
  • The closing paragraph should summarize the key reason(s) why this nominee merits consideration to become a SIOP Fellow.

Additional Points to Consider

  • Your endorsement should be clear and direct. It should be based on facts rather than opinions and specific contributions rather than general accolades.
  • Remember all nominees will have strong backgrounds, and most will possess glowing letters of endorsement. Why does your nominee merit Fellow status? The more cogent story you can tell about this individual, the higher the likelihood the Committee will understand why you believe he or she should become a Fellow.
  • Although you should not repeat what is stated in the nominee’s vita, highlight specific examples and documented contributions to the field of I-O psychology this individual has made.
  • Consider incorporating select testimonials from clients, senior-level managers, the CEO, and so forth who were impacted by the nominee’s work. A brief quote to underscore a point you are making can add important emphasis to a statement.
  • Be sure to highlight any efforts the nominee has made to promote the status, image, and value of I-O psychology in the business world.
  • Be sensitive to how your letter of endorsement might sound to the reader. Ask a colleague in your office to review the letter and provide feedback and suggestions before submitting it.

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