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If you are a woman, especially. Women are more likely to be described as "cooperative, affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic, nurturing, tactful or agreeable", and it turns out the last thing you want is for someone to sing those praises for you in a recommendation letter. Why? Well researchers at Rice University did a study in which they took the personal pronouns out of recommendation letters. The readers couldn't tell if the applicant was male or female. They controlled for all the concrete academic reasons that a person might be selected, or not, in a medical and academic field, meaning that the letters were sorted as to be equal in that regard. Then they asked "who would you hire"? The answer was that the people hired would be the ones described as "confident, aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, daring, outspoken and intellectual". And those words of course were more often applied to men. If you apply those words to a woman, you're practically calling her a bitch in our culture. So women can't win. No big news there, but the lesson is clear. We can influence our reference letter writers to use a different paradigm in speaking about us, and get hired more.

SOURCE
http://www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/news2010-11-09-letters.shtml

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