Apr 25, 2022

New Letters of Recommendation

Some correspondence you might have missed along the way

By Ed Goldman

In this era of “likes,” “shares” and excessive customer surveys, I’m surprised that lovers splitting up or nations no longer at war don’t turn around and ask each other for letters of recommendation.

All of us at some time have asked for a letter of recommendation or been asked to write one. While it’s not always as absurd as the examples I gave to kick off today’s column, it can still be pretty damn awkward, especially if:

a. The requester did a lousy job for you.

b. You can’t quite remember who the requester even is, since he or she left your employ or finished your contracting gig two years prior to the request.

Edgy Cartoon

“…and where do you see yourself one eternity from now?” 

There are ways to deal with both these dilemmas: 

(a) Give the lousy worker a glowing recommendation if he or she is trying to get a job with a person or company you detest (HR specialists will caution you against doing this, of course, so my advice is to not consult them); 

(b) Ask the requesters who did work for you two years ago to write an essay on what they actually did. It’s possible they don’t recall, either—or, more likely, are too lazy to write the essay. I mean, look how long it took them to ask for the letter.

I happened to come across some problematic letters of recommendation that have been written throughout history and am sharing some excerpts with you in the hope they’ll prove helpful. This column aims to be fun and educational, since school, museum tours, PowerPoint lectures, and the Broadway show “Hamilton” really aren’t.

1. To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of recommendation for Iago, my longtime ensign, whose time here in Venice included his planting a handkerchief to make it look like one of my men was fooling around with my wife, Desdemona.

Since I’m the only Black around here, you can imagine how much of an outsider I felt I was already—and how it intensified when I suspected that some honky had been honking my wife’s hanky.

That said, Iago isn’t really a bad guy and I think he’ll make an excellent addition to your organization, which I believe you’re about to brand the Cosa Nostra. He’ll fit right in. Just keep him away from haberdashery stores.



The Moor of Venice

2. To Whom It May Concern:

As a prehistoric creature brought back to awesome life because of nuclear testing just outside Japan, I think I’m well qualified to recommend the services of my good friend Rodan, Giant Monster of the Sky, another nuclear byproduct.

My Bro’ Ro’ is a flying pterodactyl whose wings can stretch across a few blocks of Tokyo and whose centrifugal force when flying overhead can blow military transports—jeeps, tanks, amphibious vehicles, what-have-you—right off the road.

Your request-for-qualifications indicated you may have a need for someone of Rodan’s talents to help you sweep into the sea some of the debris left by my own recent familiarization tour of your city, during which I may have partially dined on some of your more significant high-rises, monuments and movie extras. 

Anyway, if you want to reach him, just IM me—any hour but dinnertime. LOL!




King of the Monsters

3. To Whom It May Concern:

This is to recommend the character of my new-ish friend, Edward (“Mister”) Hyde, with whom I share a great deal in common—namely, my lavish home, eternally damned soul and underpants.

Ed’s a good guy to have around if you have a recalcitrant staff of waiters you’re trying to whip, pummel and sword-cane into shape. He’s especially persuasive with bar wenches who may benefit socially from his admittedly tough love but who can’t afford the services of Dr. Henry Higgins, a phonetics professor here in London whose side hustle seems to consist of turning flower saleswomen into faux duchesses.

I’d love to send you a heliograph of Ed and me together but unfortunately, we have a tough time coordinating our schedules—even though, at the end of the day we sometimes compare notes and realize we’ve been in the exact same place at the exact same time.

Well, that’s all for now. Gotta split. 

Yours, Mine and Ours, 

Henry (“Doctor”) Jekyll

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).