How Healthy Is the Applicant?

I’m writing a recommendation for a student who is applying for a job at a high school in Mexico and the recommendation form is asking me to rate how responsible, honorable, and healthy she is. I’m not sure how to respond to the health question. I’m not this student’s physician, and if I were, I wouldn’t be able to divulge this information either.

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16 comments on “How Healthy Is the Applicant?

  1. That is very odd, isn’t it. I suppose you can only say something like “No health issues that I know of.” But even that may be problematical. Maybe it would be useful to ask the student what she thinks you should write.

  2. I would try to find someone who’s worked in a Mexico school (failing that some other LAmerican country) and ask what they think is going on.

    In some countries getting and/or keeping a job depends on having a clean bill of health from a doctor. They might think it’s that way for students too (or it might be that way in mexico for all I know) and that a professor writing such a letter would be privy to that information.

    If you can’t find a cultural consultant and the student doesn’t know I’d simply write that US professors are not privy to health information about their students (and advise the student to get a check up and attach the results).

  3. I suspect they want to know whether the student attended regularly during your classes or whether he/she had a number of medically issued excuses. After all, no employer wants to hire someone who is frequently unable to attend to his/her responsibilities..

    I would simply reply, if true, ‘This student never (rarely) missed any classes. for health-related reasons.’

  4. I have seen many references like this – it is astonishing how many companies ask for, and offer legally protected information in their references. Including some organisations that I really would expect to have their ducks in a row on this topic. But the less said about that the better!

    When I get something like this I either cross it out, and initial it, depending upon how egregious the question is I might add a short note about how answering that question would open my org up to liability under the Data Protection Act, or if it’s an employee that there’s no red flags for, I might add the closest alternative question match. – Questions in that vein are in my experience normally intended to bring out information about absences/attendance, so I would probably put “X student had an exemplary attendance record,” or words to that effect.

    • “it is astonishing how many companies ask for, and offer legally protected information in their references”

      I understand your point but this is Mexico and the local definition of ‘legally protected information’ may be different (or non-existent).

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