How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation is an important part of an application. It highlights the key characteristics and achievements of the candidate. It is also a great opportunity for recipients to see an applicant from another perspective. When writing one, make sure it is professional and appropriate.

A letter of recommendation can be a crucial component in the hiring process. The information provided in these letters tells the recipient a lot about the applicant. It can even inform them whether the applicant is worthy of consideration.

If you’re in a leadership position, someone might ask for a letter of recommendation to showcase their best qualities. Here is what to know so that the letter has the right message, language, and formatting.

Letters of recommendation help recipients decide if admitting or employing the applicant is a good idea. Since these letters are recommendations based on work or academic performance, the information helps recipients make a more informed decision. 

Writing a letter of recommendation is intimidating because you want to help the applicant obtain the position. Luckily, there are specific factors to keep in mind while writing to make the process easier. 

When writing, it’s key to remember the purpose and goal behind the letter. It’s also key to be clear and specific throughout the letter. Lastly, you should use formal and professional language.

Know the Purpose

A letter of recommendation must focus on the desired position or role. Any qualities or attributes mentioned in the letter should have the overall job or program requirements in mind. 

The applicant can provide the writer with this information, including:

  • The job or program description
  • General requirements
  • Resume
  • Related skills or achievements

Take all of these factors into consideration while writing.

Be Specific

Include examples and details about the person. A template simplifies organizing ideas, but the letter should still be personal to the applicant’s skills and experiences.

Consider the information the reader might not know based on the applicant’s resumé or application. As Rhona Barnett-Pierce, founder of How To Level Up, says, “A recommendation from a credible source could be the difference between you getting hired or being moved to the rejection pile. Recruiters and hiring managers [love] social proof. It helps ease the nerves of hiring a stranger. But you want to make sure and have recommendations that are genuine and not the generic ones everyone else has.” Even though this refers to obtaining LinkedIn recommendations, this applies to most types of recommendations.

Avoid using general terms to ensure you come off as a credible source. Focus on stronger, meaningful adjectives when describing the applicant’s experience.

Use Formal and Concise Language

The language used in a letter of recommendation should remain positive yet formal. Keep sentences short to get the point across quickly. 

The letter should be at least one page long. Additionally, using a business letter format is best. If you can use your organization’s letterhead, this makes the letter more professional.

Since this is a professional letter, the formatting is vital. Include all essential information first, including:

  • Date
  • Recipient name and title
  • Recipient address
  • Greeting

After these initial points, introduce yourself and provide your recommendation.

You should convey who you are and how you know the applicant. Introduce the applicant and discuss why you are offering a recommendation. Katrina Kibben, founder and CEO of Three Ears Media, explains, “Yes, something as simple as how your team introduces themselves to others matters. A lot.” Being inclusive and considering the thoughts and feelings of the recipient will help your letter come across more positively. 

It may seem simple but introducing yourself in a way that emphasizes why the recipient should care is essential.

Overview

This section can emphasize the main qualities of the applicant, including leadership potential or integrity. Consider the characteristics that the program or organization is looking for when writing about the applicant. 

Emphasize any of the hard or soft skills the applicant has. Talk about their work ethic, ability to work on a team and any other valuable assets.

Testimonials

Use this section to describe how the applicant has previously performed or expressed excellence in areas related to the position. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss leadership positions, achievements and accolades.

Closing Remarks

Provide a brief overview of the recommendation. Additionally, give the recipient an email address and phone number to follow up if necessary. 

End the letter with your signature.

Reviewing templates for these letters makes it easier to conceptualize how to create one. Here are some templates for the three main types of recommendation letters:

  • Academic
  • Employment
  • Character

Add more detail and personalize these letter of recommendation examples to craft an effective letter. Be specific, discuss your personal experience and remain succinct.

Academic Recommendation Letters

[Introduction] My name is Dolly Harrison, and I am an English teacher at Dearborn High School. I am pleased to recommend Bobby Peters for admission to the [XYZ] program. He is an exemplary student and has ranked at the top of an exceptional senior class. I taught Bobby in my 11th and 12th grade honors English classes. 

[Overview] Bobby has a strong interest in social justice and would be an ideal fit for your rigorous program. He is a perceptive and intellectual young man with an aptitude for communication. Bobby works hard at any task and has a determination to succeed unlike any other I’ve seen in my eight years of teaching. 

[Testimonials] Bobby has been a leader throughout his years at Dearborn High School, and his eagerness to run for student offices proves his ambition. He assists in our after-school club with preparing and leading lessons, and his presentations are some of the most engaging we have to offer.

[Closing remarks] Mr. Peters has my recommendation for your program due to the excellence he has displayed during his time in my class. He has demonstrated a creative and strategic intellect that will help him in any future role. Bobby is a competent person that will achieve many things at [name of school] and beyond. 

Sincerely,

Dolly Harrison

English Teacher

Dearborn High School 

DHarrison@dearborn.k12.us

555 – 555 – 5555 

Employment Recommendation Letters

[Introduction] My name is George Cleary of Cleary Enterprises. I am writing to recommend Anthony Ricci for the [position name] position at [company name]. Anthony has worked as my executive assistant for the past four years. He consistently impressed me with his creative solutions and work ethic. Anthony always goes above and beyond in his work to ensure no problems go unresolved.

[Overview] Anthony is also a valued member of our team. He is willing to challenge himself and take on tasks outside his job description to help others. He’s motivated, eager to assist and always ready to provide support. 

[Testimonials] During his time as my executive assistant, Anthony helped develop a new organization system to make accessing digital files more streamlined. He also spent time leading a new initiative that helped our office waste fewer supplies.

[Closing remarks] We are sad to see Anthony go, as he is such a dependable part of our team, but he would be a wonderful addition to [company name]. I am pleased to offer my highest recommendation regarding his abilities in a working environment. 

Yours sincerely,

George Cleary 

CEO at Cleary Enterprises

Email: georgemcleary@cleary.com

Phone: 555 – 555 - 5555

Character Recommendation Letters

[Introduction] I am Kelly Smith and have known Alex Washington for 22 years. I am delighted to write a recommendation regarding the professional and personal character of Alex. We became close friends after our sons were in elementary school together many years ago. Since then, we have worked in the community together on various projects. 

[Overview] Alex is a strong, capable person who puts all their effort into anything they attempt. Throughout the time I have known Alex, they have always involved themselves in local activities and community service. Alex has excellent communication skills, which is clear from their vast experience working with children and young adults in our community. 

[Testimonials] They have proven throughout the years that they care about the quality and performance of any project they put their hands on. Alex has been the leader of our church food drive for the past ten years. Additionally, Alex volunteers their time to work with young 4-H participants and run an exciting youth book fair each year for all children in our area. 

[Closing remarks] In summary, I would highly recommend Alex for any endeavor they want to pursue. Alex is a highly intelligent and caring hard worker that would be an asset to any organization or program.

Sincerely, 

Kelly Smith

k.smith76@yahoos.com

555 – 555 – 5555

Top Takeaways

What is the most effective way to write a letter of recommendation?

  • Remember the letter of recommendation’s purpose when discussing the candidate.
  • Write a concise, specific and professional letter that represents your honest perspective. 
  • Review sample letters to organize your thoughts, but make the letter personal.
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