A letter of recommendation is a formal letter that vouches for an applicant’s work, skills, character traits, potential, and academic performance.
A letter of recommendation Is usually written by a supervisor, mentor, colleague, teacher, or friend. It outlines why a writer believes that you are a qualified candidate and what makes you the right fit for a role/position.
The letter of recommendation can also be referred to as:
- A reference letter
- A letter of reference
- A reference
There are various types of letters of recommendation; however, the following three types are common:
- Employment recommendation letters
- Recommendation letters for university applicants
- Character recommendation letters
Characteristics of a Recommendation Letter
There are several distinguishable characteristics of a letter of recommendation. These characteristics help ensure that the letter is effective in communicating its message to the recipient. They also help in ensuring that it contains adequate information. The characteristics of a letter of recommendation are:
Powerfully advocate the job seeker
A letter of recommendation plays a vital role in advocating a job seeker’s skills and qualities as outlined in the CV or resume. This advocacy shows that the writer has a strong belief in the competence and abilities of a job seeker. It also helps in boosting a job seeker’s application, therefore, ensuring that the hiring manager develops a positive perception of the candidate.
Add personality to a job application
A letter of recommendation adds personality to a candidate’s job application. It achieves this by enabling a writer to breathe life into a candidate’s application through the details of the job applicant’s personality and work life. This is important as a hiring manager can see the job applicant as more than just the skills listed in the CV/resume. It also shows how the applicant’s personality, skills, and capabilities are perceived by others, therefore, providing a separate viewpoint apart from the other candidates.
Point out past achievements
A letter of recommendation also helps in pointing out a candidate’s past achievements. This helps show the hiring manager that the job seeker can make similar achievements in the position they are seeking. It also provides the hiring manager with perspective into the ability of a job seeker to successfully carry out duties and responsibilities assigned.
Help the job seeker get hired
An important characteristic is that a strong letter of recommendation that has been thoughtfully composed can help convince the hiring manager that the job seeker is the right fit for the job. This can lead to hiring the candidate or considering the applicant for an interview. This makes it essential for the writer to be specific about the details to ensure that the recommendation letter’s impact is significant on the hiring manager.
It comes from a credible source
A letter of recommendation also ensures that a credible source references the candidate’s skills and abilities. Letters of recommendation composed by family members are often perceived as biased due to the close relations and therefore have little to no bearing. However, a letter of recommendation written by a supervisor, professor, or any individual with professional standing can significantly impact the opinions formed of the candidate by the hiring manager/recruiter.
Use of supportive, positive, and enthusiastic language
The use of supportive, positive, and enthusiastic language in a letter of recommendation can help show that the writer wholeheartedly believes in a candidate. In addition, thoughtfully picking out adverbs and adjectives to include in the details provided in the letter of recommendation can strengthen its impact on the hiring manager and help show that the writer has a strong belief in the applicant.
It is specific and detailed
What sets the letter of recommendation apart from the CV/Resume is the specificity and detailing of its content. The writer should be able to provide proof of the details in the letter. The use of empty clichés can seem as though the writer doesn’t know the applicant very well.
It contains a narrative
The letter of recommendation should feel like a well-composed narrative that explains who the letter’s writer is, the relationship they have with the applicant, and how they feel about the candidate. The recruiter should feel that a comprehensive story about the candidate’s ability and qualities has been provided. This helps ensure that the letter of recommendation is coherent in its message.
It is relevant to the applicant’s goals
The letter of recommendation should be relevant to the position the candidate is applying for. This helps the writer focus on the letter’s contents and ensure that the information is tailored to the candidate’s goals. Therefore, it plays an essential role in showing the hiring manager how your skills relate to the position you are seeking.
How to Request for Letter of Recommendation
There are several considerations that applicants should reflect on if they plan to request a letter of recommendation from an individual. These considerations will ensure that they select an appropriate writer. This includes:
How, when, and whom to ask?
An applicant in need of a letter of recommendation should understand how, when and whom to ask. First, a requester may need a recommendation letter when or if the advertisement for the position states that it should be among the application documents. However, suppose the advertisement doesn’t state whether it is required, then the applicant can decide if it would be appropriate to request one to boost the application for the position.
Secondly, the requester must identify the appropriate individual to ask. This could be a colleague, former manager, teacher, client, mentor, professor, etc. Requesters must select an individual who knows them well to ensure they can vouch for their skills and qualifications. They must also ensure that they have a positive relationship with the selected individual.
Finally, the requester should understand how to ask the individual to write them a letter of recommendation. Requesters must also ensure that they use polite language to explain their situation to the individual, provide them with an option to decline and emphasize why they believe the person is appropriate or the best choice.
They must then express how much they would be grateful if they agreed to write the letter. A request via email or in-person can be made. An in-person request would be best to provide a requester with an opportunity to convince the individual. The requester must ensure that they ask at least two weeks before the submission deadline.
Provide complete information
Suppose an individual agrees to write a letter of recommendation, they must be provided with appropriate documentation and information by the requester. This will enable the individual to provide relevant, specific, and detailed information. The following should be provided to the writer of a recommendation letter:
A copy of resume or CV
The requester should provide the writer with a copy of his/her resume or CV. This will help make the writing process convenient by ensuring that the writer knows more about the requester. It will also enable the writer to tailor the information to relevant skills and qualifications stated in the document.
Your statement (if you’re a student)
If the requester is a student, they must provide the writer with a personal statement explaining their purpose for applying for the position or why this opportunity is essential to them. This ensures that the writer understands why the position is so significant to the requester.
The name of the target university or company
The requestor should also provide the name of the target company or university. This will indicate where the recommendation will be sent, ensuring that it is delivered to the proper organization or institution. It will also help the writer discern if they are familiar with the target university or company and their standards.
A link to the job description or program
This will ensure that the writer can research the position or program to help him/her understand how to tailor the information.
The personal strengths or characteristics you’d like them to focus on
The requester must also provide strengths and personal characteristics they would like the writer to focus on. This will ensure that the recommendations focus on character traits likely to attract the hiring manager’s interest in the candidate. It will also provide the writer with focal attributes to relate to the position.
Specific achievements you’d like them to mention
The writer should be provided with specific achievements that the requester would like to mention in the recommendation letter. This ensures that achievements that may be considered significant by the hiring manager are mentioned in the letter. It will also help the writer establish which achievements are worth mentioning about the applicant.
If You are a Recommender (Pre-writing Considerations)
It is crucial that an individual carefully considers a request to write a recommendation letter. This will ensure that the response provided to the requester is well thought out and considered.
Considerations before writing a recommendation letter
There are several considerations that a writer should make before starts writing a letter of recommendation. These considerations will help ease the writing process and enable the writer to provide the necessary information. The considerations a writer should make include:
- Ask/collect the information from the applicant: The writer should request the applicant to provide the writer with relevant information concerning the position. This should include a copy of the job posting, the applicant’s resume/CV, and, if necessary, a copy of the candidate’s cover letter to help the writer discern how the applicant advertises their qualifications. Writers may also request applicants to provide them with their targets for the position, their marketable assets, and other examples of jobs they have applied for.
- Conduct your research: The recommender should also consider conducting their research about the position and the institution or company the applicant is applying to. This will help the writer identify the requirements for the position and tailor the letter of recommendation.
- Think about the type of letter you are writing: The writer should consider the type of letter they will be writing. This will help them understand if it is a recommendation letter for employment, internship, admission to an institution, etc. Understanding this will help ensure that the letter of recommendation is appropriately suited to the type of application the candidate has made.
When to decline a request and how?
An individual can decline a request to write a letter of recommendation. Individuals can make this decision after considering how well they know the applicant if they have worked with or directly observed a candidate’s qualities, if they know of any relevant skills and strengths they can include about the applicant in the letter and if they can provide positive information about the candidate.
Suppose a person feels that they cannot provide a positive recommendation of the applicant or cannot think of any qualities to indicate in the letter. In that case, they should politely inform the candidate early to enable them to find another writer.
How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
A step-by-step structured process should be followed when writing a letter of recommendation. This will ensure that the letter is well constructed and that information is appropriately placed. It will also ensure an effective professional letter of recommendation is written. The following is a step-by-step process on how to write a letter of recommendation:
Contact information and letterhead
First, the letter of recommendation should indicate the writer’s name, address, and contact information at the top left of the page. This will ensure that the recipient can identify who wrote it. The writer may also indicate this information on the letterhead at the top of the page.
The date should also be provided, followed by the recipient’s name, his/her position in the institution/company, and the institution or company name and address. This ensures that the recipient of the letter of recommendation has been identified.
New York, NY 1234
March 6, 2020
422 Jones Street
New York, NY 465
Polite and personal salutation
Secondly, a polite and personal salutation addressing the recipient directly by name and title should be indicated in the letter of recommendation. The generic term ‘To Whom It May Concern’ can only be used if the writer cannot identify the recipient by name.
Dear Mr. Fisher,
Start with a strong introduction
The first paragraph should start with an enthusiastic statement of recommendation. The writer must then establish how they know the applicant, their relationship, and the purpose of writing the letter. This information will help explain why the letter has been written and how the writer knows the applicant.
It also helps show why the writer is the best person to be making the recommendation. Finally, the first paragraph should end with a few words of praise about the applicant.
It is with honor that I recommend James Parker for the position of Director of Advertising at Braxton corporation. James and I have been colleagues for seven years at Dexter Ltd, where he has been the lead graphic designer in the creative and marketing department. I have observed how he has carried out his work with passion, determination, and patience in the last seven years.
Body of the letter
The letter’s body should contain information on an applicant’s traits and qualities along with their academic, personal, and professional achievements. This will ensure that the writer can communicate the skills and capabilities they believe make the candidate the right fit. An explanation of the reason the applicant is departing from the current position may also be provided.
This is optional information and should only be included in an employment recommendation letter. It should also only be included if the reasons for the departure are positive or neutral to ensure that the tone of the letter of recommendation does not change.
My experience working with him has been rather fun as he is very personable. James is very keen to ensure that he delivers the right product. As a recent analysis demonstrated, his brilliant and creative designs have had an incredible impact on our target audiences. At least 35% of our customers said they are attracted to our products by the incredible packaging and designs. Combining his experience and his bachelor’s degree in marketing, which he recently acquired to improve the quality of his work, makes him the best candidate for the job.
The conclusion should reiterate the writers’ recommendation and encouragement for the hiring manager to accept the applicant. This will ensure that the writer can make a final appeal to the hiring manager to consider the applicant. Finally, the writer should politely sign off with words or phrases like sincerely, regards, yours indeed, etc., along with their signature and name at the bottom of the letter.
I believe that James will be a great addition to your company given a chance, and therefore I wholeheartedly recommend him for the position. Please call me for any questions or clarifications you may need at the number and email above.
Letter of Recommendation Template
We understand writing a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, primarily because the applicant relies on you to pull through for them. Fortunately, we have a free downloadable letter of recommendation templates to help you write an effective recommendation. Our templates are quick and easy to fill to enable you to provide the necessary information. They are also professionally formatted to ensure your letter is readable.
Format of a Recommendation Letter
The letter of recommendation should be well formatted to ensure that the contents are readable. Formatting also ensures that the letter has an appropriate layout. The following are essential formatting rules that should be adhered to when writing a letter of recommendation:
Don’t exceed one page in length
Recruiters must go through several letters and application documents; therefore, they appreciate concise and to-the-point letters of recommendation. In addition, writing a one-page letter ensures that only specific relevant information is provided by limiting how much a writer can include.
Use a 12-point font
Using a 12-point font ensures that the document is easy to read and helps keep the letter of recommendation within the length limit. The lowest font a writer can use is 11 points; anything lower than that can render the letter unreadable.
Stick to basic font styles
Classic font styles such as Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, and Helvetica should be used when writing a letter of recommendation. The use of highly stylized fonts can cause difficulty reading the letter and can seem unprofessional to the hiring manager.
1”–1½” is the sweet spot for margins
A margin of between 1”–1½” ensures enough white space around the margin to enable the information in the letter to fit. This also enhances the readability by ensuring that the information is appropriately compacted in an appropriate space.
Maintain a left alignment
The standard alignment of a document is left alignment. It ensures that the hiring manager can trace and find the start and end of the letter by creating a well-arranged look.
Letter of Recommendation Samples
Following are sample letters of recommendation for different occasions:
Letter of recommendation for student
Anytown, CA 45279
March 3, 2020
Pacifica, CA 3697
Dear Mr. Felton,
With great excitement, I write this letter to recommend Rebecca Smith for a position in your Law Program. I taught Rebecca pre-law at Starbright University for two years. During my time with her, I was thoroughly impressed by her commitment to understanding concepts and questioning their practicality in modern society.
Rebecca distinguished herself by writing well-researched and exciting papers on various civil laws that I put forward in my classes. She was one of my top 5 high-performing students. It was also interesting to watch her take part in debates in class. The arguments she would come up with were incredibly compelling, and some of them resonated with her classmates even after they graduated.
She is creative and dedicated to the tasks presented to her and great at team assignments which I believe is the bulk of your program. I would therefore highly recommend her for your Law program. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or clarifications.
Letter of recommendation for a friend
425 Oak Street
Anytown, CA 9926
April 3, 2020
Hill Valley Art Gallery
Anytown, CA 9999
Dear Mr. Parker,
With honor, I offer my recommendation for Matt Sally for the position of Art gallery manager at Hill Valley Art Gallery. Matt and I are childhood friends, and we have known each other for 22 years. In college, I watched him grow his management skills which he majored in.
After college, Matt found a job as an Art Gallery assistant locally. I believe that this is where his love for art and management developed and grew. He carried out his job with a passion and seriousness I had never seen in him before. In addition, his ability to interact with art lovers was incredible to watch.
When he heard that the Hill Valley Gallery breach was opening in town, he was so excited. He told me all about the incredible art pieces you are known to display. So when the opportunity to apply as an art manager came along, he said he just had to take it.
Matt is passionate and dedicated, which I believe makes him the best candidate for the job. I am confident you will find him more than qualified. If you have any inquiries regarding him, please feel free to contact me.
Letter of recommendation for a graduate school
145 Main Street
San Francisco, CA 9876
May 8, 2020
Office of the Registrar
San Francisco, CA9754
Dear Mr. Anderson,
I am writing this letter to recommend Mary Shy as a candidate for graduate school at Ace school. I’ve had the pleaser of knowing and working with her in the Education Department at Runway College for five years.
I have found Mary to be delightful and incredibly optimistic. She is also very creative and excellent at communicating her ideas with her students. During her time with us, I have watched Mary develop innovative techniques for teaching her students. She has been an incredible asset both to us and to the students of our college.
Mary’s ability to connect with students and teach advanced and straightforward topics makes her a great candidate for the graduate program, which will help her advance her career. I do not doubt that you’ll find her to be more than qualified. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.
Letter of recommendation for a coworker
234 Orleans Lane
Brooklyn, NY 87697
February 10, 2020
New York, NY 4356
Dear Mr. Betty
I am writing this sincere recommendation for Sam Banks for the position of Head Nurse at XYZ Hospital. Sam and I have been coworkers for three years. In that time, I have found him to be an incredibly dedicated and exemplary nurse.
He is wonderfully caring toward his patients and often exercises a lot of compassion necessary in our profession. I remember once when we were posted at the emergency department, a car accident victim was brought in with his child. Sam did an incredible job of caring for his patient and calming and reassuring the child.
Admittedly it is sad that Sam has decided to leave, but I am optimistic that you will gain a great asset to your hospital. For any questions, do not hesitate to call or email me.
Letter of recommendation for immigration
3456 Lincoln Avenue
New York, NY9707
September 3, 2020
Department of immigration
Washington D.C 20054
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this immigration letter on behalf of Robert Johnson. I have known Robert for about ten years. I met him on a trip to Malaysia. Robert is a very kind and generous man.
While I was In Malaysia, I watched him coach poor young boys in football to help show them that there is a way of life without crime. Robert is an optimist, and his incredible enthusiasm has made every experience with him delightful. I have also observed how hardworking and dedicated he is to ensure his children’s future.
It is my great honor to help such a person realize and actualize his goals of enabling a better life and future for himself and his family. I am confident that he will exhibit the same traits in our country.
Tips for writing a recommendation letter
Various tips should be considered when setting a letter of recommendation. These tips will help increase the chances of an applicant a positive response from the recruiter. They will also help ensure that the letter stands out from those submitted by others. The tips include the following:
Customize the letter to the job at hand
The letter of recommendation should be tailored to the requirements and qualities of the job/position the applicant is seeking. By mentioning the name of the position and company and relating the candidate’s qualities to the job, the writer can show why the applicant is the right fit.
Use 2-3 specific examples
A writer must ensure that they provide 2-3 specific examples to support the qualities and qualifications mentioned in the letter of recommendation. This strengthens the message of the letter and helps prove that the writer and applicant are well acquainted.
Speak to the candidate
The writer should ensure that they spoke with the candidate to gain insight into the applicant’s position and goal related to it or the company and why this is important. This will ensure that the writer can draft a letter from an informed position. It also ensures that the contents of the recommendation letter complement the candidate’s application information.
Explain why your opinion matters
The letter of recommendation should also explain why the writer’s opinion matters. For example, writers with a professional working relationship with candidates are taken more seriously than family members. In addition, it is believed that they provide an objective point of view of the applicant. Therefore, their opinion is a genuine observation of the applicant.
Start with enthusiasm
Starting the letter of recommendation with an enthusiastic statement helps capture the reader’s attention and demonstrates the writer’s confidence. In addition, this helps form a good impression on the recruiter about the application from the onset.
Keep it positive
Comments or statements that are constructed in a bad light should be avoided in a letter of recommendation. This is to avoid discrediting a candidate’s application for the position. The information provided should therefore be positive.
Use a standard business letter tone
Using a standard business tone will help reflect the writer positively, enabling the reader to perceive them as a professional. It also helps show the writer’s positive attitude towards the recruiter. The use of business tone helps the writer relate better with the recruiter’s interests and emotions, making the correspondence stronger, therefore impactful and beneficial for the applicant.
Focus on the most critical qualifications
A letter of recommendation should focus on important qualifications that are likely to pick the recruiter’s interest in the applicant. The writer can identify necessary qualifications by reviewing the job posting to determine what the recruiter is looking for in a candidate.
Follow the request instructions
The specific submission guidelines indicated by the recruiter should be carefully analyzed and followed by a writer. This, therefore, means that the letter of recommendation should be submitted by the deadline stipulated in the job posting. This will also contribute to forming a good impression on the recruiter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Applicants planning to write their letter of recommendation should outline and highlight their strengths, abilities, and skills. They must then ensure they write the letter in the recommender’s voice; therefore, writers must refer to themselves in the third person. Next, they must state the purpose of the letter and the capacity their reference knows them. Finally, they must ensure that comparative metrics of their achievements support all the relevant highlighted skills.
A letter of recommendation should include a writer’s recommendation, what position the candidate is applying for, the type of relationship the writer shares with the applicant, the length of the relationship, and a description of the referee’s skills, traits, and qualifications.
A letter of recommendation should start with the sender’s name and address, the date, and the recipient’s name and address. It should be followed by a salutation that addresses the recipient directly. Next, the introduction, body, and conclusion should be written. Finally, the writer should sign off with an appropriate phrase or word and sign the letter.
A personal letter of recommendation should start with the name and address of the writer, the date and the recipient’s name, title, company /institution name, and address. It should then indicate the name of the candidate and the position they are being recommended for. Next, the writer should describe the capacity in which they know the applicant and the length or period they have been acquainted. Finally, the writer should mention the qualities of the applicant and his/her character, morals, and values in detail.
Depending on the contents of the introduction and the body of the personal reference letter, the writer should end by stating whether they recommend the applicant for the position. Appreciation for the recipients’ time should also be indicated, along with an offer to answer any questions they may have.