Recommendation letters are important because they corroborate the skills an applicant provides on their application. In this article, we have provided the best and professionally crafted sample letters of recommendation, but first, let us understand what a recommendation letter is:
A Letter of Recommendation is a formal letter that demonstrates the skills and performance of another person through the writer’s description of their professional, academic, or otherwise relevant experience with that person.
Obtaining letters of recommendation is typically required for those seeking admission into an academic or professional program or an interview for a job opening, but they are also used to apply for volunteer and leadership positions. Therefore, if you work closely with students or employees, it is likely that you will be asked to write letters of recommendation for them. The main goal of this letter is to recount your experience with the candidate and highlight the positive qualities that may serve them in their desired position.
Letters of recommendations can paint a more honest picture than a resume or cover letter. The candidate wants to show themselves in the best light. Still, many employers will not waste time writing a letter of recommendation if they have had a negative experience with an employee.
It is one thing for a candidate to say they are a problem solver, but it is more impressive to have a letter attesting to a past employer’s personal experience with how they addressed specific issues in the workplace successfully.
Additionally, letters of recommendation can give a clearer insight into who the applicant is as a person. Resumes tell facts, not stories, but as the writer of a recommendation letter, you can shed light on the candidate’s personality by conveying your personal experiences with them. Also, there’s only room for so many bullet points on a resume. When writing a letter of recommendation, you may be able to highlight the applicant’s achievements that did not fit on their resume. Overall, the letter of recommendation is an excellent space for admissions departments and potential new employers to get an idea of who the candidate is as a person. This is why it can determine if an applicant is offered a spot in a program or called in for a job interview.
If you agree to write a letter of recommendation for a student or employee, it should only be because you can personally attest to their quality skills or performance. Since you’ve had a positive experience with the applicant, it is only fair to write the letter of recommendation carefully to give them the best chance of success.
Before you begin writing, follow the steps below to ensure you have all the information you need for a great letter:
Speak to the candidate before writing
While you will ultimately draft the letter, it is still a collaborative task between you and the applicant. Before you write the letter, make sure to communicate with the candidate to learn more about what role they are seeking, why they want it, and how it relates to their goals. It can be helpful to view their cover letter to see the candidate’s application strategies. You want to make sure your letter fits nicely into the larger package of their application and adds your personal experience of the skills they wish to highlight. The applicant may even recall specific experiences with you that they would like you to include in the letter from your perspective.
Review their resume
The candidate has likely had other academic or professional opportunities outside of their experience with you. Looking at the resume helps you to understand their overall background and experiences. You can use this knowledge to build on more of their strengths that are not highlighted in the resume. It is always nice if you can offer feedback on the resume as well.
Request bullet points
It’s not a bad idea to ask the candidate for a list of skills or experiences that qualify them most for the position. You may want these in bullet point or paragraph form. Not only does this save you time, but it also ensures that you’re highlighting the qualities the candidate wishes to present. If you’re comfortable with it, you can even rewrite a draft letter of recommendation provided by the applicant in your voice.
Collect additional information
Along with the resume, you may wish to collect the candidate’s curriculum vitae (CV), their cover letter, and a copy of the job posting. Sometimes, applicants who are applying for multiple positions request more general letters of recommendation. In this case, ask for examples of at least two jobs they’re considering. It’s also helpful to know what the candidate views as their most marketable skills in the line of work that they’re seeking. Request that the applicant list skills that are best suited to the job and the skills you witnessed in your work with the applicant.
How to Write a Recommendation Letter
Recommendation letters need to follow a clear and organized format.
To write a proper letter of recommendation, including each component described below:
The heading of the letter should be placed in the top left corner. Include your name at the top and underneath that, write your job title, your company or school’s name and address, your contact information, and the date. Leaving space in between also include the recipient’s name (if addressed to someone specific), their title and company, and their address. The company or school and address will suffice if there is no specific recipient.
If you can address your letter to a specific person, it is best to do so and to include a salutation. “Dear Mr./Ms. (insert name):” is the typical choice. Always use a professional prefix, such as Dr., when it applies. When it is unclear who will receive the letter of recommendation, you may choose to skip the salutation or use “To Whom It May Concern:”.
While the letter is mainly about the candidate, it’s important to take a few sentences to introduce yourself and your area of expertise. This will give the letter an authentic voice. Be clear that your purpose in writing the letter is to recommend the candidate. Provide context by describing your position and relationship to the applicant, as well as how long you’ve known them.
Body of the letter
The body of the letter should illustrate the candidate’s skills and strengths. Before writing, determine the most relevant qualities that you could include in the letter. Then, think of cases in which your candidate has shown you those skills. Any general statement about the positive abilities should be followed by personal experiences where you have seen them in action.
Read the following tips for more in-depth advice on writing the body of a recommendation letter:
Focus on the most important qualifications
Instead of describing every single quality of the applicant, focus on a few specific skills or achievements that you can present in 2-3 paragraphs. This will give you room to add details, specificity, and your personal experience of the candidate’s performance. Instead of simply stating a qualification, narrate a specific occurrence where you witnessed the candidate perform and handle challenges. One way to organize qualities in the body of the letter is by using one paragraph to describe achievement and the other to speak to the candidate’s character or personality by mentioning traits like work ethic or determination.
Prepare a list of qualities
From looking at the resume and job posting (if applicable) and communicating with the candidate, make a list of the applicant’s best and most relevant achievements and qualities to highlight in the body paragraphs. The candidate may have ideas about their most marketable skills, but be sure to ask for skills you have specifically observed in your relationship with them.
Use 2-3 specific anecdotes
Connect the candidate’s qualifications to specific examples where you have seen them apply the skills to their work or studies. It’s great to think of a problem the candidate faced and overcame using their unique abilities. Adding 2-3 anecdotes enhances the candidate’s application by providing evidence that backs up the skills found on their resume. An excellent way to show their skills in action is by describing a few of the candidate’s achievements. Just be sure that you witnessed them and that you choose examples that cater to the demands of the role.
Quantify the candidate’s strengths
When highlighting a candidate’s achievements, try not to be too vague about what the accomplishment truly is. If you can, back up the strength of a client’s performance by giving quantifiable detail. For example, if your employee helped increase sales, give a statistic on exactly how much sales increased. If statistics aren’t available, you can provide quantification by ranking the candidate among others. If you’re writing for a student, you may say, “she received the highest grade in my class that semester.”
Speak of their potential
Be sure to connect any of the candidate’s skills that you present in the letter to their ability to succeed in the role. What about the candidate’s performance, ability to work with others, initiative, etc., that prepares them for the specific role they’re seeking? Consider how what you have experienced with the candidate speaks to the positive impact they will make in the position.
To conclude your letter, write a closing statement that summarizes the letter, bridging together all the positive qualities of the candidate you mentioned. Be clear how the positive qualities of the candidates will relate to success in their new position and restate that you highly recommend them for the role.
Your email address and/or phone number may be included in the concluding statements or after your signature to provide a way for them to contact you and ask more questions. When providing this contact information, let the recipient know that you would be happy to further discuss the applicant’s strengths.
Finally, end the letter with your signature, name, and title. The most common closing is to use “sincerely” above the signature. However, since most letters of recommendation are typed, leave space about your name and title for a physical signature once printed.
Recommendation Letter Samples
Recommendation letter samples are a great resource to get a better idea of how to structure your letter. The letter must sound professional and organized. Recommendation letter samples can act as a template to help you follow the proper formatting and layout of the letter. You can use the two samples below by applying the organization and pattern of ideas to your letter and substituting your personal experiences that match the given content.
1234 Main St., Business Village, PA 12345
October 30th, 2021
Director of Customer Service
1234 Main St.
Business Town, NJ, 1234
Dear Ms. Anderson:
It is with much enthusiasm that I recommend Hannah Brown for the position of customer service representative at Anderson Manufacturers.
I am Jane Ross, the director of customer service at Ross Manufacturers. I have supervised customer service departments for ten years and worked with hundreds of customer service representatives. Hannah Brown stands out for her communication skills and attention to detail.
From her first day of work, she demonstrated superior proficiency in various telecommunication and online communication systems. Because of her background knowledge, she was trained quicker than any new hire and saved our supervisors hours of time. She easily adapts to new systems and tools, so there is no doubt that she will succeed in any way she is asked to communicate with clients at your company.
Hannah took the time to know the company inside and out, and out of the other representatives demonstrated the most awareness of positions and responsibilities of all other employers. Therefore, she always knew where to transfer a client. She will bring the same passion for understanding to your company, as she is highly motivated in ensuring a customer is always sent to the right place. Many Yelp reviews of our company mention her by name when complimenting our customer service.
Last month negative reviews of our company were posted to Google due to problems we faced with shipping. I gave her the task of responding to the reviews apologizing for delays. Her responses to the negative reviews clearly addressed the cause of delays, how our company is moving forward, and what we can do for the upset customers while maintaining a friendly and professional tone. This led to several negative reviews being voluntarily removed by the posters, increasing our average rating by 1.5 stars.
I am confident that Hannah Brown would bring dedication and above-and-beyond service to the role of customer service representative at your company. Please feel free to contact me at 123-456-7891 with any further questions. I am happy to elaborate more on how Hannah has impressed me in her time working for us.
Jane Ross (signature)
Director of Customer Service
Sample letter 2
1234 King St., Big City, CA 12345
October 30th, 2021
Children’s Hospital of New York City
123 4th Street
Big City, NY 1234
To Whom It May Concern:
I have had the pleasure of working with Ashley Lee in her two years spent volunteering in the special care nursery at the Children’s Hospital of Big City, where I have been working as a nurse leader for ten years. Due to my experience working with hundreds of volunteers, I can confidently say Ashley Lee’s compassion and dedication are superior. Therefore, I enthusiastically recommend her for the position of NICU CNA at the Children’s Hospital of New York City.
Ashley’s communication skills greatly served our department. She worked on a team of other volunteers and was eager to help delegate tasks and ensure everyone was aware of areas of priority in the nursery. This will serve her well in working for a team of nurses. Ashely is also highly observant. In one instance, she was the first to notice physical signs of illness in one of the nursery’s babies and acted quickly to get them medical attention. She does not miss signs, which is highly important to the role of a CNA who works in direct patient care.
Due to her interpersonal skills and attention to detail, I believe Ashley would be a perfect fit for your NICU CNA position. Please feel free to contact me at 123-456-7891 with any further questions.
Mark Richmond (signature)
When to Decline a Recommendation Letter Request
Sometimes, candidates do not request letters of recommendation from the people most suited to the task. Before accepting a request, consider if you’ve worked directly with the applicant, observed any relevant skills, and can give specific examples of their positive performance. If you do not know this information about the candidate, you may not be the right person to write them a letter. Additionally, if your experience with a candidate has been more negative, they are much better off requesting a letter from someone else.
If you decide that you cannot provide an authentic quality letter of recommendation, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline the request. While the applicant may be disappointed, it only serves them best to find someone who can write a strong recommendation. When denying a request, you don’t have to go into specifics. Instead, you can simply say that you don’t have enough experience to write a good letter to the candidate.
Letter of Recommendation Templates
Following are Recommendation Letter Samples and templates for you that are editable:
Sample Employment Recommendation Letters
Employment Recommendation Reference Letter will focus more on the job for which the candidate is applying and if he/she possesses the skills and experience to carry out the job.
Sample Personal Recommendation Letters
Personal Recommendation Letter focuses on the personality and characteristics of the candidate and it is much personal than others.
Sample Academic Recommendation Letters
Academic Recommendation Letters discuss work ethic and educational experience. Professional Recommendation Letter is like personal recommendations but written in a more formal perspective about the candidate as a professional in his/her field. Some recommendation letter samples are:
Sample Business Recommendation Letters
Business Recommendation Letters can either represent a whole entity such as a company, or they can focus on a candidate in a business setting and how he/she is equipped for the job.
Sample Promotion Recommendation Letters
Promotion Recommendation Letters are a declaration of why a candidate should be receiving an increase in pay or promotion and a general Reference Recommendation takes a little bit from almost all of the other letters above creating a generically formulated letter for multiple uses.
Tips for Writing a Letter of Recommendation
While following sample letters of recommendation are a great start, it can still be hard to choose your own content to provide in the letter.
The following tips will help you make sure you are writing the most effective letter of recommendation:
Keep it positive
Recommendation letters are not the place for constructive criticism. Every part of the letter should highlight the candidate’s strengths and how they are fit for the role. At the same time, these letters are meant to be honest. If you cannot truthfully express a positive view of the candidate, it’s best to decline the request to write the letter.
Use a standard business letter format and tone
Letters of recommendation are formal and should follow the guidelines for addressing a business letter. See the sample section for examples of this format. It’s standard to use Arial 11-point font for letters submitted online and Time New Roman 12-point font for printed letters. Keep inch-wide margins and single spacing. It is also essential to include your name, address, contact information, date at the top of the letter, and the same information for the hiring manager and their company. Utilize an official letterhead if you have one. Try to limit the letter to no more than a page (but at least two-thirds), with 3-5 paragraphs.
Follow the submission guidelines
Ask the applicant for instructions on how to submit the letter, any special formatting requests, and the deadline. If sending via email, make sure to attach the letter as a WordDoc or PDF instead of pasting it directly into the message space. Submitting a late or improper letter will reflect poorly on the candidate’s application.
Customize your letter to the specific job
Each time a candidate applies for a different position, their application is the strongest when tailored to the exact role and company rather than the general work they seek. First, ensure you have all the details of the position they are applying for to explain why you recommend them for the exact role. Then, approach the letter to convince the hiring manager that they’ve found the perfect match. For example, you can connect the mission of the company towards the candidate’s specific goals.
Explain why your opinion matters
The source of the letter must come from an unbiased source and someone who has professional insight. You’re likely writing the letter for an employee, not your best friend. Establish your place as someone qualified to recommend the candidate. Did you supervise them in a professional setting? In what context did you witness their superior performance? Explaining your role and experience gives the letter more authority.
Positive statements about your candidate don’t hold enough weight if they’re weak or indifferent. Use a bold opener to ensure you draw in the recipient from the beginning.
Example statements include:
“it’s my great pleasure to recommend..,” “I wholeheartedly recommend…,” “It’s my honor to recommend…,” etc. These starters are more effective than “I am writing to recommend.”
Use active voice
Active voice, rather than passive voice, makes for a stronger letter of recommendation. In active voice, it is clear who is performing the action and who is the subject. “I turned in the assignment” is an active voice. “The assignment was turned in” is passive voice. Active voice flows better, provides clarity, and helps keep sentences concise.
If a letter of recommendation contains many grammatical errors, it makes the writer seem less credible or less passionate about the candidate. Read through your letter multiple times to avoid this. Additionally, reading out loud and showing the letter to a friend can help you catch more errors. Make sure that you’re looking for more than just grammar, however. It is also important for your letter to sound natural, be organized, and contain clear sentence fluency.
While it’s sad to watch students or employees move on, writing a letter of recommendation is a great way to show appreciation for all they’ve done for you in the past. Plus, if they succeed in obtaining their desired role, it speaks positively of your organization. You can ensure strong recommendations that candidates need by following the above advice and prioritizing honesty, specificity, and personal experience.