Writing a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, especially because the person you’re writing it for is counting on you to pull through for them. Fortunately, there’s a general formula you can use to write a letter of recommendation that is both professional and effective.
The best way to write a letter of recommendation is to start out with a formal greeting, or using “To whom it may concern” if you don’t know the recipient. Follow the greeting with 2-3 sentences of praise for the person you’re recommending recommendation letter. Then, explain how you know the person and why you’re qualified to recommend them. Include specific examples of the person’s qualifications and successes in the body of your letter of recommendation, then end with a sentence affirming that you recommend the person for the job or position. For more tips, on how to write a letter of recommendation or letter of recommendation sample, then read on!
Sample Letter of Recommendation
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Writing the Letter of Recommendation
You can use the following guidelines while writing letter of recommendation. Here is also provided different types of letter of recommendation format.
Use Standard Formal Letter Writing Conventions to Begin
A letter of recommendation is like any other professional communication, and follows the same general rules and guidelines.
- Place your address on the top right, followed by the date—spelled out.
- Below that, on the left, place the recipient’s name (if known) and address.
- Open the letter with a formal business greeting. Ex:
- Dear Ms. Smith,
- Dear Sir or Madam, (if you don’t know the recipient’s name)
Open With a Short, but Enthusiastic, Bit of Praise
Let the company know right off the bat that you believe in this person. When you write letter of recommendation you don’t have to be over the top or insincere, but a positive note to start will make a big difference.
- “It makes me extremely happy to recommend Michael for the position of Director of Development at XYX Corporation.”
- “Any company should count themselves lucky to have an employee as bright, friendly, and dedicated as Gina.”
- “No matter what she does, Helena Bonham does it well.”
Describe How you Know the Person
Give some context for your letter of recommendation. Let the reader know how you met them, how you worked together, and your basic qualifications.
- “As VP of Application Development, I was Michael’s direct supervisor from 2009 through 2012. We worked closely together on several key projects, and I got to know him very well during this time.
- “I was both Gina’s adviser and teacher throughout her time at Hamilton College. I watched her shine both in the classroom and in office hours, and had the joy of watching her meet and then exceed expectations with her thesis.”
- “As the Dean of Students, I deal with many young people throughout the day. However, I was lucky to spend several hours a week with Ms. Bonham in her role as Committee President. In my 32 years as Dean, I have rarely been so impressed.”
Be Specific About the Candidate’s Qualifications and Successes
Describe what the person has done using specific instances and examples, rather than generalities. Whenever possible, give evidence or stories in letter of recommendation to back yourself up.
- “Michael’s sophisticated grasp of database architecture, combined with an innate feel for UX design and a warm, personal approach to his in-company client base dramatically improved the productivity of our company’s merchandising, creative, and editorial departments. His approach to managing application support, maintenance, and training was highly professional and greatly respected, both by end users and by the executive team.”
- “Gina was always inquisitive but never pushy. Despite being able to answer almost any question, Gina would rather sit back and help others find the answer for themselves. Countless students, who I thought were doomed to struggle, happily told me how tutoring sessions with Gina helped them turn the corner. And I had many conversations, both as her professor and a peer, that I will remember happily for years.”
- “When Ms. Bonham hears the word “no,” you can almost see the gears start to turn. She is mover and a shaker — interfacing with students, faculty, staff, and even outside agencies to find solutions to any problem.”
Make Comparisons to Illustrate their Success
To put the candidate’s accomplishments into perspective, include comparisons so that the recipient will have some basis to understand why you are recommending this person through letter of recommendation.
- “Michael’s output of completed projects has exceeded the combined results of all other development efforts I’ve witnessed during my 8 years at UVW Company.”
- “The best students are ones that genuinely love to learn. A student that pushes themselves ever day to learn more and be better, and enjoys every minute. Gina is that kind of student.
- “I can say with confidence that my job working with the Student Committee was never easier, nor more enjoyable, than when I got to work with Ms. Bonham.”
Don’t Exaggerate in Letter of Recommendation – Show Where and How They Can Improve
Don’t put the candidate on a pedestal. Not only does it not look plausible, it will also set expectations for them that will be next to impossible to meet. If they have an Achille’s heel, don’t exaggerate it, but don’t hide it, either.
- “Despite coming in as a novice, Michael has worked hard to improve his documentation and commenting of scripts and processes, making it easier for those filling his shoes in the future to work effectively.”
- “Gina is always on the move – tutoring, taking classes, joining clubs, etc. – and though her schedule is perhaps too tightly packed, she somehow manages it all with a smile on her face.”
- “Of course, Ms. Bonham’s determination and drive occasionally led to butting heads and conflicting opinions. However, though she is never one to shy away from conflict, Ms. Bonham passion was never mean-spririted or rude.”
Keep Your Writing Action Oriented
Begin each paragraph with a punchy, active affirmation of the candidate’s qualities or character while writing letter of recommendation. Strong verbs are your friend.
- Don’t say “Over the course of the last couple years, I have been pleased to watch the ongoing development of Michael’s talents.” Say instead, “Michael’s skills have grown rapidly in the last couple years.”
- “Gina exhibits the drive and dedication of the best students. Her writing is clear and concise, a rarity among many young people but effortless for her.”
- “Ms. Bonham fights for what she believes is right, even if it doesn’t mesh with her own preferences. This clear-eyed and selfless attitude will catapult her far in life.”
Close the Letter of Recommendation Affirmatively
Reiterate your recommendation of the candidate and, if appropriate, invite the recipient to contact you.
- For example, say, “For all of these reasons, I think Michael will make a fine addition to your team. Should you have any questions, I invite you to contact me at the number or address, above.”
- “Gina is the kind of person I would love to hire to work for me, and I know she will be an incredible asset for you.”
- “I have no qualms about giving Ms. Bonham the highest recommendation for the position. If you have any questions, please contact me.”
Use a Business Closing and Sign Your Name
Above all, be professional. If you’re sending a physical letter of recommendation, print it out and sign it by hand. Otherwise, just typing your name will do.
- “Best regards,”
- “Thank you,”
Break Down the Letter Formate into Short, but Specific, Paragraphs
Don’t ramble, but do flesh out your key points. Try to keep it at one page. Cover various aspects in letter of recommendation in brief, specific detail.
Your qualifications, how you know the candidate, general recommendation.
- Professional Success
Why they will be effective, productive workers. Examples of successes.
- Personal Testimony
Why they will be a great addition to work and office culture.
Reaffirm your willingness to recommend them, offer contact information.
Target the Letter of Recommendation
Is it for an academic post, a job, a volunteer position, a background check, or a personal reference? Write your letter of recommendation so that it is focused on this purpose.
- Letter of Recommendation example, the letter is part of a job application package, it should focus on the professional qualifications and conduct of the candidate.
Inform Yourself About the Person you are Recommending Through Letter of Recommendation
Spend some time talking to them about their goals and the position they are applying for. Gather together their current resume, any memos or notes you may have on them, and any other information that will help you as you write the letter of recommendation. The best letter of recommendations are thorough and specific, and having all the information at hand will make the process much easier.
- You put your own reputation on the line when you write a letter of recommendation. If you feel you do not know the person well enough, or they are somebody you cannot in good conscience recommend, decline their request.
If you’re not sure of your writing skills specially about writing letter of recommendation, or if your letter of recommendation will carry a great deal of weight for the candidate’s application, ask for feedback from a trusted colleague who may also know the candidate. If you are putting your reputation on the line for this person, you want to put your best foot forward with this letter.