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How to write an letter of recommendation

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How to write an letter of recommendation
July 20, 2019 Anniversary Wishes For Parents 5 comments

Writing a job recommendation letter but not sure where to start? Check out our collection of helpful samples to get you started.

College admissions season is upon us. With the ever-increasing competition among college applicants, writing an effective and sincere college recommendation letter is one way high school teachers can help students stand out among the competition. Every year, I write recommendations for a dozen or so students, often to the most prestigious universities in the nation. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

Make sure you know the student well enough to recommend them.

It’s okay to ask a student to provide you with a list of accomplishments and extracurricular activities. You can use these details to complement more personal narratives. However, if you find that you don’t really have personal details to add, you may want to consider whether you are the right person to write that student’s recommendation.

If I feel that I don’t know a student well enough or don’t feel comfortable recommending them for some other reason, I just politely decline the request. I usually tell these students to ask a teacher who knows them better.

Open with a formal salutation.

To Whom It May Concern and Dear Admissions Representative are both acceptable salutations. Use a colon instead of comma. Your letter is a business letter and requires a business letter format. When mailing a letter, make sure to print it on your school letterhead.

Paragraph 1: Introduce the student.

Try beginning your letter with something the person tasked with screening hundreds (possibly thousands) of recommendation letters will remember. I like to start with an amusing or poignant story that illustrates who the student is and how others perceive them. Make sure to use the student’s full name for the first reference and then just the first name after that. My favorite strategy is to end the paragraph with a single sentence that highlights the student’s strongest characteristics, in my opinion.

Paragraphs 2 and 3: Write more about character, less about achievements.

In the body of the letter, focus on who the student is rather than what the student has done. Between test scores, transcripts, and the dozens of questions on the application, admissions representatives have plenty of information about the applicant’s academic and extracurricular experiences.

What college reps want to know is how the student will fit into their environment. Give specific examples of how the student achieved—did they overcome obstacles or tackle any challenges to reach their goals? I usually write two short paragraphs for the body. Sometimes the first relates character to academics, and the next relates character to extracurricular activities. Other times, I use the student’s characteristics as the main focal points.

Paragraph 4: Conclude with a direct recommendation.

Conclude with a sincere statement of recommendation for the student to the college of their choice. When sending the recommendation to a single college, use the college’s name or mascot in your recommendation.

For a recommendation that will be used for multiple applications, such as the Common App, leave out specific references. Lastly, I return to using the student’s full name in my final reference to them in the letter.

Wrap it up with an appropriate closing.

My last statement encourages the college to contact me with any further questions. I close with Best regards, currently my favorite valediction; it is professional and simple. I also include my title and school after my typed name.

Keep your college recommendation letter under a page—and proofread!

The sweet spot for admissions letter length is between two-thirds and one full, single-spaced page, using Times New Roman 12-point font for printed letters or Arial 11-point font for electronically submitted letters. If your letter is too short, you risk appearing less than impressed with the applicant; if it is too long, you risk seeming insincere or boring.

Finally, remember that you are writing a recommendation to an academic institution. Your reputation and credibility as an educator rest with your letter. While proofreading, check for active voice, proper grammar, and a formal yet warm tone. If you are unsure of the content or conventions you’ve used in your letter, ask another teacher who knows the student to read your letter and provide additional insight.

Good luck to you and your students this college admissions season! May the pride you have for your students resonate in your recommendation letters for them, and may they get into their reach college.

Do you have any college recommendation letter tips to add? Come and share your ideas in our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook.

Plus, check our free college admissions timeline poster.

Write recommendation letters with recommendation letter samples, sentences, phrases, must-know tips and easy steps.

Letter of Recommendation

how to write an letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation for a teacher should be written either by the principal or vice principal from their previous school. If you are a teacher with no experience, then the letter of recommendation should be written by your former professor.

If a former student or former colleague asks you to write them a recommendation letter, do you know how to go about it? If you also ever require a teaching recommendation letter, do you know how it should be written? Read on to know how to write one and what to expect if you ever need someone to write you a recommendation letter.

Table of contents

1. How to write a letter of recommendation for a teacher
2. The format for writing a letter of recommendation for a teacher

How to write a letter of recommendation for a teacher

The letter of recommendation you write will identify your colleague or student as the best candidate for a position. It depicts characteristics, abilities, and skills that are not highlighted on the applicants’ teaching resume.

Colleagues and superiors are in a better position to talk about an applicant because they worked with them. They have a different image or perspective that the employer will not get from their cover letter or resume. By interacting with the applicant, they notice things about their intellect, how they engage with students, other teachers, and their personality. The interviewer will not have a complete understanding of the applicant without the recommendation.

This, therefore, requires you to focus on specific aspects of the teacher’s experience and expertise. It will also require some definite and clear examples. You need to focus on important and relevant qualities which make the applicant stand out. Here is how to go about it:

1. Meet the teacher
After you receive a letter from them, schedule a meeting. The meeting will allow you to find out what aspects of their teaching, skills, and abilities they want on their recommendation. What examples do they want you to highlight? Is it their positive classroom behaviour? Alternatively, how they used SMART Boards to improve test scores? These examples will help you tailor your letter to the focus on the points they want you to highlight.

2. Tailor the letter to the job description
Request a copy of the job offer or posting and highlight requirements they need. You can use this to highlight some of the achievements and accomplishments that are relevant to the requirements of the job.

3. Make the letter official
The language on the letter should be official. It should also be detailed, precise and to the point.

4. Specify your relationship with the applicant
It’s important to include how you know the teacher. What kind of working relationship did you have with them? Include what position you hold, the position the person you are recommending held and how you interacted with them during your time working together.

5. Write a positive recommendation
As the saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Don’t include anything negative on the recommendation letter. It would help if you showed that you believe in the person’s skills and you have no reservations. Use adjectives like reliable, creative, honest and so forth when describing them. If you have reservations, kindly deny the request to write the letter.

6. Give examples
Show, using examples, how that person demonstrated the qualities or skills you mentioned. As this is a teacher’s job application, use numbers to prove how they achieved success. For example, how they took up coaching a dying hockey team in your school, the students improved and managed to win in competitions.

7. Ask for a follow-up
Provide your contact information so that the interviewer can reach you in case they need further information. Include your telephone number and email.

The format for writing a letter of recommendation for a teacher

The letter should only be one page and include:

1. A letterhead
This should be on the top left corner and contain

  • The date you are writing the letter
  • Your full name
  • Your title
  • The school names
  • Street address
  • Your city, state and zip code

2. Salutations
Address the person you are sending the recommendation to in person. Make sure you get their title and name right. You could ask the applicant to provide you with the name and title. Specifying the name and title personalizes the letter.

If they do not know the name of the person, then a general letter will suffice. However, be respectful and ensure the letter remains official throughout.

3. An introduction
On this part, introduce yourself, and then the applicant. Include the length of time you worked with the applicant and the nature of your acquittance. In what professional capacity do you know the applicant? Include why you think they did a good job and that you highly recommend them for the position.

4. The body
This will include several paragraphs depending on how well you know the applicant. Use these paragraphs to specify the applicant’s role in the school you worked together in; their skills, the kind of training they had and how they contributed to the school goals. Include the length of time they worked for you.

Make sure your assessment is positive. Include examples to demonstrate how the applicant achieved the recommendations required on the job post. Ensure your examples show how well the applicant worked with the other teachers, the students, parents, and other faculty members. Include proficiencies that the applicant has and how they used them in the classroom.

Abilities you can highlight for the teacher should show he or she is a professional who can be trusted. For example:

  • They have excellent teaching and communication skills.
  • That the teacher does not only teach intellectual growth but are also interested in the safety of the children and growing the student’s talents outside the classroom.
  • They are good role models for the students.
  • They are empathetic to the students and make sure their wellbeing is looked after.
  • They are good listeners and can sort children problems, concerns, and conflicts.
  • They provide useful advice to the students.
  • They are law abiding. Include ways in which they contribute to the community.
  • That they monitor students’ performance and are quick to notice students with problem areas, they find ways to help these students achieve the best.
  • That they want to develop professionally and took courses to build their skills especially in technology, show how these skills have led to the support and development of the students.

5. Conclusion
The concluding paragraph should reaffirm your recommendation of the applicant. It should also include an invitation for further contact. Finish the letter with your name and signature.

Sample letter of recommendation for teacher
[Your Name]
[Your title]
[School name]
[School street address]
[City, State, Zip]

[Today’s date]

[Addressee’s name]
[Addressee’s title]
[School name]
[School Street Address]
[City, State, Zip]

Dear [Professor’s Name/ Department Head’s name/ Principal name]

I take this opportunity to recommend [name of the teacher you are recommending] for the position of [role/ position they are applying to] at [name of the school]. As the [name your role when you worked with applicant], I had the pleasure of working with [Applicants name] for [number of years]. [She/he] was a treasured member of our faculty and was loved by the teachers and students. [The applicant] is an outstanding, driven and organized teacher.

[Applicant] began [his/her] teaching career in our school and was eager to develop [his/ her] teaching skills. [She/ he] took up extra responsibilities like [name the responsibilities the applicant took on that will give a positive view on the job application]. [His/ her] extensive knowledge of [name the subjects the applicant taught] and exceptional teaching abilities can be seen in how, within the first year, the students’ test scores in [subject applicant instructed] improved by [name the percentage].

During [Applicant’s] tenure with us, [she/he] also contributed significantly to the [name other non-class activities the applicant participated in. For example, extracurricular activities or faculty responsibilities]. [She/ he] also introduced new projects that the school has taken up as part of the curriculum including [name several projects applicant started and how they have helped the students.] [The applicant] has exciting ideas that [she/he] works hard to see accomplished and am confident that this will continue in your school.

[Applicant] is also interested in professional development and took classes on [name classes that improve the candidates teaching skills]. [She/ he] is creative, charismatic, committed and has excellent classroom management skills. [She /he] developed a rapport with everyone she encountered based on respect. Several parents have praised [his/her] influence on their kids and the huge impact it had on them.

I recommend [Applicant] with no reservations for the [position applicant is applying for]. I am confident that as a member of your faculty, [she/he] will be a valuable addition. Feel free to contact me at [provide phone number and email], if you have additional questions about [her/his] skills, abilities, and qualities.

Sincerely,

[Your signature]
[Your name]

This letter of recommendation for teacher template will help you quickly write a recommendation for your fellow teacher or student teacher. The employer will be looking to find documented evidence based on the experience the teacher had at your school. They want examples that depict the strength and abilities that would be valuable at their school. Remember to be honest and write while looking out for the good of your fellow teacher.

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

how to write an letter of recommendation

Because of our highly competitive applicant pool, letters of recommendation hold substantial weight in our admissions decisions. A well-written letter for an outstanding applicant can show impressive characteristics beyond their own self-advocacy.

A guide to writing evaluations for MIT

Both guidance counselor and teacher evaluations are most helpful when they are specific and storied. They should provide us with the information and impressions we cannot glean from the rest of the application. Try to give a complete sketch of the student and the context of their accomplishments. Support your conclusions with facts and anecdotes whenever possible.

Try to address the following questions in your evaluation:

  • What is the context of your relationship with the applicant? If you do not know the applicant well and are only able to write a brief summary, please acknowledge this.
  • Has the student demonstrated a willingness to take intellectual risks and go beyond the normal classroom experience?
  • Does the applicant have any unusual competence, talent, or leadership abilities?
  • What motivates this person? What excites them?
  • How does the applicant interact with teachers? With peers? Describe their personality and social skills.
  • What will you remember most about this person?
  • If you have knowledge of MIT, what leads you to believe MIT is a good match for this person? How might they fit into the MIT community and grow from the MIT experience?
  • Has the applicant ever experienced disappointment or failure? If so, how did they react?
  • Are there any unusual family or community circumstances of which we should be aware?

Please pay special attention to the opening and closing of your evaluation. Remember, we are reading over 20,000 applications, and we appreciate strong statements that we’ll remember as we evaluate each candidate. With that said, please write in a way that makes you feel comfortable and do not shy away from giving us your honest impressions. We are only looking for glowing superlatives if they are backed up with examples and give us context; what is behind a student’s achievements. Above all else, make sure to go beyond a student’s grades and academic performance. We can get this information from other parts of the application.

Letters of recommendation are confidential in the MIT admissions process.

Examples letters of recommendation and critiques

Teacher recommendation for David:

It is a great pleasure for me to recommend David for admission to MIT. He is one of the most extraordinary students I have encountered in 20 years of teaching. I taught David A.P. Calculus last year as a tenth grader, and he was one of the very top students in an extremely able group of mostly seniors. He has a high aptitude for math and was very much involved in his work, applying himself with persistence and dedication and often going beyond the regular class assignments.

David’s abiding interest, however, is computer science. He has developed a series of “strands” for use in providing computerized drill and review in the basic skills and techniques of algebra and arithmetic and has recently adapted these to other subjects. David’s work in this area has been so original and significant that he has published a paper on it and delivered several lectures to professionals in other parts of the country. This is a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone, especially a young man in rural Arkansas. It is also worth noting that both last year and this year David taught computer programming to a tenth-grade class of mine for two weeks. He took over completely, preparing lectures, assignments, and tests with great care and thought. His lectures were clear and well organized, and it was obvious that he had expended a great deal of effort to make the course the success that it was.

David’s personal qualities are as impressive as his intellectual accomplishments. An extremely kind, sensitive and sensible boy, he has had a difficult family situation for a few years now. He provides emotional support to his mother through her battle with cancer without allowing the situation to undermine his own stability and accomplishments. He has exhausted all that we have to offer him in this small community, and the maturity that he has demonstrated leads me to believe him capable of entering college a year early, as he now plans to do. I sincerely hope that you will be able to offer him a place in MIT’s freshman class.

 

CritiqueExcellent! This recommendation is filled with comments from someone who clearly knows this student well. We get a clear sense for not only David’s intellectual capacities, but also emotional maturity. His genuine love for computer programming comes through in this teacher’s description. We also realize that he is pushing academic boundaries in his community and making opportunities for himself – a trait that is especially important for a candidate seeking college admissions a year early.

Teacher recommendation for Jen:

Jen was a student in one of my predominately senior physics classes. She took physics her junior year in high school and was a good student. Through hard work, she was able to develop a good understanding of the subject material.

Jen also had personal qualities that are commendable. In the two years that I have known her I have never known her to be dishonest or untrustworthy. Once on an exam paper I had made a grading error in her favor. She brought this to my attention even though it resulted in a lower test grade.

In conclusion, I feel that Jen has both the academic and personal qualities to be a credit to the college of her choice, and I give her my recommendation without reservation.

Critique: We receive thousands of recommendations like this each year. It is all positive, but it doesn’t give any real depth to the candidate. In this instance, the reader is left feeling the writer is reaching for something to say. Honesty and trustworthiness are certainly admirable traits, but they are not uncommon among the nation’s top college applicants. We are looking for a compelling reason to admit someone, so information on the class material does not help the candidate. Although Jen may be a hard worker, most of our applicants are. Although the comments are positive, it is difficult to grasp onto anything tangible to make this candidate’s case stronger. Was this faint praise intentional? How does Jen fare in comparison with other (more outstanding?) candidates at the school?

Counselor recommendation for Mary:

Mary has contributed to the school community in a variety of ways, most notably through her participation on the newspaper and yearbook staffs. Frankly, I am impressed with her aggressiveness, creativity, determination and ability to schedule extracurricular activities around a full academic workload. I have never heard Mary complain about her workload or refuse any assignment that she has been given. It is not adequate to say that she accepts responsibility readily. She seeks responsibility. Oh, for more such students!

As business manager for the paper and co-editor of the yearbook the past two years, Mary has done an outstanding job. She personally brought the town’s business community from the view that the school newspaper was a charitable organization to the realization that the paper is a direct pipeline through which advertisers can reach students. She also took the initiative to set up the advertising rate schedule for the paper that produced enough revenue to expand coverage from a four-page paper, so that it is an eight-page and often twelve-page paper. Her work as photographer for both publications has been equally outstanding.

Her motivation is not forced upon her, nor does she wear it like a badge. She has tremendous self-discipline. Mary is also a dedicated, versatile and talented student who will be an asset to your undergraduate community. She has my respect and my highest recommendation.

 

Critique: Good. Lots of specifics here give us a very clear impression and help us to know why that impression is held. We have evidence of her newspaper directives and overall character.

Counselor recommendation for Jane:

Jane is an outstanding young woman whose academic record may not fully reflect her ability. Her parents were divorced during her junior year, and, for several years before that, her home situation had been in turmoil with a great deal of fighting between her parents. Her father has an alcohol problem, and Jane certainly endured a great deal of emotional distress. The fact that she has been able to do as well as she has done given the circumstances says a lot about her. Now that the home situation has stabilized, her performance has improved. I believe her senior year grades are a much better reflection of her ability.

 

Critique: You may wonder whether or not the above information is appropriate in a letter of evaluation. It is! We appreciate anything that gives us insight and perspective into a student’s performance and the environment. Comments about problems that a student has experienced will help us understand the context in which they have accomplished whatever they have achieved. The extent to which they have dealt with these problems is useful to know as well.

Counselor recommendation for Mike:

I do not really know Mike very well. He has come to me for routine matters but generally has not had any problems that he has discussed with me. In this large school, I do not always have the time to personally get to know each of my advisees. From the comments I get from Mike’s teachers, I have the impression that he is one of the strongest students this school has seen.

Critique: We do not learn very much from this report, but we understand why. The counselor is very honest, and we are not left guessing as to the reason there is not more information and will turn our attention to other parts of the application.

Teacher recommendation for Brian:

Brian was in the top five in my class consistently. He is certainly motivated to study. His character and personality are admirable. Brian is an excellent student, hard worker and has above average reasoning ability.

Critique: This is an example of an evaluation in which we really don’t know what the writer is trying to tell us. The comments provided certainly do not give much substantive information. We are left wondering whether there is just not much to say about this student or whether the teacher just didn’t bother to put much effort into the recommendation. This is a situation where we will probably form our impressions based on the pattern of all the recommendations. If all are equally uninformative, we will assume there wasn’t much to say, but if the others are better, we will assume this teacher did not give much effort to the recommendation.

Writing a letter of recommendation may seem daunting. Here are some power tips that can help you get your letter just right.

Writing a Reference Letter (With Examples)

how to write an letter of recommendation

Writing a Reference Letter (With Examples)

By Ali Hale

At some point in life, you’re almost certainly going to have to write a reference letter for someone. It might be a former employee or student, or even a family friend. Here’s what you need to know about the purpose of reference letters and how to write the most effective letter possible.

Note: I will be using “candidate” to refer to the person who the reference letter is about, “you” to refer to the person writing the reference letter, and “recipient” to refer to the person receiving the letter. I’ll emphasise here, though, that reference letters are not only for job or academic “candidates”, it’s just a handy term to use to keep this article straightforward!

What is a reference letter and when are they used?

A reference letter is usually written to testify to a person or (occasionally) a company’s skills, character and/or achievements. Sometimes a reference letter is known as a “recommendation letter”. It is a formal document, and should be typed and written in a serious and business-like style.

Reference letters are used in a wide variety of situations; there is no definitive list that covers all possible scenarios. The most common examples are:

  • When a candidate applies for a job, they may need a reference to support their application.
  • If an interviewee is given a job offer, they may need to supply a reference letter before the contract can be signed.
  • A student applying for an academic course often requires a reference letter to support their application.
  • A student applying for funding will often need to supply reference letters.
  • Companies may use reference letters as testimonies to their trustworthiness and ability to carry out a job well.
  • Prospective tenants may need to provide their landlord with a reference letter, testifying to their good financial status. (This could be from a prior landlord or from a current employer.)

Who should write a reference letter?

If you are approached and asked to write a reference letter for a job candidate, a student or a company, consider whether you can legitimately do so. A reference letter is a formal document, and it is crucial that you do not lie or fudge the truth in it, or there could be legal repercussions. If someone wants a reference letter from you:

  • The candidate should be someone you know reasonably well. For example, you cannot provide any authoritative comment on the academic ability of a student who’s only been attending your lectures for a week.
  • You should know the candidate in a capacity which gives you the ability to write a meaningful reference. For example, if you have worked with the person, it would be appropriate for you to write a reference letter to a prospective employer for them.
  • You should be able to provide an honest and positive reference. If you truly feel that the candidate has no good qualities for you to emphasis, or if you have had a personality clash with them in the past, you should tell them to seek a reference letter from someone else.

What goes into a reference letter?

The exact structure of a reference letter will differ slightly depending on the type of reference it is, but this is a good basic outline:

  1. Start using the business letter format: put the recipient’s name and address, if known, and address them as “Dear [name]”. If the recipient is currently unknown (this would be likely on an academic application, for instance), then use “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”.
  2. It is often helpful to introduce yourself in the first couple of lines of your letter. The recipient will not need your life history: just give a brief sentence or two explaining your position and your relationship to the candidate.
  3. Your next paragraph should confirm any facts which you know the candidate will be supplying along with your letter. For example, if you are writing a reference for a job applicant, some or all of these details may be appropriate:
    • The person’s job title, and role within the company.
    • The person’s leaving salary when they were last employed by you (or your organisation).
    • The dates which the person was employed from and until.

    If you are writing a reference letter for an academic course, you will need to confirm the person’s academic grades.

  4. In your third paragraph, you should provide your judgement upon the candidate’s skills and qualities. It is often appropriate to state that you would gladly re-employ them, or that their contributions to your college class were highly valued. Single out any exceptional qualities that the candidate has – perhaps their drive and enthusiasm, their attention to detail, or their ability to lead.
  5. Where possible, use your fourth paragraph to give a couple of concrete examples of times when the candidate excelled. (You may want to ask the candidate to tell you about any extra-curricular projects they’ve been involved in, or invite them to highlight anything they’d particularly like you to include in the reference letter.)
  6. Close your letter on a positive note, and if you are willing to receive further correspondence about the candidate’s application, make this clear. Include your contact details too.
  7. As with any business letter, you should end appropriately; “Yours sincerely” when you are writing to a named recipient, and “Yours faithfully” when you do not know who will be receiving the letter.

Things to avoid

Make sure that you avoid:

  • Mentioning any weaknesses the candidate has.
  • Saying anything that could be construed as libel.
  • Writing in an informal manner: keep the letter business-like. Jokes, slang and casual language are not appropriate and may harm the candidate’s chances.
  • Including personal information not relevant to the application. Mentioning the candidate’s race, political stance, religion, nationality, marital status, age or health is usually inappropriate.
  • Spelling mistakes, sloppy writing or typos: this letter is hugely important to the candidate, and you should take care to make it look professional.

Reference Letter Examples

There are a number of good templates for reference letters available on Business Balls. I’ve included one below, which would be appropriate for a general-purpose reference – if you were writing a reference in your capacity as the candidate’s former employer, you would need to include more specific details:

Date

To whom it may concern

I confirm that I have known (name) for (number) years.

(State relationship – social, business, working together in some other capacity, club, activity, project, etc.)

At all times I have found (name/him/her) to be (state characteristics – eg, dependable, reliable, hard-working, conscientious, honest, peace-loving, courteous, etc – to be as helpful as possible think about what the reader will most prefer to see, in terms of satisfying concerns, or seeing evidence of relevant required skills or characteristics).

I’m happy to provide further information if required. (optional)

Yours faithfully, etc.

You can find examples of full reference letters on About.com’s “job searching” section. They list letters appropriate for a variety of different situations: here’s one from a previous employer in support of a job candidate:

To Whom it May Concern:

I highly recommend Jane Doe as a candidate for employment. Jane was employed by Company Name as an Administrative Assistant from 2002 – 2005. Jane was responsible for office support including word processing, scheduling appointments and creating brochures, newsletters, and other office literature.

Jane has excellent communication skills. In addition, she is extremely organized, reliable and computer literate. Jane can work independently and is able to follow through to ensure that the job gets done. She is flexible and willing to work on any project that is assigned to her. Jane was quick to volunteer to assist in other areas of company operations, as well.

Jane would be a tremendous asset for your company and has my highest recommendation. If you have any further questions with regard to her background or qualifications, please do not hesitate to call me.

Sincerely,

John Smith
Title
Company
Address
Phone
Email

If you are still unsure what best to include in the reference letter, imagine yourself in the position of the candidate’s prospective employer, or of the panel reading his/her academic application. What information would they need to know? What qualities would they like their candidates to have? Obviously, you should never lie or mislead in a reference letter, but you should try to focus on areas which will give the recipient the most useful information possible about the candidate.

Video Recap

How to Ask for a Reference Letter

If you’re in the position of requiring a reference from a past employer or from someone who taught you at school or university, then you need to approach them in an appropriate way.

“Appropriate” might be quite formal or quite informal, depending on your relationship with them. For instance, if you’re approaching a lecturer who taught you along with dozens of other students and who does not know you well, it’s appropriate to be quite formal; if you’re approaching your former line manager, who you shared nights out and weekends away with for years, then being formal would seem strangely standoffish.

In a fairly formal context, you might write something like this:

Dear (name)

I hope all is going well (at their company / in their department).

I’m applying for (give brief details of the role or position you’re applying for). Would you be able to provide a reference letter for me? I’d be very grateful. You can send it to (add the name and contact details here)

With thanks in advance,

(Your name)

If you’re approaching someone who you’re on very friendly terms with, it’s really up to you to decide what to say.

Whatever the situation, it often makes sense to mention particular points that it would be helpful for the reference to cover (e.g. “The company is especially keen to know about my experience with summarising complex information quickly, as that will be a major part of the role.”)

It can also be helpful to include details that the person writing the letter may not be aware of. For instance, if you took part in significant extra-curricular activities at university alongside your studies, you may want to mention this.

Writing a Reference Letter: Quick Summary

When you’re writing a reference letter, you should:

  • Ascertain why the referee needs the letter. A reference letter for an academic position will read very different from a reference letter for a prospective landlord.
  • Consider whether you can reasonably provide the type of reference required. If you do not know the candidate well, or if you are unable to give them a positive reference, you should encourage them to seek someone else.
  • Format your letter as a standard business letter, and briefly introduce yourself at the start.
  • Confirm key facts about the applicant (e.g. how long they worked for you, and in what role).
  • Provide your judgement upon the candidate’s skills and qualities. Be honest, but do focus on the things that you feel will reflect the candidate in a positive light.

If you’re asking someone to provide a reference letter, you should approach them in an appropriate way, and give them the information they need in order to write you a good reference.

Reference Letter Quiz

For each question, select the correct answer.

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WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: How to get a strong recommendation letter (Get Accepted to Your Dream University Part #8)

Sometimes a reference letter is known as a “recommendation letter”. If you are approached and asked to write a reference letter for a job candidate, a student.

how to write an letter of recommendation
Written by Mezshura
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