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Best recommendation letter for employee
October 14, 2018 Wedding Anniversary Wishes 1 comment

Writing a recommendation letter for an employee or colleague is no easy And you want to write the best letter you can, as your letter could.

Anyone who’s applied for a job knows how important recommendation letters can be to getting hired. While you've probably asked for a reference letter in the past, you may be less familiar with writing one. If someone asks you for a reference, how can you produce a great letter that will help your employee, colleague, or friend get hired?

To help you through the writing process, we’re providing nine samples of effective letters of recommendation (scroll down to skip to the samples!). By reading through these examples, you’ll gain a clear understanding of how to structure your own letters.

Before getting to the free recommendation letter samples, let’s briefly review the role that reference letters play in the hiring process. Why are they important, and what makes some stand out over others?

 

Why Are Recommendation Letters Important?

Many employers request recommendation letters to help them decide who to hire or internally promote. Throughout the hiring process, the applicant strives to present herself in the best light. Beyond the interview and resume, hiring managers look to recommendation letters to confirm the candidate’s qualifications and to gain insight from an outside party.

The hiring manager wants to know what experiences the candidate will bring to the new role, how she’ll contribute to the company or organization, and how she’ll behave in the day-to-day. Recommendation letters can point to a candidate’s future performance by talking about her past achievements.

Reference letters can also shed light on what it’s like to manage, work with, or, in the case of a character reference, be friends with the person under consideration. They complement the candidate’s story and suggest what she’ll bring to the table in her next job.

If you get asked to write a letter for someone, it’s safe to assume you want to do a good job. Helping someone get hired is not just a satisfying good deed, but it’s also good professional karma! So how can you turn those good intentions into a stand-out employee letter of recommendation?

Each letter will, of course, be different, but good letters share certain key features. Read on to learn about three important characteristics of strong reference letters.

Your recommendation letter's not the time to be cagey about your identity! The hiring manager wants to know who you are and why you're qualified to recommend the applicant.

 

What Makes a Recommendation Letter Stand Out? 3 Key Features

Strong letters give positive descriptions of a candidate’s skills in a concise and powerful way. Beyond using language that's clear and error-free, what elements should your recommendation letter include to be effective?

As you write your letter, make sure it does the following:

 

#1: Explains Why You’re Qualified to Recommend the Candidate

In order to hold weight, a recommendation letter should come from a reputable source. If an employer wants a professional reference, then the writer of that letter probably worked with the candidate in a supervisory capacity. Some employers will also be interested in letters from a colleague or, occasionally, a friend, neighbor, or family member. Most letters, though, will be written by a supervisor, manager, or boss of some sort.

In the first paragraph, you should explain who you are and how you know the candidate. How long did you work with her and in what capacity? By explaining your relationship, you show that you’re qualified to give an honest assessment.

If someone who feels like a relative stranger asks you to write a letter, you might consider declining or recommending someone else to write it. If you didn’t get to know the candidate’s work performance or only did so in a way completely unrelated to the new position, then you might not be able to provide a helpful letter of recommendation from employer to employee.

The best letters are written by people who can speak to the candidate’s skills and accomplishments. Make sure to state clearly in the beginning of your letter who you are and why your opinion matters.

 

#2: Customized to the New Position

While you should speak to the candidate’s accomplishments in her past role, you should also show why she’d make a good fit in the next one. Even if the candidate’s making a career change, you can explain why she’ll be able to do well in the new industry.

Here’s where open communication with the applicant is important. She should share the job description so you have a clear understanding of the position’s requirements. As the writer, you’re not expected to do much research on the new job. The candidate should provide you with everything you need to know to customize your letter.

By drawing on this information, you can express confidence that the candidate will succeed in the new role. Then when the hiring manager reads your letter, she’ll feel reassured that the candidate would make a good fit.

 

#3: Uses Specific Examples and Anecdotes

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your letter should provide specific examples about the candidate. Don’t just list adjectives like, “friendly, intelligent, and hard-working”; instead, present circumstances in which the candidate demonstrated those qualities. To borrow a favorite phrase of English teachers, “show, don’t just tell.”

Not only will examples point to the value the candidate brought to your organization or company, but they’ll also paint a picture of how she works in day-to-day operations. Using two to three specific anecdotes in your letter will boost its level of persuasiveness. It will also sidestep a common rec letter trap: becoming a generic list of cliches.

Just as you should only write a recommendation letter if you feel qualified to assess the candidate, you should also only write it if you can provide a great one. While you don’t want to go over the top and sound insincere, your letter should be a strongly positive endorsement.

 

Want to provide a strong recommendation for your employee, but don't have the time to craft the perfect letter?

PrepScholar's new recommendation tool, SimpleRec, takes you from good intentions and a blank page to a fully written and formatted letter of recommendation in under 5 minutes. All you need to do is give us some simple pieces of information about your employee and your experience working with them, and we'll do the rest.

Try out SimpleRec risk-free today:

 

Sample Recommendation Letters

As you read through the nine free job recommendation letters below, notice how they all share the three key features described above, even though they differ in terms of their source and target audience. Below are nine sample recommendation letters, each followed by an analysis of what it does well!

 

After checking out the above samples of recommendation letters, read on for some final thoughts on how to write an excellent letter of recommendation for an employee, coworker, or friend. 

 

Now that you've got all the building blocks, you can put them together into a powerful letter of recommendation!

 

Writing Strong Letters of Recommendation: Final Thoughts

While the above samples of recommendation letters will help guide you through the letter writing process, they can’t look exactly like your final product. Writing a letter is a significant undertaking, as it requires you to customize your words to the candidate and make your letter unique. Even though the specifics will vary, strong letters of recommendation do have certain features in common. Each letter should...


Use an Official Format

The sample letters show the proper format for a recommendation letter. They have the employer’s name, position, company, and company’s address at the top. To give one example, here's the header for recommendation letter sample #1:

 

Ms. Greta Johanssen
Sales Manager
Streambase Corp.
66 Western Boulevard
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87500


You should also use official letterhead that has your name and contact information across the top, in whatever way you've chosen to present it. Each letter is addressed to a specific person, a greeting that’s more personal than, “Dear Hiring Manager.” Typically, paragraphs are single-spaced with a double space in between each one.

Finally, every letter concludes with an invitation to contact the writer for any further information. Then the writer may include her position, company, phone number, and email below her name.

 

Start with a Strong Opener

The strongest letters start out with an immediate statement of support. They might say, “It’s my honor,” “It’s my pleasure,” or “I’m very pleased to provide this letter of recommendation for Joe.” Stating the obvious with a sentence like, “I’m writing to recommend Joe,” looks weak beside a more enthusiastic opener.

In the first paragraph, explain who you are and why you’re qualified to recommend the candidate. Write a line or two of praise about her professional and personal strengths, perhaps with a summary of the main points you’ll present in the rest of the letter.

 

Include Two to Three Specific Examples

As mentioned above, strong letters typically include two to three body paragraphs with specific anecdotes about the candidate. They don’t just describe the applicant’s great qualities and accomplishments; they give examples and prove to her prospective employer that she’s made achievements in the past that predict future success.

You might talk about a project or responsibility of the applicant or the value she’s brought to your company. Consider relevant qualities like flexibility, initiative, leadership, growth, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and/or ability to perform within a certain environment or culture.

 

To Sum Up...

Depending on your relationship with the candidate, you might focus more on her work performance or personal character in your recommendation letter. An employer will focus more heavily on professional skills while a coworker may add personal qualities.

A friend or neighbor providing a character reference would produce the most personal letter. It falls upon the candidate to choose her recommenders wisely and to share any relevant information about the prospective position to help them write the best letter they can.

As long as you incorporate the key features discussed above and take the time to make your letter positive and specific, you’ll provide a strong recommendation letter that will help your employee, colleague, or friend get hired. And who knows - perhaps in a year or two, she’ll be writing a recommendation letter for you!

 

What's Next?

Are you tasked with writing a recommendation letter for a student applying to college? If so, check out these samples of recommendation letters from teachers and counselors, along with additional writing tips and a thorough recommendation letter template!

 

Want to provide a strong recommendation for your employee, but don't have the time to craft the perfect letter?

PrepScholar's new recommendation tool, SimpleRec, takes you from good intentions and a blank page to a fully written and formatted letter of recommendation in under 5 minutes. All you need to do is give us some simple pieces of information about your employee and your experience working with them, and we'll do the rest.

Try out SimpleRec risk-free today:

 

Sample letters to recommend a teenager for a job (strong recommendation letter) . It looked so good that I asked him to care for mine, too. One by one he has.

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)

best recommendation letter for employee

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What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document you may be asked to prepare for someone who is applying for a job, internship, college application, leadership position or volunteer opportunity. The purpose of a recommendation letter is to validate what the employer has learned about the applicant and get answers to outstanding questions about their performance or habits.

An honest recommendation provides the recipient with a personalized account of your experiences with the applicant. You should, therefore, have at least some knowledge of how the candidate acts and performs in a work environment. Consider the following before you accept a request for a recommendation:

  • Have you worked with or directly observed the applicant?
  • Do you know relevant strengths and skills you can personally elaborate on?
  • Do you have specific examples of the individual’s work?
  • Can you provide positive feedback about this individual?

It’s important that to consider whether or not you can provide a quality recommendation letter before accepting a request. If you do not have enough experience with or positive stories to tell about the applicant, let them know quickly and respectfully that you are unable to meet the request. This way they have plenty of time to find an alternative solution.
 

Recommendation letter format: what to include

Your letter of recommendation should include four items:

  1. A brief introduction that states who you are, your relationship to the applicant and your personal experience or expertise.
  2. An overview of the applicant’s strengths as you’ve experienced them and as they relate to the recipient.
  3. A personal story that elaborates on one to two traits the applicant possesses.
  4. A closing statement that summarizes why the individual you are recommending would be a good fit for the opportunity.

If the candidate hasn’t provided you with an up-to-date resume and the job description, ask them to send those so that you are fully prepared to write the recommendation. You can use their resume to get a full understanding of their experiences and achievements.

Related: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Reference: Email Examples

You should review the job description to understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Use the description to decide what you should include from their resume and your personal experiences working with them.
 

Letter of recommendation template

When writing a letter of recommendation for students or working professionals, your letter should include a brief introduction, the candidate’s background and experience, a personal story, and a closing statement.

Use the following recommendation letter template as inspiration when drafting your own:

To Whom it May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend [Applicant Name] for [Position With Company or Acceptance to Institution].

I am [Your Name], a [Your Position] at [Your Institution or Company]. I have [Number] years of experience working in [Your Industry or Academic Focus], and have seen many young professionals come and go. [Applicant Name] is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, [Applicant Name] displayed great talents in [Skill, Trait, Experience, Class, etc.]. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with [Applicant’s Name], but during the time worked together, her understanding of [Key Topic] grew far more than that of her peers.

[Insert Personal Story Elaborating on Key Skills, Trait, Experience].

It’s not just her technical skills that impress me, however. [Applicant Name] was a joy to work with because of her amazingly positive attitude and [Positive Trait]. Her [Positive Trait] and [Positive Trait] were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that [Applicant Name] would be a great fit for your [Institution/Company]. Not only will she bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, she will quickly become an asset and help your [Institution/Company] grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at [Contact Information]. As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of her talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with her.

Sincerely,

[Your Name, Company, and Title]

 

Letter of recommendation example

There are many formats recommendation letter can have. Here’s a specific example of what a completed letter may look like for a job applicant using the above framework:

To Whom it May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Annie Chiu for a position as a Data Analyst for L&Q International.

I am Robert Cunningham, a Regional Manager at Mountain View Unlimited. I have 15 years of experience working as a statistician and client services specialist and have seen many young professionals come and go. Annie Chiu is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, Annie displayed great talents in technical applications, such as ArcGIS, R coding, Python, and several other data visualization tools. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with Annie and the technical skills she had on day one, but during the time worked together, her understanding of data analysis and the tools of the trade grew far more than that of her peers.

My first experience with Annie’s adaptability came not long after she was hired. Last year, we had one client who sent data in Excel that needed extensive cleanup. At that time, Annie’s experience with Excel was limited, but she worked extra hours to learn how to properly clean up data in Excel through the use of functions. Within the week, the client’ data was properly formatted so that it could be effectively analyzed and visualized. Annie even handled the data visualization with skill and the client had nothing but praise for the end result.

It’s not just her technical skills that impress me, however. Annie was a joy to work with because of her amazingly positive attitude and eagerness to stick tightly to deadlines. Her can-do attitude and team building skills were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that Annie would be a great fit for your L&Q International. Not only will she bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, she will quickly become an asset and help your L&Q International grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at 555-123-4567, or by email at [email protected] As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of her talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with her.

Sincerely,

Robert Cunningham
Regional Manager
Mountain View Unlimited

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Example Job Recommendation Letter

best recommendation letter for employee

A Recommendation Letter is the kind of letter requested by an individual to a reference should it be needed by an entity for the completion of a person’s application. Writing a well-curated recommendation letter can help a lot in the application undertakings of a person especially if the letter highlights the strengths of the person to whom it is written for. More so, recommendation letters should not only focus on having a great content. It should also follow appropriate formatting that can relay details properly and in an organized and professional manner.

Recommendation letters can be used by students, job applicants and other people who would like to apply for a specific function, position or any involvement to a group or organization. If you want to have an effective recommendation letter, assure that you properly select the reference to whom you will request a recommendation letter from. You also need to be aware of the situation where you will use the recommendation letter. Lastly, you need to identify how the expertise and competencies of the reference who will write the specific letter sample for you related to the field where the recommendation letter will be used.

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Components of a Recommendation Letter

A recommendation letter should include the following components to assure that it can help in the purpose where it will serve its functions:

  • It should have a concise evaluation of the person may it be personally or professionally. Recommendation letters do not only talk about the aspects that are related to the functions that the individual will be tasked to do should they be considered or accepted by the entity. A recommendation letter can also talk about the character of the individual where their ability to adjust to situations and do the work functions properly can be seen.
  • It should provide a clear information about the professional relation of the reference to the person who will use the recommendation letter. This will assure the entity who will review the recommendation letter that the reference knows the individual very well and that all the information provided in the recommendation letter are credible and backed up with real life events and instances.
  • It needs to have all the needed information that will allow the selection committee to assure that the individual to whom the reference letter is for is truly qualified for the position. These details should be precise and detailed for it to be more appealing and straight forward in terms of highlighting the competencies of the individual.
  • It should contain a summary that enumerates the entirety of the recommendation and why the individual should be considered by the entity where they are currently applying.
  • It should list down the potentials of the individual that can be shown should they be given the chance to put them into practice if they will be considered to take a post in the group, business, or organization’s processes.
  • It should give details of the applicant’s skills and abilities. It should also contain the individual’s consistence, persistence and dependability.
  • More so, a recommendation letter should also include the motivations that an individual needs to have to work accordingly and the contributions of the person to the communities, events, or programs where they have been a part of.

Importance of Recommendation Letters

A recommendation letter is important for the following reasons:

  • Specific processes require a recommendation letter for the entire transaction to be considered complete. This is very essential as recommendation letters are truly needed by entities to get more information about the individual who would like to be a part of the group’s activities.
  • Recommendation letters give more reasons for employers to hire the individual to whom the recommendation letter is for. The positive notes in the recommendation letter, especially if it came from a professional whose expertise are aligned in the field where the entity belongs, can provide a lot of advantages to the applicant.
  • Recommendation letters can be used in internal promotions which is a great way for a person to be at a better place in the work place. Recommendation letters used for internal promotion can provide information about the performance of the person to be promoted which can be based on company records and documented instances.
  • Hiring managers look at recommendation letters during the interview and entire application process. This means that this document truly is a great addition to the resume that the applicant has passed.
  • It validates all the information that the applicant has stated in past interviews and other documents presented during the entire application process.
  • It talks about the past achievements of the individual and how these achievements have molded the individual to be the person that they are today.
  • It can provide a promise of the possible performance of the individual should s/he be considered to be a part of the entity where they are applying for.

Though various recommendation letters differ from each other, it is still a fact that its use can provide a huge advantage to whoever will use it for application. For other samples of recommendation letters, you may browse through and download our templates of Friend Recommendation Letters and Personal Letter of Recommendation.

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Characteristics of a Well Curated Recommendation Letter

You can tell that a recommendation letter is well-written and done tastefully if the following characteristics are present in the specific letter:

  • It fully explains why the person who is writing the letter is qualified to recommend the person that needs the recommendation letter. The weight of the recommendation letter depends on the reference’s job qualification, professional experiences, and work capacity.
  • It shows the confidence of the reference regarding the candidate’s application. This allows the business to trust the individual even more as they feel reassured that they will pick the appropriate candidate for the position.
  • It is written to fit the brief of the position that the individual is applying for directly. The items are properly related to what the entity is looking for and the inclusions of the recommendation letter provides a striking impression regarding the positive impact that the individual can provide to the group or the business.
  • It shows specific instances and examples that are not based on generalized facts. It lists down accurate documentation of the things that the applicant has done and how this items have helped the operations of the group or business where it transpired.

Kinds of Recommendation Letters

A few samples of recommendation letters include the following:

  • Transfer recommendation letters are the recommendation letters that can be used for the following transactions:
    • It can be a recommendation letter that provides reasons why an individual deserves to be transferred from one business department to another. It can provide the details regarding the competencies of the individual that are more related to a company department/division compared to the department where the employee is currently working for.
    • It can be a recommendation letter that supports the transfer of the employee from one business branch to another location based on a variety of reasons and circumstances.
  • Employment recommendation lettersare used for specific purposes which includes the following:
    • It can be a recommendation letter for an applicant who is applying for a specific position in a company.
    • It can be used to provide support to the promotion of an individual and why they deserve to be employed to a higher position.
    • It can also be used to provide details on the qualification of a person who would like to have a career shift so the employers will know that the applicant can properly do the job functions that he or she is not used to do. It can be based on the technical skills and the character of the individual which can be discussed in the recommendation letter where proofs can be included as well.
  • Student recommendation letters can be any of the following:
    • College recommendation letter provides information about a student applying for college admissions.
    • Scholarship recommendation letters are used by scholarship grant applicants who would like to get assistance for their educational undertakings in exchange of the additional academic value that they can provide to the institution who can possibly give them a scholarship.
    • Graduate school recommendation letters are used to recommend a student who would like to immerse him or herself in a more specified study after college. These studies are commonly focused on a specific field of expertise and needs researches and a more keen knowledge about the subject of the entire study subject.

There are still a lot of recommendation letters that you may use for other purposes. Aside from our samples and templates of recommendation letters, you may also be interested to browse through and download our samples of Letter Templates and Cover Letter Templates.

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Suggestions in Creating a Recommendation Letter

A few suggestions that you may follow in creating a comprehensive recommendation letter are as follows:

  • Assure that you will use an official format in creating the recommendation letter. A proper format can make the recommendation letter look more professional looking and appropriate for whatever undertaking the individual to whom the recommendation letter is for is immersing himself or herself in.
  • Use a letterhead that contain the name and information of the reference. This provides a more corporate appeal which makes the entity who will review the reference letter to assure that the reference is a credible person in the field related to where the recommendation letter will be used.
  • Assure that you will use paragraph spacing that is appropriate to showcase all the needed information appropriately.
  • Create an ending or a conclusion that will invite the people who will look at the recommendation letter to contact the writer for any inquiries and/or further information that they would like to clarify or know. This can be done by including the reference’s job position, company,  business mobile number, personal phone number and email.
  • Start the recommendation letter with a positive note or an immediate statement of support. Do not state the obvious but also do not veer away from the fact that you need to impress the entity that will create the decision regarding the application of an individual.
  • Focus more on the work performance or personal character of the individual in the recommendation letter. We have already covered why this is very important in this article.

Request a Recommendation Letter References

We have mentioned how important it is to select the proper and accurate reference that will write a recommendation letter for you. A few of the references that you may tap should you be needing a recommendation letter to be used for a specific function are as follows:

  • If the recommendation letter that you want to have will be used for your application for a specific job position, you may select from any of these people to serve as your references:
    • Your immediate head from the company where you have previously worked for
    • Any of your department supervisors from your past jobs
    • The managers that you have worked with and reported to
    • Any high-ranking officials of your previous company
    • The Human Resource Personnel of any of your previous work places
    • The counselor of the companies where you have worked
    • Your workmates
  • Academic recommendation letters or the recommendation letters that will be used for any academic undertakings may be written by the following references:
    • Any department or organization head
    • Your class adviser
    • Any of your professor especially on subjects related to the academic undertaking that you are currently focusing on
    • Your thesis adviser
    • The guidance counselor of your school
    • Any of your school mentors
  • If you want to prove your character to the institution where you are applying,  you can ask the following people to serve as your references:
    • Your community leader
    • Your life mentor
    • Your friends and/or relatives
    • Officials of the location where you live
    • Church ministers or pastors

Assure that the reference that you will select can truly help you in the process of your application by creating a well written recommendation letter. Other than our samples of recommendation letter in PDF templates, you may also want to download our templates of Simple Thank You Letters and Termination Letter Samples.

Sample letters to recommend a teenager for a job (strong recommendation letter) . It looked so good that I asked him to care for mine, too. One by one he has.

Best Sample Recommendation Letter from Employer

best recommendation letter for employee

Table of Contents

  1. Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples
  2. Template Library 2: Employment Related Samples
  3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?
  4. Format – Content Sections, Font, and Margins
  5. Important Steps Before Writing
  6. How to Write a Letter of Recommendation in 9 Steps
  7. Characteristics of a Strong Letter
  8. How to Ask For One
  9. When to Reject a Request

1. Letter of Recommendation Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples

Click Here to View All Student and Teacher Templates

2. Letter of Recommendation Sample Library 2: Employment Templates

Click Here to View All Employment Related Templates

3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation (or reference letter) is a document designed to add extra weight and merit to a job or college application. They are usually written by a supervisor, colleague, teacher, or friend.

There are various different types of recommendation letters, but the three main ones are those for employment, for university applications, and character references.

Who Needs Letters of Recommendation? Why Do They Need Them?

Below we’ve outlined all the various types of people and reasons a person might require one, as well as who to ask for one.

#1. Students Applying for University, Grad School, or Scholarships

Almost all universities and scholarship programs require at least two recommendation letters as part of the application process. These reference letters should ideally be written by previous teachers or professors who are familiar with your academic achievements and abilities.

Students need references because admissions officers and scholarship organizations want to get a better understanding of who they are as a person. Recommendation letters help to shed light on the “full package” that is difficult to fully convey in a resume and personal essay.

For more details on who you should ask to write your recommendation, check out our detailed guide on how to ask for one.

It is also acceptable to have your letter written by a coach, guidance counselor, or academic adviser who can speak to your strengths.

#2. People Applying for Jobs That Require Strong References

For most job applications, a well-written resume and cover letter or letter of interest are more than sufficient. However, certain industries or companies may require a letter of recommendation in addition to these basic essentials. Teachers and physician assistants are two such examples of jobs that often need a written reference as part of the application.

Generally speaking, the most convincing reference letters will be those written by a supervisor. In cases where this is impossible (or undesirable), a recommendation from a coworker who is intimately familiar with your work is also acceptable.

#3. People Who Want to Beef Up Their Job Application

If you feel as though your resume and cover letter aren’t particularly strong, a letter of recommendation can help you land a job when it otherwise might be impossible.

A character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

This usually occurs when you have little or no work experience. In situations like these, a character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a particularly competitive job, a strong reference from a previous employer can turn the tide and help you stand out from the crowd.

4. Format — Content & Page Layout (Font, Margins)

Now that we know what a recommendation letter is and who needs one, let’s go through exactly how to structure the content of your letter, as well as the best page formatting and fonts to create a professional look.

Content Format Guide: 7 Basic Sections

No matter who it’s for, including these seven basic parts in your letter will ensure it hits every point needed to write a strong and compelling letter of recommendation.

Part 1. Contact Information and Letterhead

Ideally speaking, your own name, address, and contact information should go in a letterhead at the top of the page. If you don’t have a letterhead, place this information above the date on the top-left side of the page.

Otherwise, the first thing on the top-right side of the page should be the current date, followed by the addressee’s name, title, company or school name, and then address.

Part 2. Salutation

As with any letter, the first line should address the person or body of people you are writing to by name and title. Avoid vague salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern:” unless there are no other options available to you.

Check out the first step of our letter of recommendation writing guide for a more detailed explanation of how to craft the perfection salutation.

Part 3. Introduction: How you know the applicant

Start by expressing your sincere recommendation of the applicant, explain who you are and your relationship with the person you are recommending, including how long you have known them.

Part 4. The Academic, Personal, or Professional Achievements of the Applicant

The second paragraph outlines the relevant academic or professional strengths of the applicant. Include one to two specific and detailed examples that demonstrate the applicant truly does possess these strengths.

Part 5. Personal Traits and Characteristics

The third paragraph is all about personality. Include details of the applicants positive personality traits and examples that clearly showcase them.

Part 6. Explanation of Applicant’s Departure [Optional]

This optional section is only used when writing letters of recommendation for employment. It should also only be included in cases when the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous or current company is either neutral or positive. Such as relocating for family reasons, or outgrowing the opportunities at the company.

Part 7. Conclusion: Call-to-action

Reiterate your wholehearted recommendation of the applicant and encourage the reader to contact you with any questions they may have.

Page Format Guide: 5 Basic Rules

While the content of your letter is the most important element, the appearance of the page still requires some consideration. The alignment, font size and style, and margins can all impact the impression you give the reader.

The following simple guidelines will ensure your recommendation letter looks professional:

  1. Don’t exceed one page in length unless the extra paragraphs and details you are including legitimately strengthen your recommendation. That being said, anything over two pages is definitely too much.
  2. Use a 12-point font to maximize readability and economical use of space. Using an 11-point font in order to maintain a one-page length is acceptable but should be avoided when possible. Anything lower than 11 points is too small.
  3. Stick to basic font stylessuch as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, and Garamond. Avoid any overly stylistic fonts that could affect readability.
  4. 1”–1½” is the sweet spot for margins. You could arguably go slightly over or under these limits to fit everything onto one page, but it’s best to avoid anything too excessive.
  5. Maintain a left alignmentthroughout the entire page to ensure an organized appearance. 

For more specific details on how to format a letter of recommendation, check out our comprehensive business letter format guide.

5. Three Important Steps Before You Begin Writing

Before you stretch your typing fingers, there are a couple of things you must do to ensure your reference letter is as compelling as possible.

Step 1:Ask the Applicant for Information

Ask the applicant for a copy of their resume, cover letter, personal essay, or any other such documents they are submitting as part of their application. Read through them thoroughly and avoid repeating any of the information mentioned unless it is particularly important.

Ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

It’s also a good idea to ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

Step 2:Conduct Your Own Research

Do some research on the company, university, or scholarship the applicant is targeting, and customize your letter based on their requirements. If you’re writing a letter for a job application, reading through the job description is a great way to get an idea of the specifics you should emphasize.

Step 3:Think About the Type of Letter You are Writing

Depending on the type of recommendation letter you are writing, the tone and contents will differ. If you’re a manager writing for an employee, the tone will be much more formal and contain a lot of detail regarding an applicant’s professional achievements.

On the other end of the spectrum, a character reference from a friend will be written in a more casual tone and focus more on an individual’s personal strengths and characteristics.

If you’re pressed for time, ask the applicant to do all the research for you and then provide a summary of all the important information.

6. How to Write a Compelling Recommendation Letter — 9 Step Guide

Now that we’ve gotten all the little nitty-gritty details out of the way, it’s time to put pen to paper. Following these steps will help you create a convincing letter of recommendation that is sure to be an invaluable part of any application.

Step 1: A Polite and Personable Salutation

The way you greet someone when meeting them for the first time has a huge impact on their first impression of you. The way you address someone in a letter is no different. As such, it’s important to use a polite and personable salutation to start your letter off strong.

A proper salutation should be structured as follows:

Dear+ Title+ Name of Recipient

The title will vary depending on the individual you are writing to. For example, if you are addressing a hiring manager, you would use a general title such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.

Example #1:

Dear + Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. + Hiring Manager’s Last Name

On the other hand, if you were writing to a Professor or someone with a Phd, you should use their professional title such as Dr. or Professor.

Example #2:

Dear+ Professor+ Professor’s Last Name

Ideally the applicant requesting the letter should provide you with the name of the person who the letter should be addressed to. If not, a bit of quick research on linkedin, or the company/university website should yield some results.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Know the Name of the Recipient?

When you don’t know the name of the recipient, you should still make your salutation as personable as possible. This means avoiding weak openings that make no attempt to directly address the reader.

Even if you don’t know their nameyou should never use “To Whom it May Concern” when addressing the recipient.

Here’s What You Should Do Instead:

Dear+ Titleof Recipient

For example, if you are addressing a university’s dean of admissions whose name you don’t know, write Dear Dean of Admissions. Whereas if you are writing to the hiring manager of a company, write Dear Hiring Manager.

How Should I Address a Letter to a Body of People or an Organization?

When addressing a body of people such as an admissions committee or board of directors you should follow the same principles as those outlined above. The only difference is that the title of the recipient should be replaced by the name of the group or organization.

Here is the exact formula:

Dear+ Name of Group or Organization

The following examples give you a better idea:

  • DearAdmissions Committee
  • DearBoard of Directors
  • DearRhodes Trust

Step 2: Start Your Introduction With a Punch

The first sentence of your recommendation is arguably the most important because it sets the tone for the entire letter. The best openers are those that immediately express the heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant.

Here are some useful phrases you can use to write a strong first sentence:

  • It’s my pleasure to recommend…
  • It’s my pleasure and honor to…
  • I couldn’t be more pleased to…
  • I have absolutely no reservations about recommending…
  • I wholeheartedly recommend…

In comparison, a generic sentence that lacks enthusiasm such as “I am writing with regards to the recommendation for…” is both boring and weak.

Step 3: Establish Your Relationship

The remainder of your introductory paragraph should be devoted to describing who you are and your relationship with the applicant. This is an essential step because it establishes the relevance of your letter.

If you have known the applicant for a good length of time — and are in a good position to evaluate their strengths — then the potency of your letter multiplies. When establishing your relationship, you should include the following points:

  • Your position and company/school
  • The capacity in which you know the applicant
  • How long you have known the applicant

By including these details in the very beginning of your letter, the reader understands the foundation of the relationship that your words are coming from. This context makes everything you say afterwards much more powerful.

Including some anecdotes about your relationship will help strengthen this important foundation.

Step 4: Give Words of Praise

Finish your introduction with a sentence or two highlighting some of the applicant’s key strengths or personality traits.

The following examples will give you an idea of how you should write yours:

  • During that time, I watched Zach grow into an exceptional individual who excels in both his academic and personal pursuits.
  • Gregory was always an outstanding member of our team, and I have always been impressed by his professionalism and admirable personal qualities.

Don’t worry about going into detail. The purpose of these sentences is to round out the first paragraph, while simultaneously serving as a sneak peak of what’s to come in the body of your letter.

Step 5: Showcase the Applicant’s Professional/Academic Strengths

Your first body paragraph should start by mentioning 2–3 of the applicant’s specific skills, talents, or experiences that are relevant to their target job position or college program.

It is essential that these points are then followed up with detailed and descriptive examples of the applicant’s accomplishments that prove the aforementioned abilities.

Take a look at the difference between the following two examples from a reference letter written for a project manager:

No details:

  • Zach is great at managing projects.

Specific and detailed:

  • Zach’s in-depth knowledge of Scrum Methodologies helped increase the amount of projects completed on-time and within budget by 23%

Not only is the second example far more compelling, but it also showcases the professional accomplishment the applicant has that would benefit her target job. When the reader sees these kinds of examples, they think to themselves, “This is the kind of performance I need at my company.

Whenever possible, include interesting anecdotes about the applicant that demonstrate the strengths and abilities you described. This will create a more personable tone that makes the reader feel as though they are getting to know the applicant — one of the key aspects of a strong recommendation letter.

Make sure the achievements you mention are ones that you personally witnessed. Otherwise, they will carry far less weight for the reader.

Step 6: Highlight the Applicant’s Best Personal Qualities

The next body paragraph should focus on 2–3 of the applicant’s positive personality traits and characteristics — particularly those that would be beneficial or desired by their target company or school.

One of the chief reasons universities and certain companies request letters of recommendation is because they want to get a more holistic understanding of the applicant as a person. Thus, only including their academic or professional achievements is not enough to create a persuasive letter.

Much like with the previous step, include relevant and specific examples or anecdotes to backup your claims. Let’s take a look at some examples:

No Details:

  • Joyce is a selfless and compassionate person.

Specific and Detailed:

  • As a member of habitat for humanity, Joyce demonstrated her compassion and selfless nature by providing invaluable tutelage and mentorship to countless underprivileged children.

In case you’re having trouble thinking of compelling ways to describe an applicant’s personality, we’ve created a table containing some of the best personal qualities to include in a letter of recommendation:

AdaptabilityEnergyHonestyResourceful
CompassionEnthusiasmIntegrityResponsible
CharismaFriendlinessIntelligenceTrustworthy
DeterminationGenerosityLeadershipVibrant

Just be sure that you prove that the applicant possesses the personal qualities you mention with specific and detailed examples.

Step 7: Explain Why the Applicant is Leaving [Optional Paragraph for Job References]

This paragraph is only relevant if you’re writing a letter of recommendation for employment purposes. That being said, you should only include this section if the reason the applicant is leaving your current company is either neutral or positive.

The following are a few examples of the types of reasons that would be acceptable:

  • Relocating for family reasons
  • Outgrowing opportunities available at current company
  • Medical reasons
  • Skillset would be put to better use at another company

After reading through a letter describing how amazing an applicant is, it is quite normal for a hiring manager to think to themselves, “If this candidate is so great, why are they no longer at the company?” By including the reason for an applicant’s departure, it helps to assuage some of these doubts.

If you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

However, if you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

Step 8: Encourage the Reader to Accept the Applicant

Begin the concluding paragraph by reiterating your complete, unreserved, and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant. Follow this up by emphasizing the value of the applicant as an asset.

Use strong, authoritative, and confident language when writing this sentence. Take a look at the following examples:

  • I am confident that Jon will make an outstanding member of your university’s community.
  • There is no doubt in my mind that Allison would quickly become an invaluable asset for your team.
  • It is my strong opinion that Matthew would be a tremendous addition to the University of Virginia’s graduate program in Theoretical Physics.

Finally, conclude by encouraging the reader to contact you if they have any questions about the applicant.

Step 9: Politely Sign-off

Your letter closing should be formal and polite. Sincerely, Regards, and Best regards are all great examples. Sincerely is widely considered to be the best sign-off because not only is it undeniably polite, it also carries a warm, friendly tone. In cases where the closing is more than one word, only the first letter of the first word should be capitalized.

Ready to get started? Save yourself some time and effort by downloading and customizing one of our free templates or samples:

Templates and Samples for Students & Teachers

Templates and Samples for Employment & Jobs

7. The Six Characteristics of a Strong Recommendation

Regardless of what kind of content you end up including, keeping these six characteristics in mind throughout the writing process will help take your recommendation to the next level.

#1. It Is Personable:

Your letter should sound like it was written by a real person. The chief reason why colleges and employers request reference letters is because they want to get an idea how an applicant’s qualifications and personal qualities are perceived by another person.

#2. It Comes from a Credible Source:

If your mom writes you a college recommendation letter outlying how you are such a good, nice boy” it is unlikely to be very convincing to the admissions board. It needs to come from an authoritative source and be written in a strong, confident tone.

#3. It Uses Supportive, Positive, and Enthusiastic Language:

A powerful recommendation needs to be enthusiastic and sincere. If the reader feels like you don’t wholeheartedly recommend the applicant, your letter will be weak and unconvincing.

When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

Using adverbs such as “sincerely” and “wholeheartedly” will inject some passion into your words. When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

#4. It is Specific and Detailed:

You should avoid empty cliches such as, “Mollie is the best student/employee I’ve ever had.” Everything you say needs to be specific and backed up by evidence. If Jim really was the best student you ever had, then you need to describe exactly how and why that was the case.

#5. It Contains a Narrative:

By the end of the letter the reader should feel like they have gotten to know both you and the applicant better. Your relationship with the applicant, and your description of their strengths, should feel like a story. Also be sure to include anecdotes demonstrating the applicant’s abilities and traits whenever possible.

#6. It Is Relevant to the Applicant’s Goals:

A strong recommendation should focus on the strength’s an applicant possess that are relevant to their pursuits. For example, in the case of a student applying to a mechanical engineering department, avoid writing about their exceptional literary masterworks and focus on their achievements in science.

8. How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Asking for a recommendation letter can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re not sure whether or not the person will accept. This guide will show you exactly how to properly ask for a reference letter, as well as who and when to ask.

If you’ve been asked to write a recommendation and you’re not sure whether or not you should accept, go to the next section for details on exactly when and how to reject a request.

When Should I Ask for One?

You should only ask for letters of recommendation when an application specifically calls for one, or when you believe your application would be weak without one.

The following are examples of when a reference letter would be required or useful:

  • Applying for University
  • Applying for Graduate School
  • Applying for a Scholarship
  • Applying for a job that request ones
  • Applying for an entry-level job with little or no work experience
  • Applying for a job as a teacher
  • Applying to work at a volunteer organization

Who should I ask?

Generally speaking, you should ask someone you have a solid relationship with who can also accurately speak to your strengths from a position of authority. That being said, the best person to ask for a recommendation will depend on the type of application you are making.

Tips on who to ask if I’m a…

a. Student Applying to College or Scholarship:

Pick a teacher who has taught you for a long period of time and whose classes you performed particularly well in. If you are applying for a specific major, consider asking a teacher who taught you a subject related to your target field.

b. Student Applying to Grad School:

Ask a professor with whom you have had extensive interaction, such as one from a course which involved a lot of discussion. Even if you performed exceptionally well in a certain professor’s course, if there were 300 people in the class they would be unable to write an effective letter for you.

If you wrote a thesis paper as an undergrad, your adviser is likely the professor most well-equipped to write your recommendation.

c. Teacher Applying for a Job at a New School:

Ideally, you should ask the principal of your previous school because they can write you a letter from a position of authority. However, if you’d rather not ask the principal or feel they don’t know you well enough, asking the head of your department is a great alternative.

d. Recent Grad Applying for a Teaching Job:

If you specifically studied to become a teacher in college, then you will have already taught some courses under the guidance of a professor or two. One of these professors is by far the best candidate to ask to write your recommendation.

e. Applying to a Job with Little or No Work Experience:

Ask a friend or extended family member to write a character reference for you. A reference from a direct family member will be seen as “too close to home” and will not be taken seriously by any potential employer.

f. Applying to a Job with Experience:

The ideal writer would be someone who has directly supervised your work such as a manager. In cases where asking your manager is not ideal, a colleague who you have worked with closely is also acceptable.

If you’re still not sure who to ask, use the following formula: pick the person in the highest possible position with whom you have the strongest relationship.

How Should I Ask? (6 Expert Tips for Proper Etiquette)

In many cases, how you ask for a letter of recommendation can be the difference between a person saying yes or no. These six tips for proper etiquette will help you ask in a way that makes it hard to decline.

#1. Ask in Person:

Whenever possible, always ask for a recommendation in person. The person you ask will appreciate that you took the time to make a personal, face-to-face appeal.

#2. Explain Your Situation:

Don’t jump straight into asking for a reference. Start by explaining exactly what you are applying for so that they understand why you are asking in the first place.

#3. Use Polite Language:

Use indirect turns of phrase to ensure your tone is as polite as possible when asking someone for a recommendation, even if you know the person very well.

Don’t say: “Hey can you write me a recommendation letter?

Do Say: “I was wondering if it might at all be possible for you to write me a letter of recommendation.

In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

This is by far the most important tip, so pay extra attention to it. In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

#4. Give Them an Excuse to Say No:

In case they are unwilling or unable to write your letter, always follow up your request with a statement that allows them to easily decline. Don’t put them in an awkward position where they have to directly refuse.

Example: “If you’re too busy with other tasks to write it, I perfectly understand and please don’t hesitate to decline.

#5. Emphasize Why You’re Asking Them:

Explain why you chose to ask for a recommendation from them. Many times this will help convince them to accept your request even if they are busy.

Example:I understand that you might not have time, but since you have taught me for 2 years and are familiar with my work, I believe that no one is more qualified to write my recommendation than you.”

#6. Express Your Gratitude:

Tell them how appreciative you would be if they would take the time to write your letter. However, don’t give them the impression that you expect them to accept (as outlined in tip 4).

Example: I would really appreciate it if you were able to write a letter of recommendation for me, if you are unable to do so, however, I completely understand and please don’t worry about it.”

In the end, as long as you ask with a polite and sincere attitude, most people will be more than happy to write a recommendation for you.

How to Ask via Email (with Template)

If you are in a situation where you can’t ask for a recommendation in person, write a request via email. Simply follow the same guidelines outlined in the section above and your request will be golden.

If you’re still unsure of yourself however, we’ve created a professional template for writing a letter of recommendation email request below. Simply copy and paste the template and then fill in your own details.

Subject Line: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Dear [Title + Name of Person You are Asking]

First of all thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope that this request does not cause you any inconvenience.

I am applying for [university program/job position] at [target school/company] and was wondering if it would at all be possible for you to write a letter of recommendation for me.

As my [relation with requestee], I sincerely feel that no one else is more suited to writing me a recommendation and I would truly appreciate any kind words you might be willing to say on my behalf.

That being said, I know that you are extremely busy and if you are unable to find the time to write a letter I would completely understand.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

What Information Should I Provide to the Person Writing My Letter?

Once your writer has accepted your request, you need to provide them with as much useful information as possible. This will not only make things more convenient for your writer, but also ensure that they write you the best recommendation possible.

Here’s a list of some of the info you should provide:

  • Your resume & cover letter
  • Your personal statement (if you’re a student)
  • The name of your target university or company
  • A link to the description of your target job or program
  • Personal strengths or characteristics you’d like them to focus on
  • Specific achievements you’d like them to mention

9. When and How to Reject a Request for a Recommendation Letter

When:

Of course, there are always times when you may be exceptionally busy and finding the time to write a letter can be difficult. In these situations accepting or rejecting a letter is completely up to you.

There are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

Other than that, there are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

#1. You don’t know enough about the applicant to write them a strong recommendation.

Even if you are aware that an applicant has exceptional abilities and personal qualities, you may not be familiar enough with the specifics of their accomplishments to write a proper letter.

#2. You know a lot about the applicant but can’t think of enough positive things to say.

It sounds harsh but there are times when an applicant’s performance at your company or school has simply not been ideal. If you’re struggling to come up with a way to portray them in a positive light, it’s better to decline the request and let someone who is more familiar with their strengths write their recommendation.

How:

Of course, if you want to just flat out reject a request, that is completely acceptable. However, if you’d like to soften the blow a bit, coming up with an excuse is remarkably easy.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Now that you know everything there is to know about recommendation letters, feel free to check out our professional templates and samples. Our experts have created a comprehensive library of examples for both studentsand employment.

If you need more inspiration for writing your letter, we also have extensive guides for writing cover letters, business letters, and even letters of resignation.

Written by Matthew Kerr

Matthew Kerr is a career adviser at Resume Genius, where he reinvigorates client's careers and saves resumes from the trash heap. His career expertise has been quoted on countless publications across the web, including... more

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If you're writing an employee reference letter, modify our free sample it's best to politely decline sending the referral letter rather than be forced to lie (or make.

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