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How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation, Template with Samples

By Julian Lewis July 4, 2024

How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation, Template with Samples

Introduction: Understanding Letters of Recommendation

Importance and impact of a professional recommendation letter

A well-crafted letter of recommendation is more than just a formal document; it is a powerful tool in the professional setting. Whether it's supporting a job applicant, a student's university application, or an employee's role transition, these letters carry significant weight. They not only outline an individual's qualifications and skills but also provide specific examples that testify to their work ethic and personal skills. When writing such letters, it's crucial to strike a balance between a personal letter's warmth and the professional letter's gravitas. This introduction will guide you through creating a great letter that stands out to potential employers or admission committees, emphasizing how a good letter can be a valuable asset to the applicant’s new job aspirations. Whether you are a professor, a manager, or a colleague, understanding how to articulate someone's capabilities and work habits can transform their career trajectory.

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What is a Letter of Recommendation?

Definition and purpose in professional settings

A letter of recommendation is a document generally written by a former employer, teacher, or colleague that supports the applicant's credentials and qualifications for a new job, university admission, or other specific roles. In a professional setting, these letters provide potential employers or university admissions staff with an insightful look into the applicant's capabilities beyond what is found in a resume. They discuss the person’s relevant skills, work habits, and professional demeanor, offering specific examples that highlight the applicant as a valuable asset. This endorsement not only supports the application process but also helps establish the applicant's reputation in the eyes of the hiring manager or admissions department.

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

Gathering the necessary information about the applicant

Before you begin writing, it's essential to gather all pertinent information about the applicant. This includes their resume, the specific job description they're applying for, or the academic program if it's for a student. Understand their role in your professional relationship, pinpoint their standout skills, and recall significant contributions they made to your team or projects.

Structuring the letter

A letter of recommendation should follow a clear and logical structure. Start with an introduction that establishes your relationship with the applicant and your qualifications for writing the letter. Follow this with a middle section where you detail the applicant's relevant skills and accomplishments, providing specific examples. Conclude with a strong endorsement of the applicant, stating why they are ideally suited for the job or academic program.

Use a professional format

Use a standard business letter format for your recommendation. This includes placing your contact information at the top, followed by the date and the recipient's details. Open with a formal salutation, then move into the body of the letter. Each paragraph should serve a purpose, be concise, and maintain a professional tone. Closing the letter should be formal, with a signature to add a personal touch.

This framework not only ensures that your letter is well-organized and professional but also makes writing less time-consuming. With the correct format, your endorsement can make a significant impact, providing your candidate with a great advantage in the application process.

How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation, Template with Samples

Essential Components of a Recommendation Letter

Describe the candidate's skills, work habits, and accomplishments

A recommendation letter must convey a comprehensive view of the candidate's professional and personal skills. Begin with an overview of the candidate’s most relevant skills to the position or program they are applying for. Detail their work habits—how they manage time, handle stress, and interact with peers. Highlight their key accomplishments, perhaps leading projects or inspiring changes that positively impacted the organization.

Use specific examples to illustrate points

To truly make the letter stand out, include specific examples that showcase the candidate's skills and achievements. For instance, if the candidate improved a process that led to a significant reduction in time or cost, detail this example. Describe scenarios where they demonstrated leadership or problem-solving in challenging situations. These instances not only provide a vivid picture of the candidate's capabilities but also substantiate your praises with concrete evidence, making your recommendation more compelling.

This approach ensures that the letter not only lists the candidate's qualifications but also vividly showcases their professional impact. Such detailed examples reinforce why the candidate is a valuable asset, making your recommendation powerful and persuasive.

Tips for Writing Effective Recommendation Letters

Five Tips for Writing a Letter of Recommendation for a Student

  1. Focus on Specific Qualities: Highlight qualities that are essential for the student's desired program. Mention their academic perseverance, intellectual curiosity, and contribution to classroom discussions.
  2. Provide Context: Explain your relationship with the student, how long you've known them, and in what capacity. This gives credibility to your observations.
  3. Use Examples: Just like in professional letters, illustrate your points with examples. If they excelled in a project, describe what made their work stand out.
  4. Discuss Growth: Mention any obstacles the student has overcome during their time with you. Highlight their growth in skills and maturity.
  5. End with a Strong Endorsement: Clearly state your belief in the student's potential for success in their future academic pursuits.

How to write an effective letter of recommendation for employees

  • Tailor the Letter to the Job Description: Align the employee’s achievements and skills with the requirements of the job they are applying for.
  • Highlight Professionalism: Discuss their professional demeanor, reliability, and how they handle workplace challenges.
  • Provide Insight into Work Ethic: Share examples that demonstrate the employee's dedication, such as staying late to complete a project or volunteering for additional responsibilities.
  • Keep it Positive: Ensure the tone of your letter is positive and supportive, reinforcing the employee's suitability for the new role.
  • Be Concise and Clear: While it’s important to provide detail, keep your writing focused and to the point to hold the reader’s interest.

These tips guide the structure and content of your recommendations, ensuring they are both impactful and pertinent to the reader’s interests.

How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation, Template with Samples

Using Templates and Samples

How to use letter of recommendation templates

Utilizing a letter of recommendation template can streamline the writing process, ensuring all necessary elements are included and appropriately formatted. When selecting a template, choose one that best matches the professional setting and intended purpose of the letter. Customize the template by inserting specific information about the candidate and their qualifications, ensuring the letter maintains a personal touch that reflects a genuine endorsement.

Professional Letter of Recommendation Sample

To Whom It May Concern,

It is with great pleasure that I recommend [Candidate Name], who I have known as [relationship—colleague, employee, student] at [Company or School Name] for [number] years. [Candidate Name] has consistently demonstrated excellent skills in [specific skill area] and an admirable work ethic.

During their time at [Company Name], they successfully [describe an accomplishment or responsibility], which significantly [impact of the work]. This is a testament to their ability to [relevant skill or quality].

[Candidate Name] is a dependable team player and a valuable asset to any organization. I am confident that they will bring the same level of enthusiasm and dedication to any new role.

Please feel free to contact me at [Your Contact Information] if you need further information or specific examples of [Candidate Name]'s work and achievements.


[Your Name]

Example of a Professional Reference Letter

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I am writing to provide a professional reference for [Candidate Name], whom I have had the pleasure of working with for [number] years at [Company Name]. As [Your Position], I have observed [Candidate Name]'s remarkable professional skills and personal qualities.

[Candidate Name] has played a pivotal role in [describe a project or responsibility], showcasing their [mention specific skills or qualities]. Their ability to work under pressure and maintain high standards has been invaluable to our team.

I have no doubt that [Candidate Name] will be an excellent fit for [the Position or Program]. They have my highest recommendation.


[Your Name]

These samples serve as practical references that you can adapt to highlight the specific strengths and achievements of the person you are recommending, ensuring that the recommendation is effective and tailored to the candidate’s prospective opportunity.

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Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Why HR may be asked to provide employee letters of recommendation

Human Resources (HR) departments are frequently approached for letters of recommendation because they are viewed as impartial and authoritative sources within the company. They have comprehensive records of employment and can attest to an employee’s tenure, job description, and professional development, making their recommendations highly valuable.

How to Ask for a Professional Letter of Recommendation?

When seeking a letter of recommendation, it’s important to approach someone who knows your work well and can provide specific examples of your accomplishments. Explain clearly why you need the letter and for what opportunity. Offer details such as job descriptions or scholarship requirements to help the writer tailor the letter effectively.

Explain why you're qualified to write the letter

When writing a recommendation, begin by establishing your relationship with the candidate and detailing how long you have worked together. This not only provides context but also strengthens your credibility as a referee. Mention your own position and experience as they relate to your authority to assess the candidate’s qualifications and skills.

This section not only helps the reader understand the dynamics of professional recommendations but also guides both requesters and writers on best practices to ensure the letters serve their intended purpose effectively.

Finalizing Your Letter

Proofread your document

Before finalizing your letter of recommendation, take the time to thoroughly proofread it. Check for any spelling or grammatical errors, and ensure that the information is accurate and well-presented. This step is crucial as it affects the professionalism of both the letter and your endorsement. Make sure that all details are correct, including the applicant’s name, the company name, and any specific qualifications or achievements mentioned.

Conclude the letter with a formal closing

End your letter with a formal closing that reinforces your strong recommendation of the candidate. A standard closing might be, "I wholeheartedly recommend [Candidate Name] for [specific position or opportunity], and I am confident that they will be a valuable asset to your team. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me." Include your signature—either digital or handwritten—followed by your printed name, position, and contact information.

By ensuring the correctness of format and content and closing formally and positively, you make a final, strong impression that supports the candidate’s application effectively.

How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation, Template with Samples

Conclusion: Ensuring Your Letter Makes an Impact

Recap of key points

In this guide, we've covered how to craft an effective letter of recommendation that truly highlights an individual's qualifications and personal achievements. We've discussed the importance of gathering comprehensive information, structuring the letter with a professional format, and detailing specific examples that underline the candidate's skills and accomplishments.

Encouraging proactive approach in recommendation writing

As you write a recommendation, remember the significant impact your words can have on a person’s career or academic prospects. It's a responsibility that should be approached with both thoughtfulness and precision. Encourage continual improvement in your recommendation writing by seeking feedback from those who have benefited from your letters, and always strive to provide a positive and genuine endorsement that will make a meaningful difference.

Read more about: Professional Development, Job Search, Leadership

About Julian Lewis

Julian Lewis is a driven and accomplished professional with a passion for driving positive change in the business world. He is the co-founder and COO at Zella Life.

His own experience as a professional of color in a Fortune 500 company led him to discover the limitations for advancement that many professionals like himself face. Determined to reach his full potential, Julian became an established business coach and entrepreneur, committed to supporting others in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Today, Julian is a recognized corporate trainer, coach, and leader, known for his ability to leverage real-life experiences and evidence-based methodologies to affect positive change within individuals and organizations. As the leader of Zella Life's coaching division, he is dedicated to empowering individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential.