Being asked to write a letter of recommendation should be considered an honor. Someone has trusted you to help them in their process of being employed or accepted by a university. Because it’s a rare occurrence (not everyone is writing referral letters all the time!), it may be tough for you to know what to include in your letter. If you want to write an effective letter but don’t know how, this guide is for you! Here, we will uncover how to craft a letter of recommendation – template included!
A letter of recommendation is a document that some companies/universities may require in their application process. It’s a document that somebody else (friend, family, coworker, boss) writes about you that explains your qualities and why you’d be a great fit for the job/university you’re applying for. The purpose of a letter of recommendation is to provide firsthand experience working with the job applicant. For more information on the importance of a letter of recommendation, see this article by Forbes.
Now that we know the purpose of this document, we can get to writing it! Following the steps in this guide and you’ll be writing an effective letter of recommendation in no time. At the end of the guide is a template containing everything discussed throughout the article. Feel free to use this template as a starting point, just remember to make it relative to your colleague!
Before you start writing, it’s important to note a couple things so you’re able to write the most effective letter. Ask yourself a couple questions. Who am I writing this for? What is my relation to them? What job are they applying for? These may seem like obvious questions, but it’s important to gather your thoughts before you begin to write. You want to make sure that you’re writing the most effective letter, which starts by determining your audience.
If you’re writing for a former coworker and they’re applying for a Consulting role in IT, you’ll want to be sure to include details about how they performed at the job you both worked at. Start thinking of specific things they did that stood out to you and any qualities they have that will stand out.
On the contrary, if you’re writing for a friend and they’re applying for a customer service position at Target, you’ll want to include more personal experiences with them. Start thinking of times they showed leadership among your friends or times when they could diffuse arguments.
Either way, before you get too excited and start typing away, be sure to think of those previous questions and determine your audience. You’ll find that your letter of recommendation will be far more effective at conveying your message.
Now that you’ve determined your audience and gathered your thoughts on what you’re going to write, it’s time to start formatting your document to look professional.
You’ll want to start like you would with any letter. In the top left corner of the page, you’ll want to include your name, address, and contact information (phone, email, or both). Not only is this standard for letters, but it also gives a bit more credibility to what is being said. You’re a real person, not a robot that’s written it up. Under your information, include the date that you’re writing. And then under that include the information of whoever is interviewing your colleague. This may be someone in human resources, a manager, etc. You’ll want to include their name, their title, and their company name and address. If you don’t know who specifically to address it to, then just address it to the company as a whole.
Under that is your salutation. This is a formal letter, so you’ll want to phrase it as: “Dear [Recipient Name].” If you don’t know the specific name, then you’ll want to say, “Dear Human Resources Department.”
After your contact information and salutation are all sorted, it’s time to get to the base of your letter. You don’t want to write a novel for length, but you also don’t want it to be too short. As a base, try keeping to around 4-5 short paragraphs. This should be enough to get your point across.
You want to start off your letter by stating your purpose right off the line. This first sentence is your attention grabber and typically the thing that is remembered most. Tell them what exactly the point of reading this letter is. Be short, concise, and to the point.
For example, let’s say your coworker, Dylan White, is applying for a Business Analyst role at Booz Allen and wants you to write a letter of recommendation. You’ll want to start off your letter with something like, “I’m happy to strongly recommend Dylan White for a Business Analyst role at Booz Allen.” It’s attention-grabbing, it tells me what the email is about, and it shows that you’re confident in your recommendation.
After a strong introduction, it’s time to introduce ourselves. Who am I? Why should my recommendation matter to you? The person reading the letter has no idea who you are or what you do. So, it’s necessary to give a brief background on yourself. Tell them your name, where you currently work, how many years you have in the industry, etc.
However, before you start writing this question, you need to think about the position they’re applying for. Include relevant information. For example, if your colleague is applying for an IT position, it’s unnecessary to include that you used to work in sales. Stay relevant, show that your recommendation is important.
Let’s continue with that previous example. You’ll want to say something similar to, “My name is George Shawcross, and I’m an IT Strategist with Deloitte. I have 15 years developing and implementing automated solutions to systems. I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with Dylan for 5 years on numerous projects.” It’s concise, and we have immediately displayed our relevancy and expertise for recommending.
Now that you’ve properly introduced yourself and displayed why your recommendation is important, it’s time to start explaining why they’re perfect for the job. As with before, try to stay relevant to the job they’re applying for. This section’s focus is to make the person sound as good as you possibly can while, of course, staying truthful. Explain what they’re good at and why.
You can start this section by simply listing out their strengths, skills, qualities in a notebook. Do they have experience with relevant programs or applications? List them. Do they have any interpersonal characteristics (gets along well with others, leadership skills)? List them. You don’t have to include everything you write down here, so list as many as you can. Your next step is to take around 3 of the best, most relevant strengths and write out sentences that prove them.
Let’s keep on using our example. For this section, you could say, “Dylan has fantastic client relationship skills, which he used to foster our relationship with Telsa and eventually gain a 3-year project for the company…………”. We told them of his skill and then gave an example of what he has done with that skill.
After listing their various strengths and areas of knowledge, next is a great time to tell a personal story about a time they used their strengths and benefited the company. Not only does this give them more examples of their strengths, but it also adds a layer of personalization. It’s good to have these little moments of personalization because it gives the applicant character lets the reader know more about them that they wouldn’t get with just listed strengths.
The second to last paragraph in your letter of recommendation should reaffirm your recommendation. Let the reader know again that you strongly recommend them for the position. You can also briefly list the strengths they have that make you think they’d be a great fit for the position. Just remember to keep it concise and to the point. You don’t want to sound too repetitive.
For example, you could say, “I am confident in Dylan’s ability to succeed in this role. His ability to build client relations, requirements gathering skills, and JIRA knowledge all make him a great candidate for this role.”
Finally, end your letter by giving them your contact information. Offer yourself available for any additional questions or elaboration on certain things. It’s common courtesy and also again shows the confidence in your recommendation. Now, let’s get into the fun part. Here is our letter of recommendation template!
Below is a letter of recommendation template that contains everything discussed in this guide. Use it as a starting point for your letter! Be sure to enter your own information into the areas with [ ] around them. Best of luck in writing!
[Your phone number, email, or both]
[Name of their company]
[Address of their company]
I’m more than happy to strongly recommend [Applicant] for a [Job title] role at [Name of company].
My name is [Your name], and I’m a [your job title] at [name of your company]. I have [number of years] experience working [list your relevant job experience]. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing [applicant] for [number of years] years and got to experience how hard-working and talented he is firsthand.
During the [number of years] years we worked together, [applicant] displayed great knowledge and skill in [relevant applications or software].
[Tell a relevant personal story that displays the applicants strengths]
I am confident in [applicant]’s ability to succeed as a [job title] at [name of company]. Their ability to [list a couple of their strengths] all makes them a great candidate for this role.
If you need any additional information about [applicant] or clarification on anything I discussed, please reach out to me at [phone number] or at [email]. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
We hope this letter of recommendation template helps you advocate for your colleague! Let us know how yours came out by commenting down below.
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