How to Write a Recommendation Letter

How to Write a Recommendation Letter

It is always a good idea to know how to write a recommendation letter. The skills will enhance your writing ability in school and also later on in your career. Although the task may seem intimidating to many, writing recommendation letters involve common elements that you can easily master. However, there are guidelines that you should always abide by when writing in order to deliver a good letter.

A recommendation letter can be defined as a written reference that is designed to provide information about the character and work ethic of an individual. In writing the letter, the author should do an assessment of the qualities, traits and abilities of the person being recommended with regards to his or her capabilities in handling a particular job or task.

In most cases, many people believe that recommendation letters are only for the purposes of employment. However, there are several colleges and other institutions of higher learning today that ask students to attach a recommendation letter when submitting applications for admission. Besides, you may also be given an assignment to write a recommendation letter. Thus, it is important that you know how to write a recommendation letter for success in these areas.

Tips on how to write a recommendation letter easily

Although you are always required to give detailed information about the person being recommended in the letter, recommendation letters should be short in length but sufficient in details.

Here are more guidelines to help you on how to write a recommendation letter
Determine the target of the letter

A recommendation letter can be written for different purposes; hence, it is advisable that you start by knowing the aim of yours. Some of the common instances whereby recommendation letters are written include job application, academic posts, volunteer positions, background check among others.

For instance, if the recommendation letter is for a job application, it should be focused on the individual’s professional qualifications and conduct.

Get familiar with the position

In order to write a letter that suits the needs of both the candidate and the recipient of the letter, it is advisable that you get to know more about the position. If you can get a copy of the job description, it is advisable that you read it in order to know what is required. Besides, you should also talk to the person being recommended to gain more insight. Try to also find out from the candidate about his or her ambitions.

Be keen on choosing the words to use

Choice of words is another important aspect in knowing how to write a recommendation letter. You should bear in mind that by recommending a person, you are putting your own reputation to test. It is always advisable that you be honest in your description of the candidate while considering the needs of all parties, including yours.

The contents of a recommendation letter

There are specific features that have to be portrayed in your paper to make it be referred to as a recommendation letter. In order to know how to write a recommendation letter without mistakes, the following should always be shown in the letter.

  • Support for the candidate

A good letter of recommendation should discuss the individual applying for the position in positive light. In case you find some things about the candidate that are unpleasant, it is advisable that you have a talk with him or her before writing the letter.

  • Well documented evaluation

The letter should also provide sufficient evidence to prove the characteristics of the candidate as discussed. It is advisable that you provide various perspectives to help the recruitment committee in making decisions on the candidate’s capabilities.

  • Address the specific purpose of the letter

The recommendation should always be relevant in addressing its particular purpose. A recommendation letter should clearly discuss the personal character and scholarly abilities of an individual. However, the balance on the one to mainly focus on will be based on the purpose or target of the letter.

  • Sometimes, a letter of recommendation can also be used to point out some difficulties or weaknesses related to the candidate like financial hardships, family illness among others. However, this should be done in consultation with the individual being recommended.

In case you feel that you are not in a position of giving a compelling recommendation about the candidate, it is advisable that you simply ignore the request.

Steps on how to write a recommendation letter

With the above, you can now move on to writing the letter. However, it is advisable that you draft an outline before writing the actual letter. Below is a step by step process on how to write a recommendation letter.

  • Use standard formal letter writing format

A recommendation letter is written according to the rules of formal letters and should begin with your address and date of writing at the top right corner.

The second step is to write the name and address of the recipient on the left just below yours.

Start the conversation with a formal greeting like, Dear Sir/ Madam. In case you are sure of the gender of the recipient, simply state it. You can also write the recipient’s name if you know.

  • Craft the body of the letter

Start by giving a summary of your recommendation, how you met with the person and the kind of experience that you have shared that proves you know him or her. It is important to also state your position or qualifications in order for the recipient to be able to gauge your assessment of the candidate.

Be specific about the qualifications and characteristics of the candidate, giving examples and instances instead of simply giving a general review of the candidate’s capabilities and character.

It is also advisable that you make comparisons in order to place the accomplishments of the candidate into perspective. Besides, this will also make the recipient of the letter to clearly see your reasons for recommending the person. However, you should avoid too much exaggeration since that might blow things out of proportion.

Begin every paragraph with a punchy and active description of the candidate’s character and abilities, making sure that every point is clear without any vague statements.

  • End with an affirmative conclusion

Give a reiteration of your recommendation for the candidate at the end of the letter. Besides, you should also invite the recipient to contact you for further clarification if need be.

Close the letter formally using words like, ‘yours faithfully, Sincerely, Best Regards’ among others.

Recommendation letter Examples

  • Sample Business Recommendation Letter

The following letter was written to recommend a candidate for a job application.

John Johnson

123 A Street

City Center, NY 1234

January 21st 2012

John Smith

321 B Street

City Center, NY 3210

Dear Mr. Smith

I am writing in recommendation for Tom Thompson for the position of Sales Manager at ABC Company. I had the pleasure of working directly with Mr. Thompson during his tenure as a salesperson at XYZ Inc, and so far I can say that he has tremendous abilities. I was his direct supervisor at XYZ Inc, and throughout that time, we worked quite closely, hence I fully understand his abilities…

Click here to read the entire letter.

The following sample illustrates only

  • Sample Reference Letter Graduate

how to begin writing the body. However, the letter should still have the addresses and names of the sender and recipient among other aspects as outlined above.

‘’My first encounter with X was during the spring of 1986 when she was a member of my Freshman Seminar…In such small groups, teachers and students get to know each other in ways that are seldom, if ever, possible in courses that involve large lectures. In both cases, something can be learned about the academic ability of a student, but only in the first one that a person is able to obtain a reliable measure of who a student really is. Having been in contact with X even after the meetings, I am confident in my assessment of her.

To start with, she is an excellent student with a lively curiosity that makes her dissatisfied with superficial definitions. That curiosity often pushed our seminars to avenues and into areas, that would otherwise, have remained unexplored…’’

Read the whole letter here.

  • Sample Recommendation Letter from a Professor

In this sample, we will show you how the conclusion of the letter should be handled so that you can also see a clear representation of all the elements of a good recommendation letter.

‘’Due to her knowledge and great desire for learning, May would be an ideal candidate for the Masters of Spanish program. She will make an outstanding student at State University, and I have confidence that her abilities and determination will continue to flourish.


Aaron Jones.

Find the whole sample letter here.

We hope the above guidelines help you know how to write a recommendation letter.

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