A letter of recommendation is a document that endorses an applicant for a new position. Letters of recommendation are sometimes required by jobs, internships, applications, or promotions. They are usually written by a manager, boss, colleague, teacher, or client.
If you have been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a friend or colleague, congrats! This means that they probably like you and trust you to write a strong recommendation.
Here are five tips to help make sure you can write an effective letter of recommendation.
Your letter of recommendation should be simple and readable. As it is a piece of professional correspondence, it should use a standard structure that provides a persuasive endorsement. These five steps will help you write a letter of recommendation in a standard format:
In the introductory paragraph, introduce yourself and describe your relationship with the person you are recommending. The reader should know if you are a colleague, a boss, a teacher, or something else. This will provide context for the letter and explain how you are qualified to make a recommendation.
In the second paragraph, describe the person you are recommending. This is the section where you can make it clear that they are qualified for the job, that they have the skills necessary to succeed, and that they are a pleasure to work with. Try to pick a few relevant qualifications and focus on those to emphasize their importance.
In the third paragraph, you can share a personal anecdote that highlights something important about the person you are recommending. This can be a story about a time they showed leadership or collaborative skills, a story that shows how important they are to your team, or an achievement that shows how effective they are at their job. A personal story makes your recommendation both more credible and more effective.
In a closing paragraph, summarize why the person you are recommending is a great candidate for the specific job. You should indicate that they are a great hire, and that they are well-suited for the role in question. Make it clear that you are enthusiastic about their skills and that you recommend them wholeheartedly.
End the letter of recommendation with your name and contact information. This is a professional way to sign off, and gives the reader a way to reach you if needed. They may want to follow up on something you said, or ask more questions about your time working with the candidate.
Much like a resume, a great letter of recommendation should be tailored to the job at hand. In order to write an effective recommendation, make sure that you understand what the candidate is applying for. A scholarship won’t have the same requirements as a promotion.
Ask the applicant for the job posting or any other requirements, and get a copy of their resume so you are fully up-to-date on their situation. This way, you can be sure you are highlighting the right skills and providing relevant anecdotes.
You should also make sure that your letter of recommendation uses the right tone for an application. Make sure that it follows all of the instructions in the job posting, and be sure that it is positive, professional, and polite.
Even if you know the person you are recommending very well, this isn’t the place to give their life story. Instead, focus on the qualifications that are most important to the job. Pick two or three skills, be they technical skills or soft skills, that showcase the ways this person is ideal for the position. They should be well-chosen for the specific role, and demonstrate that this person is a good worker and a strong candidate. To show that you are knowledgeable about the candidate’s skill set, the personal story you include should showcase the qualifications you are highlighting.
Though the tone should remain professional, your endorsement should be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you are excited to recommend this person, the reader of the letter will become enthusiastic to hire them. Be generous with your praise and show that you really are happy for this development in your friend’s career.
When someone asks you for a letter of recommendation, don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t know them well, don’t know their skill set, or simply don’t think they are a good candidate, it is acceptable to refuse their request for a letter of recommendation. The people you recommend will affect your reputation, too, and if you write letters for bad candidates the employers who receive them will remember.
Besides, you can only give an enthusiastic and effective recommendation when you really believe what you are saying.
If you are simply too busy, or if you want to help out despite not knowing the candidate well, you can always ask them to write the letter themselves and agree to review and sign it. This helps them in their career without taking much effort from you—but don’t get caught off guard if the employer reads the letter and has some follow-up questions.
Dear Bob Baker,
I am pleased to recommend Sarah Smith for the role of Customer Success Manager at PowerTram Industries.
I am Rob Cambell, a department manager at View Road Superstore. I have been a department manager for 7 years, supervising a team of 9, and Sarah stands out as a driven employee with a rare passion for helping customers get what they need.
Sarah is truly dedicated to providing a top-notch customer experience. A fast learner and skilled communicator, Sarah became integral to our department shortly after being hired. She not only learned our point of sale and inventory software quickly, she became the person to go to when something wasn’t working.
In one instance, a customer was having problems accessing their account. After two employees attempted troubleshooting, Sarah was finally called and was able not only to find the customer’s account, but to impress them with her knowledge of the store and its ongoing sales that the customer added even more to their cart.
I know that Sarah is a great fit for PowerTram. She has the skills it takes to manage a team and the attitude needed to keep customers satisfied. Please don’t hesitate to call contact me with any questions.
Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.
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