A letter of recommendation is a formal letter that outlines a person’s skills, knowledge, and previous work. Typically, employers may request such letters during the application process, along with an applicant’s resume and cover letter. Learn how to write a letter of recommendation to effectively vouch for an applicant for a job position as you read further on.
What makes a good recommendation letter?
If you’ve agreed to recommend someone, naturally, you will want to really sell them. The best way to do this is to make your recommendation letter as strong as possible. How do you know if your recommendation letter stands out?
You must make it a point to include at least one memorable or remarkable statement that the reader will not forget about the applicant. Make sure to avoid empty superlative statements like “best employee” and instead go for actual descriptive words that compliment the person you are vying for.
Avoid sounding so generic to the point that it would feel as if the letter could be used by just about anyone. Include the name of the person you are referring to and their good qualities. Don’t be afraid to get descriptive, and include situations where the person displayed the traits that you say he or she possesses.
The relationship between you and the person you are recommending should be clear in your letter. Are you their former boss? Colleague? Professor? Clarifying your relationship will explain why you are qualified to make the recommendation, so you must also include how many years you have known the person and the degree or capacity for which they have worked for or with you.
As mentioned above, be generous when it comes to examples. The examples support the best traits that the recommended person has. Providing examples further personalizes the letter to precisely fit the person you are recommending since that experience is unique to them alone. Also, the aim of giving examples to back up their outstanding traits is to help them land a position that may include similar situations.
It is easy to describe the personality traits of the person that you are recommending, but you must not forget to inject a bit of yourself too. Statements like “I am very particular about organization in the workplace, and Ms. X has been very proficient when it comes to structuring and coordination in the office” are an excellent example of this.
You don’t need an entire novel to recommend someone for a position. In fact, you should not beat around the bush because you may deviate from the whole point of the letter, which is to tell the reader why they should consider the person you are recommending. To be safe, a good letter of recommendation should be about 3 to 5 paragraphs long and should end with a short but sincere recommendation.
Parts of a recommendation letter
Just like most letters, a recommendation consists of three parts.
The first paragraph explains how you know the person you are recommending. Make sure to include the following information in your introduction:
- Your job title and the recommended person’s job title at the time you interacted or worked together
- The nature of your relationship, whether you were colleagues or you had managerial responsibilities over the person
- How long you’ve known the person
The contents of the body of your recommendation letter should highlight the skills, abilities, and outstanding qualities of the person you are recommending. Start off by outlining their best assets and strengths.
Afterward, explain each strength in detail by providing examples or scenarios where the recommended person displayed them. You can extract these examples from projects, tasks, or issues that the person has worked on where they applied their skills and abilities.
Another way you can do this is by citing achievements where the person made actual contributions to the organization. These may come in the form of awards, merits, or numerical figures like an increase in sales or client ratings during their term.
The body should be thick with examples of the best traits of your candidate. Keep in mind that it is the part of the letter of recommendation that genuinely sells your candidate and convinces the reader why they should choose the person you are recommending.
There are many creative ways to close your letter of recommendation. You can mention that you will be willing to hire the person again if given a chance. You can also say that the person would be an excellent addition to their organization. Remember that the primary purpose of your closing is to say that you recommend the person for the position they are vying for.
Tips for writing an effective letter of recommendation
Here are a few tips you can follow to write a solid letter of recommendation.
- Secure as much information as you can. Ask for a copy of the person’s CV and the job posting so that you know exactly how to align your recommendation to the employer or reader’s expectations.
- Use a standard business letter format. Keep things formal, even as you share personal stories about the candidate.
- Keep your letter positive. Focus on the good things about the person that makes them the perfect candidate for the job, and try to avoid negative comments since these will become glaringly obvious as recommendation letters are usually purely positive.
- If you do not want to write a recommendation, it is better to turn down the request rather than writing a half-hearted or negative letter that could harm their application.
- Never lie or over-exaggerate achievements. This could be obvious and could decrease the impact of your recommendation.
- Share your contact information as part of the closing in case they need to contact you for any clarification.
- Follow instructions, especially when sending the letter, as recommendation letters are usually sent directly to the employers.
Remember that your recommendation can make a difference in how a person fares during their application process. Make sure to highlight their best qualities and show the reader your positive experiences with the person. This online course could help you improve your writing skills so that you are much more comfortable penning down that recommendation letter.