How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

What is a Letter of Recommendation and Why You Have Been Chosen to Write It

When you are applying for a job, you need to provide an employer with a resume and a cover letter. These are two obligatory documents which help to understand whether you fit in a position or you are not good enough. A resume gives a general overview of you as an employee, while cover letter usually serves as an illustration of your motivation and desire to work in the company. They seem like a perfect combination which may fulfill the request of any employer. However, for some bosses, a resume and a cover letter may not be enough, and they desperately need more proofs to make a final decision on a candidate. In such a case, one may also be asked to provide a letter of recommendation, and you might be chosen as a person who has to do it for, let’s say, your colleague. But what is a letter of recommendation and what are you supposed to write there? - It is an informative brief narration where you provide a recommendation for a person, listing his/her professional achievements and giving your personal estimation on why you believe the particular person is a perfect candidate for a position.

If you were asked to write one, you may be proud of yourself because it means that this person perceives you as the one whose opinion is valued. However, it is also a big responsibility because now your word may decide the fate of your colleague. So, you should pay particular attention to this request and think carefully about what you are going to write. Who knows, maybe your personal letter of recommendation will make an employer hire your colleague or deny him/her a position.

If you have never done it before and you have no idea how to begin, chill out and do not panic. The guide we have prepared for you will help to figure out how to do it correctly without spoiling career of a person who trusts you.

Things You Should Do Before Writing a Letter of Recommendation

So, you received a request to help your former colleague with this responsible task that is very crucial for his/her career - writing a letter of recommendation. No doubts, you want to do it in the right way and to undertake it in good faith. That’s why you cannot just rely solely on your personal perception of how this letter should look like, you need a good tip or even a sort of instructions, and we can help you with that. Here are top 3 things you should do before you begin.

Gather information

This may sound like an instruction manual to your college essay, but in our case, the object of our research is a person applying for a job. We cannot provide recommendations if we are not very familiar with a candidate’s position. So, firstly, you need to learn about a position. What an employer expects from the candidates, what qualities, skills, and experience are required. In other words, you should understand what kind of an employee a person you are to recommend should be.

Learn More About the Person You Are Helping

Ask about a resume and cover letter. Though you may know you colleague pretty good, you still may not be aware of some of his or her qualities. You should be 100% sure when listing the candidate’s strong sides.

Talk to a Candidate Honestly

This kind of conversation is a bit delicate, but it will help you to avoid things which could decrease the candidate’s chances of getting a job in the company. Ask a person directly about his or her weak sides, things that he or she is not very good at. This way, you will know what qualities are better not to mention in your recommendation letter to avoid the unnecessary attention to the candidate’s weak sides.

These three preparation steps will help you to learn better about a person you agreed to help and a position this person is applying for. The more information you gather, the wider picture you will have and more accurate and valuable the recommendation you will be able to provide. Once you complete this stage, you are ready to move to the next one - the writing process itself.

What to Include in a Letter of Recommendation

Now, when you have gathered all the required information, you are ready to work. What you need now is a template in order to know what order to provide the information about your colleague in. The following guide will help you to understand how to start a letter of recommendation in the right way and what to include in each of the following sections.

Contact information

Give brief information about yourself. A person who will read your letter should be aware of your name, the company you work at, your position, and address (city and zip code). Also, do not forget to put the date, so the one could see whether this document is relevant.

Salutation

Depending on a situation, you may write directly to a certain person or provide a general letter. If you know the name of a person to whom you address this letter, then begin with a formal greeting such as Dear Mr. Brown. If you don’t know the addressee of this recommendation and you were asked to provide a general letter, then skip the formal greeting and start with a phrase - To whom it may concern. There is also another option. If you do not know the addressee, do not include salutation at all and write the first paragraph right away.

1st Paragraph

Following the standards of decency, after you have introduced yourself, you need to explain why you are competent enough to provide any recommendations for your colleague. That’s why a good manner is to explain your connection to a person you are recommending. Mention how you got acquainted with a person and how long you have been working together.

Example: John White started working in my company three years ago. I was assigned as his mentor during his probation. During this period, I could monitor how John was coping with various simple and challenging tasks. Besides, after the probation period, we were working together on a few projects, and thus, I got an opportunity to learn more about John not only as an employee but also as a colleague.

2d Paragraph

Now we have come to a section where you need to explain what qualities a person you are recommending has. Or why you believe this person is good enough for a position. Also state in what way this person can contribute to the company and why you can recommend this candidate for a current position.

Example: From the first days of working in my company, John demonstrated a high level of responsibility and diligence. He has never complained about the tasks’ difficulty, though some of them were too complicated for him taking into consideration his experience of work by that time. John always did his best to provide the best possible result within the required deadline. He is a very communicative person, so he could easily and in short time find a common language with colleagues not only in his but in other departments too.

3d Paragraph

Now you have gotten to the part where you need to explain why you believe the person you are recommending will match the position perfectly. In this section, you should be very specific and identify some core examples which could clearly the person’s skills and qualities.

Example: I think John will be a valuable member in your team. Working in XZY Company, John has demonstrated his high level of professionalism in communication with clients. During eighteen months on a XXX position, he increased the company’s base of clients almost twice. However, the biggest contribution of John consists of developing and implementing two new marketing strategies which the company uses to this day.

Summary

It is a pre-final section, in which you should provide some general conclusions on a recommended person. In fact, you summarize all the advantages of your colleague that you have mentioned above and once again insist that you RECOMMEND him/her to this position.

Example: During the years that John has been working in our company, he demonstrated to be a skillful, responsible, and a fast-learning employee who can generate new ideas and contribute a lot to the business. That’s why I strongly recommend John for a marketing manager position at your company.

Conclusion

This is the final word in a letter. Here you offer to contact you in case there is more information about the candidate required.

Example: If you need some clarifications, feel free to contact me at 123-346-4354.

Closing

End your letter in accordance with the basic rules of mail correspondence.

Sincerely,
Recommender’s Name

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Yourself

Now you have a guide on how to write a letter of recommendation, and this step-by-step plan will help you to spend less time and provide a more accurate and valuable letter. However, the knowledge of how to write a good letter of recommendation may be useful even for you because some employers ask candidates to write their own letters of recommendation. It may sound like nonsense, but in this way, companies check the candidates’ skill to promote themselves and how they value themselves as professionals.

There is no a big difference between a letter of recommendation that you write for someone else or yourself. The structure will be almost the same. However, there are a few things that we want you to pay special attention to. The following tips will help you to figure out how to write a letter of recommendation for yourself and avoid some common mistakes.

Things you should never include in your own letter of recommendation:

  • too many adjectives which have no value and only describe you as a good person
  • only general qualities which cannot be supported by real examples
  • the absence of specific information on your achievements

What to include in a letter of recommendation:

  • specific details and stories which can support your skills and knowledge
  • certain advantages which demonstrate that you are better than an average candidate
  • specific abilities including the non-professional ones which may be beneficial for a position

General Tips on Writing a Letter of Recommendation:

  • Do not tell, demonstrate. The best way to explain your skill is to support it with a specific example. The more you provide, the better.
  • Use both quantitative and qualitative examples.
  • Make sections brief but informative. Each sentence you write should support the statement - why you are good for this position. If a sentence doesn’t provide any useful argumentation, think twice whether it should be added.
  • Write short paragraphs which consist of 4-5 sentences. Do not create long and unreadable pieces of text.
  • Do not use the informal tone. You are writing to your potential boss, and you do not know each other very well yet. It is better to maintain a formal or semi-formal manner of communication.

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