How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (+ Examples) [5+ Free Templates]
A recommendation or letter of recommendation is a business letter and formal letter authored by a friend, colleague, professor, faculty member, professional, or other person or stature. The authored letter serves as a form of validation to a reader. It validates professional experiences (or achievements), academic achievements, personal qualities, character qualities, and other significant traits.
A recommendation letter is sometimes referred to as a reference letter. These letters are often required for:
- Applying to college, financial aid support, or a scholarship opportunity.
- Applying for an MBA program or graduate program (or graduate school application) as a prospective graduate student.
- Applying for Medical School or Law School.
- Applying for new employment.
- Personal character reference letters are used for real estate dealings, legal dealings, and more. These letters are often referred to as a personal letter of recommendation or character reference letter.
A letter of recommendation is often requested by a previous employee, student, colleague, or friend. When a student requests a letter of recommendation, a professor may highlight exceptional qualities in the student’s general demeanor, motivations, and their standardized test scores for the online application or admissions committee.
When a letter of recommendation is requested by a previous employee for a job application, the employer or colleague often references career accomplishments that support the job description requirements (hard skills, soft skills, and other competencies).
Students and professors may refer to a letter of recommendation as an academic letter or academic reference. The objective of this letter is the same: to vouch for the student and provide insightful comments regarding the student’s academic achievements, character, and goals.
Medical students may refer to their letter of recommendation as a committee letter. The objective of this letter is roughly the same. The goal is to obtain a letter authored by a pre-health committee or pre-health advisor. These professionals advocate on behalf of the letter requester and display accomplishments, contextualized challenges, and overall preparedness or motivation for pursuing a career in medicine.
Tip: Using a recommendation form can make the process of asking for a letter of recommendation more seamless depending on the needs of the letter requester. For students that need to gather multiple letters of recommendation, this can save considerable time in gathering the required letters for an online application.
How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
When being requested to write a letter of recommendation, as a recommender (or letter writer), it’s advised to gather the following details before writing a letter:
- Gather the proper information from the letter requester. For students, this may include a personal statement, college application deadline, and other application requirements (for a scholarship, financial aid, or MBA program). For a job applicant, this may include the job description, their cover letter, their resume, the company name, and company objectives or mission statement.
- Speak with the letter requester. It can be helpful to speak with the applicant about the letter before writing. Gather desired skills or a specific example of skills that the applicant would like to highlight. This could be leadership skills, adaptability, or other qualities that they feel will be important to their application as a job seeker.
- Recall significant experiences. Share stories in the letter that will be attractive to the admissions committee or hiring manager reading the letter. Keep the story short yet impactful to the desired qualities the letter requester advised to highlight. For a job applicant, this could mean referring to moments of leadership with their teammates. For students, this could mean referring to the student's academic performance.
- Provide contact information. Include contact information for the letter recipient. Ask the reader if they have any further questions and to reach out by email or phone if they do.
- Provide a letter of recommendation. Export the letter of recommendation in both Word Document format and PDF format for the online application.
Tip: It can be helpful for a professor when the student writes their own letter outline for the recommendation letter. The outline should contain qualities to highlight in the letter, test scores to include, academic achievements, and general contact information (like the student's name, phone number, email address, and more) for the professor to use when writing. This can save the professor or academic teacher considerable time during the writing process and ensure that the student receives their letter in a timely manner.
Letter of Recommendation Format
Below are the basic components of a letter of recommendation.
Contact information: At the top of the business letter, the letter writer should include their name, job title, phone number, email address, and any other pertinent information for the reader.
First paragraph: The first paragraph should mention what the reader may value in the applicant or person in question. This may include positive attributes, professional qualifications, or characteristics that the hiring manager or admissions committee member might deem appropriate. This should be less than 150 words.
Second paragraph: The body paragraph. This is where the letter writer can share a significant story that defines the person's accomplishments. A moment where the person showed exceptional qualities and characteristics as a student, professional, or person.
End paragraph: Closing statement. The letter writer should provide their contact information once more and indicate to the reader that they are available to answer further questions if the reader chooses.
Tip: An effective letter of recommendation is one that is highly targeted to the job description, college application, financial aid, or MBA program requirements. It’s important to read the desired qualifications in an applicant before writing. While potentially time-consuming, this research process can assist in developing a great letter of recommendation for the applicant.
A professional and strong letter should follow these document guidelines:
- Use business letter document formatting.
- Use default business letter page margins.
- Use 9pt to 11pt font sizing.
- Use a professional font like Helvetica, Garamond, or Times New Roman.
Letter of Recommendation Sample
Below is a sample letter of recommendation from a previous employer, supervisor, or other professional to a job seeker.
Recommendation Letter Templates
More recommendation letter resources.
- Letter of Recommendation for a Teacher
- Letter of Recommendation for a College Student
- Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker
- Letter of Recommendation for a Friend
- Letter of Recommendation for an Eagle Scout
- Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School
- Letter of Recommendation for a Scholarship
- Letter of Recommendation
- Reference Letter
- Character Reference Letter
- Business Letter
- Letter of Interest
- Employment Verification Letter
- Termination Letter
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