How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (+ Examples) [5+ Free Templates]

letter of recommendation

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:

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:

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.

Document Formatting

A professional and strong letter should follow these document guidelines:

Letter of Recommendation Sample

Below is a sample letter of recommendation from a previous employer, supervisor, or other professional to a job seeker.

Ryan Jeffrey
ryan@apple.com
336-559-8447
Apple Inc
Colleague

May 1, 2020

Dear Mr. Antedon —

I'm writing you this recommendation letter to speak to Mr. Anthony's abilities as a software engineer and leader. As Mr. Anthony's colleague, I was able to see him develop and grow within our organization. From when he first started, lacking some ability to lead others, to now departing to seek new leadership opportunities.

Some things that I believe the students valued the most about being able to interact with Mr. Anthony:

  • He was always adaptable to market conditions and how project management should change amongst that.
  • There were situations where the team relied on him to provide advice in more than 3-5 critical situations.
  • His active-listening skills were exceptional and every team member felt heard and embraced.
I would love to be able to speak with you about this recommendation. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to call me and I would be happy to help.

Sincerely,
Ryan Jeffrey

letter of recommendation example

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Letter of Recommendation Template

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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