Letter of Recommendation - Free Template for 2020 (+ How to Write One)

letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation is a powerful tool for job seekers, students, and professionals. It provides insightful information and validation to statements made from one party to another. A recommendation letter acts as a certificate of validation. And acts as a reference for when employers, admissions committees, faculty, or other professionals are in need of more information.

A recommendation letter or letter of recommendation is often confused with a reference letter. While they are similar, a reference letter is written on behalf of a former employer, colleague, friend or family member when the other party has a specific request regarding insights. For example, when an employer asks for reference letters that show they’re qualified to be a manager. The key difference between a letter of recommendation and a reference letter is that the reference letter is requested by the third party and a letter of recommendation is provided between you and your colleague or friend that can be used in an evergreen fashion.

When Can Recommendation Letters Be Used

There’s a variety of scenarios where a recommendation letter can be used:

Whether you’re writing a letter for a job applicant, scholarship applicant, or student seeking a graduate program, the letter of recommendation should contain the same insights.

Writing a Strong Letter of Recommendation

A great letter of recommendation contains targeted insights that the third party will find useful. Let’s presume we’re writing a recommendation letter for a job applicant. As the letter writer, you should spend time comprehending both what the company values and what you presume the job might value. You can do this by researching the company, the job description, and other assets that your recommendation requester might have available.

Once you have that presumption, you can start to list a specific example or situation where your recommender showed the qualities that you feel the potential employer or hiring manager will find valuable. These situations should be bold achievements that your recommender was able to accomplish. And can help set the expectations of what the future employer might expect from the applicant. Be sure to either ask or provide the recommender with a resume, cover letter, and other assets that can help to write an effective letter.

The same goes for writing a college application letter, committee letter, or academic letter. You should ask the recommender for insights into both the school's values and program requirements to ensure you write achievements and situations where your recommender shows excellence. A helpful tip to make sure that the recommender provides you with the application deadline, personal qualities the committee is looking for, and any other program details that might be useful to write an effective letter.

Writing Your Own Letter of Recommendation

Don’t be confused by how this is described, you should never write your own recommendation letter. But professors or academic professionals who don’t have a lot of free time may ask you to write an outline of what you’re seeking in your recommendation letter. The outline should contain the details described above:

Send this outline to the professional, professor, academic teacher, faculty member, or advisor that you’d like to write your recommendation.

How to Write a Recommendation Letter

Below are the basic components of your letter. Remember, a good recommendation letter should be positive and mention valuable insights.

Your contact information: In this formal letter and business letter, you should include your contact information so the recipient can reach out to you with further questions if they have it.

First paragraph: Your first paragraph should mention what you believe as though the job title, role, university, or institution values and why you are about to recommend the person in question.

Second paragraph: This is your body paragraph. Your second paragraph should include at least two references to situations or work accomplishments that support the values you perceive the employer will desire. Reference the former employee by name and use specific examples. If writing an MBA program, college admissions officer letter, or other academic letters, reference the student's performance or student's strengths. A strong recommendation letter will have this section be the most impactful.

End paragraph: Your end paragraph should suggest that you’d be available for any further questions the hiring manager or reader might have regarding the person in question.

Letter of Recommendation Format

Follow these formatting guidelines when writing a recommendation letter:

Sample Letter

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

Ryan Jeffrey
Apple Inc

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.

Ryan Jeffrey

letter of recommendation example

free cover letter template

Recommendation Template

Download this recommendation letter template in Word format. Can be imported as a Google Doc. Instant download. No email required.

Download Template


Questions from employers and job seekers.

Is the process of asking a professor for a letter of recommendation different than the one provided here?

If you’d like to learn more about asking for a letter of recommendation from a professor, you should visit the guide that walks through that specifically, here.

Is the process of asking for a recommendation letter from a teacher different than the one provided here?

Asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation, either on behalf of another teacher or as a student, can be different. It should discuss relevant coursework versus accomplishments. If you’d like to learn how to write that, you should visit the guide here.

Are additional letters (more than one recommendation letter) helpful to employers?

Multiple recommendation letters can be very valuable to potential employers. Or if you're applying for a graduate program, look at how many required letters are in the requirements portion of your online application or written application.

Related Hiring Resources

How to Ask for a Perfect Letter of Recommendation [2020 Updated]
Letter of Recommendation Template for a College Student
Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker (+ How to Write It) - Free Template for 2020
Letter of Recommendation Template for an Intern
How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation - Sample Email for 2020
Letter of Recommendation for a Teacher - Free Template Download for 2020
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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