A letter of recommendation is always written on behalf of someone you know well. You might have worked with them, taught them, or known them in some other capacity. In either case, the responsibility is immense to provide a good understanding of the applicant through your words highlighting your experience. If you feel you are the right person to write the letter of recommendation and are willing to do so, we can get you started on the how.
First, let’s find out what the different types of recommendation letters are.
Types of Recommendation Letters
Recommendation letters are usually written for three purposes. And they are:
- Academic recommendation
- Employment recommendation
- Character references
Each of these has a different purpose and is addressed to very different authorities. Let’s look at each one of them to understand their motives.
1. Academic Recommendation
This is a very standard recommendation that most colleges and universities request while giving admission to students for higher education. Most educational institutions expect the prospective student to provide recommendation letters from at least two or three faculty members of their previous school or college. The purpose of this is to get to know the student’s strengths and weaknesses. While the college essay tells a lot about a student’s personality, the recommendation letter is a third person’s perspective about him/her that adds credibility to the profile in general.
2. Employment Recommendation
An employment recommendation is given by a former employer/manager/lead to a prospective employer of a job seeker. Essentially, it talks about the person’s work ethic, skills, accomplishments, personality, and what he/she brings to the table for the company. Most organizations ask for two or three such references from previous employers. And the letters of recommendation either be part of your portfolio or be submitted with other documents when an offer of employment is being processed.
#3: Character References
A character reference is usually given by community members, doctors, neighbors, teachers, church leaders, or employers. Such reference letters are used to support a person in legal matters, child adoption, renewal of visa or passport, and housing application.
How to Write a Letter of Recommendation Explained Step-by-Step
1. Do you want to give this person a recommendation?
The first question to answer is whether or not you believe that the person deserves a recommendation. This is important because recommendation letters that are written half-heartedly often do more harm than good. It’s better to refuse if you are not inclined to write an affirmative recommendation.
2. For whom are you writing this recommendation letter?
It is pivotal to know the person you are writing the recommendation for quite well. First, in what capacity do you know this person, and does that warrant a recommendation? For instance, if you are a teacher, you can write a recommendation for a student only if you have interacted with him/her or know him/her well. As a colleague or manager, you can write a recommendation for someone only if they have reported to you or worked with you.
3. Why are you writing the recommendation letter?
Have complete clarity about the purpose of writing a recommendation letter. This will ensure that you can write for the correct audience. For instance, there is no point harping on someone’s academic brilliance if they are applying for a role that requires more soft skills.
4. Make a list of everything you need to say and then structure your letter
Make a listicle of everything you want to commend the person you are writing for. Then, rationalize the list to only the most important and relevant points. Consequently, structure your letter around these points.
5. Follow a template for writing your recommendation letter
If you want to know how to write a letter of recommendation well, you can follow our downloadable template. You can also use this sample recommendation letter to serve as a great example of a strong reference letter.
Sample Recommendation Letter
Ryan Roe, General Manager at XYZ Corporation
Madison Avenue, New York
I am writing to you on behalf of Jane Doe, a former colleague of mine, who is currently in the process of completing her joining formalities at your esteemed organization. I am Mark Douglas, Chief Product Manager at ABC Corporation and I know Ms. Roe in the capacity of a reporting manager. For three out of the five years that she worked at ABC Corporation, Ms. Roe reported directly to me in the role of Senior Product Associate.
In this short correspondence with you, I would like to express my deepest regard for Ms. Roe as a professional. Her greatest quality is that she is a team player; she always puts the goals of the team before her ambition. Our team has seen 2X growth in the lead generation since Ms. Roe joined us and a large part of it can be attributed to her.
As far as technical skills go, Ms. Roe has a deft hand at predictive analytics and is very accurate in her risk assessment for product launches. Her data-driven approach to work and great business acumen has saved us thousands of dollars in averted mistakes when it came to new products.
In conclusion, I believe that Ms. Roe is a great resource to have in any product team and will be a huge asset to any company she chooses to join. We at ABC Corporation are very sorry to lose her but wish her all the best in future endeavors.
If you need any further clarifications regarding Ms. Roe’s candidature, you may contact me through the following channels.
Phone: (555) 555-1234 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Product Manager,
How to Write a Recommendation Letter From Scratch
To write a letter from scratch, follow these steps or just download our easy-to-use template:
- Date of Writing
- Recipient’s name + title (job title or trade name like Advocate/Doctor)
- Recipient’s Address/company name or address (a short one will do as you will not be posting the letter physically in all probability)
- Salutation: Honorable, Respected, Dear, etc. (Helps to know if it’s a Ms or Mr)
- Statement of Purpose: Explain why you are writing and for whom, referring to the person concerned
- Personal Introduction: Who you are and in what capacity do you know the person you are recommending
- The Body: This part of the letter must comprise the points you listed, stressing why you are recommending this person
- Anecdotes: Personal anecdotes can be used to make the letter interesting and genuine
- Closing: Here you should sum up the recommendation letter by reiterating why you are recommending this person
- Contact information: You can give your email address and/or phone number in case the recipient wants to contact you
- Signing Off: Faithfully, truly, etc.
Pro Tips to Write a Letter of Recommendation
- Keep the tone of the letter very formal and professional because it is meant for an organization or academic institution. There is usually no room for informal language in such a context.
- Do not use short forms or abbreviations that are uncommon. If you do, expand them or provide context. The person reading your letter would not have the time to look up the meaning of something he/she does not understand.
- Always write in the first person. Remember, you are speaking directly to the recipient through this letter.
- Refer to the person you are recommending by their full name and not by a nickname or given name.
- Beware of spelling mistakes or inconsistencies as it will reflect poorly on your credibility.
- Structure the points into short and crisp paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a central thought that is being explained and elaborated.
- Be generous with the adjectives you use but make sure they are backed by data to be credible. For instance, if you say that Jane Doe is an effective communicator, back it up with an example of how her communication skills helped in conflict resolution at your workplace.
How to Write a Recommendation for LinkedIn
Like most things, letters of recommendation too have moved to online space in a digitally transforming world. The closest thing to a letter of recommendation in the digital space is a LinkedIn recommendation. It has become customary to have some recommendations to boost the authenticity and value of your LinkedIn profile. Hence, people often ask former teammates or managers for such recommendations.
If you are faced with such a request, you will have to follow the steps we listed in the section about how to write a letter of recommendation. However, certain additional aspects come into play on a social networking platform like LinkedIn.
To-dos to Write a Great LinkedIn Recommendation:
- Keep it short. Remember that you have only so much space in the Recommendations section and people surfing online have the attention span of a puppy!
- Structure your recommendation into bullet points to make it more readable if it is going to run into paragraphs. Why? Essentially, the natural tendency when you see a chunk of text online is to skip or skim. So, make the text easier to skim through.
- Back up your points with data. Employers or hiring managers look for numbers in such recommendations. For instance, you can say that Jane Doe helped drive 2X growth and link the campaign in question to it.
- Keep the recommendation generic because in this case, you don’t know exactly which employer you are writing for.
- There is an option on LinkedIn to choose how you are associated with the person you are recommending. Be as accurate as you can here.
- You need to update your own LinkedIn profile so that you both have common companies or universities reflected on each other’s profiles.
- You are not bound by the rules of strict formality while writing a LinkedIn recommendation. This gives you some measure of freedom to be creative with what you write. However, it’s best to not get sarcastic or goofy with what you write because you are still writing for prospective employers.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
If writing a letter of recommendation is a skill, asking for one is also an art. It begins with choosing the right person to recommend you and then approaching them in the most suitable way to get a letter of reference. Read more about how to ask for a recommendation letter.
Recommendation letters are one way to move ahead in your career. But, your resume and your skills are your biggest recommendations in the job market. In a fiercely competitive world, you can never stop learning. Hence, become a lifelong learner with Emeritus and explore effective online courses here.
By Anwesha Barari
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