A letter of recommendation is a written and signed document that gives feedback about an individual’s character and professional or academic performance. Applicants usually use these letters to apply for jobs or college admission.
- What Is a Letter of Recommendation?
- Types of Letters of Recommendation
- Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
- How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
- What Should a Letter of Recommendation Include?
- How to Write a Letter of Recommendation?
- Letter of Recommendation Writing Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Letter of Recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is written for a job or college applicant by someone who can vouch for the applicant’s professional or educational performance. It is usually sent to a hiring manager or admissions officer considering a candidate for employment, admission, or a scholarship.
Types of Letters of Recommendation
Referees write letters of recommendation for many different purposes. Here are some letters you can create with our template:
- Job recommendation letter: This letter recommends an applicant for a job. It should mention the applicant’s relevant work experience and skills.
- Graduate or professional school recommendation letter: This letter endorses a college student for a graduate or professional program, such as a master’s program, law, or medical school.
- Scholarship recommendation letter: This letter recommends a student for a scholarship. It should discuss their academic achievements and mention any awards they have earned.
- Character reference letter for court: This letter provides insight into the values, morals, and other qualities of an individual undergoing court proceedings.
Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
If you’re seeking a letter of recommendation, you can ask the following people to be your referee:
- Family members: Some jobs and academic institutions may allow you to use letters of recommendation from family members who can vouch for your professional and academic skills. You can also ask family members for a character reference letter for court.
- Friends: Although you can ask family members for a character reference, the reference will be more robust if it comes from someone unrelated to you, such as a friend.
- Mentors and coaches: Mentors and coaches can attest to your personality, character, and work habits.
- Managers and co-workers: Former and current managers and co-workers can vouch for your professional skills and experience when applying for a new job.
- Professors: Professors can attest to your work habits and academic skills when applying for a scholarship or to graduate school.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation from the right person can provide deep insight into your character and put the rest of your application into context.
Follow these steps when asking for a letter of recommendation.
1. Pick a Suitable Communication Method
Before asking someone for a recommendation, choose the best method to speak to your potential referee.
Most people use email because it allows them to include additional information. It also gives the potential referee time to think about their answer. However, if you have a close relationship with the potential referee, you may want to consider calling or meeting them in person.
If you set up a meeting to ask a potential referee over the phone or in person, send a follow-up email to confirm the time and date of the meeting.
2. Ask Politely
Be considerate when you ask for a letter of recommendation — don’t assume the potential referee will agree to write a reference letter for you. They may not have the time or interest, or they may not have enough knowledge about your personality and experiences to write you a letter.
Accordingly, instead of asking, “Will you please write a letter of recommendation for me?” consider asking, “Do you think you can provide a letter of recommendation for me?” or “Do you know anyone who would make a good character reference?” These questions give the person more room and time to think before agreeing to be your referee.
3. Tell the Referee What You Want Them To Say
Although the referee will ultimately determine how to write your letter, you should give them as much guidance as possible.
For instance, if you need a reference for a master’s research scholarship, you should give them links to the scholarship description, your resume, and writing samples that demonstrate your research capabilities.
You should also explain your desire or motivation for getting the scholarship and ask the referee to highlight your previous scholarships and awards, if applicable.
4. Send the Referee a Thank-You Note
After receiving a letter of recommendation, show your appreciation by sending them a thank-you note. If you receive the position, you should let them know that their reference letter was a great help.
What Should a Letter of Recommendation Include?
Letters of recommendation contain the following information:
- The name of the applicant
- The name, position, and contact information of the referee
- Why is the referee writing a letter for the applicant
- Who is the referee, and what is their relationship to the applicant
- How the applicant meets the requirements of the job, degree, or scholarship they are applying for
- A personal anecdote illustrating the applicant’s qualifications
How to Write a Letter of Recommendation?
If an applicant has asked you to write a letter of recommendation, you may not know where to start. Follow these steps to write a glowing letter of recommendation.
Step 1 – Download a Letter of Recommendation Template
Writing a letter of recommendation from scratch can be time-consuming. You can streamline the process by using our letter of recommendation template.
Step 2 – Greet the Recipient
Start by greeting the recipient with a simple “Dear” [title] [name].” If you don’t know the recipient’s name, use “To whom it may concern.”
Step 3 – Write the Introduction
State the purpose of the letter, the name of the candidate, and the position you recommend them for. You should also introduce yourself and your relationship with the candidate.
For example, if you are writing an academic letter of recommendation, you can say the following:
My name is [your full name and title]. I am writing to recommend [candidate’s full name] for acceptance into [university name]’s [program name]. I have taught [candidate] for [number of years] at [university name].
Here’s what you can say for an employment letter of recommendation:
I am pleased to recommend [candidate’s full name] for [position] at [company name]. I have worked with [candidate] at [company] for [number of years].
Step 4 – List the Candidate’s Attributes
After writing the introduction, list the accomplishments, personality traits, skills, and experiences that make the candidate stand out. Here’s an example:
[Candidate] is an exceptional salesperson with outstanding communication skills, a strong work ethic, and natural leadership skills. She also can think outside the box and find innovative solutions to problems.
Step 5 – Include Personal Anecdotes
Next, flesh out the candidate’s attributes by highlighting your personal experiences with them. Be as specific and detailed as possible.
For example, if you were impressed by the candidate’s leadership skills and conscientiousness during an undergraduate research project, you can include something like this in your letter:
During an upper-year research project for [course code/name], [candidate] displayed exceptional leadership skills by guiding other undergrads throughout the research process. [Candidate] was also incredibly conscientious and thorough — she stayed behind to help me organize modules on multiple occasions. She also coordinated with [department name] to ensure everyone received their research equipment and books on time.
Step 6 – Summarize Your Recommendation
End the body of your letter with a summary of your recommendation. Consider mentioning your relationship with the candidate to personalize it. Here are some examples:
After working with [candidate] for [number of years], I can confidently recommend her for [position] at [company].
[Candidate] is one of the best students I’ve mentored as a professor. I highly recommend [candidate] for [program name] at [university name].
Step 7 – End and Sign the Letter
Tell the recipient they should not hesitate to contact you for more information about the candidate. You can then end the letter with a complimentary close, such as “Best” or “Sincerely,” and include your name, professional title, signature, date, and contact information.
Here’s an example:
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need further information about [candidate] or her qualifications.
[Mobile/business phone and email]
Letter of Recommendation Writing Tips
Here are some tips for writing a recommendation letter that will stand out to potential employers, admissions officers, and others reviewing the letter.
Make It Personal
Even if you use an online letter of recommendation template, you must do your research to create a strong letter of recommendation.
Find out what the candidate is applying for and ask them to provide a resume, a copy of the job description or academic program requirements, and a summary of the achievements, skills, and qualifications they’d like you to highlight.
Make your letter as specific as possible. Avoid generalities — instead, explain why the person is the best candidate for the position and discuss your relationship with them. Include insights and details that may not appear on an application or resume.
For example, instead of saying, “[Candidate] was a wonderful student. He worked hard and received straight As for [course code or name]. I know he will succeed at [university name],” you should say:
When [Candidate] took my [course name(s)], he put 100% into his assignments, particularly his presentations. [Candidate] is a thoughtful, erudite communicator who always thinks outside the box. I can confidently say that he will succeed at [university name].
Demonstrate enthusiasm for the candidate’s application, and do not include any comments that could be viewed negatively.
Consider including comparisons between the applicant and others you’ve worked with. For example, you could say:
[Applicant name] is one of the best teaching assistants I’ve worked with as a professor due to her conscientiousness and unparalleled work ethic. I wholeheartedly recommend her for [position].”
Keep Things Relevant
The candidate may have many exciting experiences and accomplishments. However, a strong reference focuses on achievements relevant to the position the candidate is applying for.
Keep Things Concise
The hiring manager or admissions officer may receive many applications and reference letters. As such, they don’t have time to read long letters. Keep your letter to one to two pages maximum.
Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
If you don’t think you can give an enthusiastic recommendation, it’s okay to say no. A lackluster recommendation can do as much damage as a negative one.
Frequently Asked Questions
A letter of recommendation should be one to two pages.
A letter of recommendation should be one to two pages.
You can get a letter of recommendation by asking a suitable person and following these steps: You should ask for a letter of recommendation at least three to four weeks before the due date. Many employers, professors, and other potential referees are busy and have numerous recommendations to write, so giving them as much time as possible is considerate. You can write a strong letter of recommendation by following these steps:
You can get a letter of recommendation by asking a suitable person and following these steps:
You should ask for a letter of recommendation at least three to four weeks before the due date. Many employers, professors, and other potential referees are busy and have numerous recommendations to write, so giving them as much time as possible is considerate.
You can write a strong letter of recommendation by following these steps: