A letter of recommendation is one of the most important documents in a career portfolio. These letters are a testament to a candidate’s versatility, talent, and unique value. Since they are written by a third party, such endorsements carry added weight and can help cement a candidate’s successful application.
On this page, just click to download for free our letter of recommendation sample into MS Word.
Table of Contents
- Letter of Recommendation Sample
- How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
- How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
1. Letter of Recommendation Sample
This template is structured in standard business letter format. Just click, download, and customize the highlighted sections to fit your requirements.
2. How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
It’s an honor to be asked to write a letter of recommendation. Your letter is the most transparent endorsement of a candidate’s true skill and aptitude and can tip a hiring manager’s decision in the favor of your past-employee. Just remember, with great power, comes great…well, you know.
Due to the significance of the recommendation letter, it’s imperative that it look and read in a professional and concise manner. Without a doubt, the best way to do this is by choosing the right format.
Letter of Recommendation Format
Recommendation letters should follow a business letter format. This format has (in order from top to bottom) six must-include parts:
- Your address at the top
- Letter date
- Addressee’s address
- Recommendation itself
- Your sign off
For more specific tips and tricks, we offer a complete how-to guide for formatting letters.
Strategize before you begin writing:
First, collect information: make sure your now past-employee sends you their resume and a description of the job opening. Acquainting yourself with the prospective job description can help you effectively tailor your letter to their strengths. Also, be sure to ask them if they have any key points they want to be addressed in the letter.
Second, determine the purpose: Consider the ultimate goal of the letter.
- Is the letter meant for a specific job? Make sure you understand the nature of the newly sought position and use specific, first-hand language and descriptions of how the candidate would be an amazing fit.
- Is the letter meant for an undetermined future job? Write a general letter. A general recommendation letter will focus less on role-specific skills information and more on general skills and accomplishments for the larger field they work in.
So, what should be included in the letter?
The most effective salutation is one that uses the hiring manager’s first name. This is effective because it makes the letter personable and friendly and will make the reader pay more attention to the letter.
However, this may require your candidate to do some research first. Ask them to conduct some research and find the name of the person in charge of the hiring process.
If they cannot provide you with a name, it’s recommended you use one of the following choices:
- Sir or Madam,
- Hiring Manager,
- Director of Human Resources,
- Members of the [Name] Committee (hiring committee, organizing committee, acceptance committee),
- Board of Directors,
All salutations should be prefaced with “Dear.” For example, if you are addressing a hiring manager, your salutation should read, “Dear [Hiring Manager]”.
- Paragraph One
Begin your recommendation by discussing your relationship with the candidate, i.e. how long you’ve known them and in what capacity. Finish the first paragraph by wholeheartedly endorsing them for the position.
- Paragraph Two
This is where you should address how well the candidate would fit in their new role. Show how they overcame challenges to achieve their goals by using skills relevant to the target position, show their talent by using anecdotes of their success in their previous role.
If you are requested to write a letter discussing a candidate’s skills, make sure to be as specific as possible.
Instead of writing,
“Jennifer has built tremendous skills in project management over the course of the past two years.”
“As project manager for our largest core product, Jen has risen as a company leader, driven technical architecture and implementation discussions, and owned and led seven revenue generating multidisciplinary projects. In particular, her end-to-end work on our VoiceActive home automation product has become a case study in effective product championing and exemplary leadership.”
- Paragraph Three
Use this section to discuss your past employee’s personal qualities. Discuss what they brought to work every day, i.e. such as their ability to get along with others, attitude when facing tough situations, and address character attributes that are relevant to their new job.
- Letter Closing
Be sure to finish the letter with a strong affirmation of their ability to not only perform adequately but thrive in a role with larger responsibilities. This is where you hammer home your support for their candidacy.
- Share Your Contact Information
According to SHRM, 80 percent of organizations will contact references, so make sure you leave the reader with a way to reach you if they need further information.
- Don’t Hold Back Praise
If you accept an offer to write a letter of recommendation for someone, be sure to give them a glowing appraisal, or at minimum, a fighting chance to successfully land a new job. Lukewarm praise and negative words will seriously damage a candidate’s chances, terminating their consideration for the job faster than a Las Vegas marriage, or a Reno divorce.
- Research about the role before writing
- Strategize the content before writing
- Be specific when discussing a past employee’s skills
- Show their impact with examples
- Copy-edit the letter
- Repeat information from their resume
- Discuss their personal lives
- Ramble on about similar points
- Ignore personal qualities
- Use bland wording over enthusiastic wording
- Use faint praise
3. How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
If you are an employee leaving a job, here are four proactive steps you can take to make sure you receive a comprehensive and favorable letter of recommendation.
- Choose your writer strategically: Before you begin asking your previous superiors for a recommendation, think strategically. Carefully balance your decision based on the writer’s importance in the industry and how well they know you. Always choose a writer that knows you well and can provide first-hand information about you.
- Give them advanced notice: One of the most important aspects of asking for a recommendation letter is timing. The proper time to request is one to two months ahead of the deadline. Remind them one month before the deadline. If they still haven’t responded with an arrival date, remind them again two weeks before it’s due.
- Be respectful when asking: Whether you ask in person or in email, be polite and understanding. The writer will probably be honored by the request. If you ask with respect, the writer will most likely pay the respect forward by giving you a glowing recommendation.
- Provide them with sufficient details: Once the writer agrees, send them your resume, a link to the target job, why the job excites you, and how you’d be a good fit. This will help the writer frame the letter to meet the needs of the targeted position.