10+ Tips and Tricks for Writing a Great Letter of Recommendation

Posted Date: 03 Nov 2023
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Crafting a letter of recommendation offers a valuable opportunity to express gratitude for the dedicated efforts of a previous employee or student. It's a chance to acknowledge their hard work and abilities. Since a well-crafted recommendation letter can significantly influence a candidate's prospects in securing a job or gaining admission to an educational program, it's crucial to invest the time and care needed to compose an effective one. In this article, we delve into the essence of a recommendation letter and provide 15 essential tips for creating a compelling one.

Key points to remember:

  • A recommendation letter serves as a testament to an individual's skills and accomplishments, intended to convince employers of their suitability for a specific role.
  • Composing a recommendation letter involves including specific details that highlight the candidate's experiences, qualifications, and potential, while also introducing the writer of the letter.
  • An impactful recommendation letter is often written in an active voice and follows a straightforward structure, encompassing a salutation, introduction, detailed information, and a concluding summary.

Also read: 8 Ways to Build Confidence and Self-esteem to Navigate the Next Job Interview

What Constitutes a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a written endorsement provided by a former employer, client, coworker, or teacher, endorsing an individual's professional or academic performance. The objective is to have someone affirm the person's achievements, skills, and suitability, underscoring their compatibility with a particular job or academic program.

Recommendation letters are typically solicited by a student or prospective employee and are addressed directly to the hiring manager or the admissions department, depending on the letter's intended purpose.

Also read: Strategic Emotional Quotient: Boosting Workplace Effectiveness with Emotional Intelligence

Here are 10+ valuable recommendations to assist you in the process of composing an effective letter of recommendation:

1. Craft a unique letter for each recommendation. While a basic template can be a helpful starting point, it's crucial to tailor each letter with specific details that highlight the candidate's qualifications. Consider outlining your key points to ensure nothing is missed.

2. Examine the candidate's resume before you begin. Review their resume to gain a comprehensive understanding of their prior experiences. This knowledge will help you write a more thorough letter that highlights their strengths and goals. Additionally, identify areas for potential improvement and offer constructive suggestions.

3. Request bullet points or a draft from the candidate. To save time and ensure you address the candidate's most important points, ask them to provide a list of key qualities or a draft letter that you can use as a reference.

4. Compile a list of the candidate's qualities and accomplishments. As you review the candidate's resume and the job description, create a list of qualities and achievements that showcase the candidate's qualifications. You can also ask the candidate to share their most marketable assets, particularly those observed during your collaboration.

5. Begin with a self-introduction. It's beneficial to introduce yourself briefly in the opening lines of the letter. Provide a sentence or two explaining your position and your relationship to the candidate, offering context for your recommendation.

Also read: Amazon's Approach to Product Development and Product Management

6. Incorporate language from the job description. Obtain a copy of the job description to align your recommendation with the employer's specific requirements. If you're providing a general recommendation, request information about the types of positions the candidate is applying for to craft a versatile letter.

7. Focus on one or two key qualities. Select one or two qualities that make the candidate a strong fit for the role and substantiate these statements with specific instances showcasing the candidate's demonstration of these qualities. Dedicate two paragraphs to the main body of the letter, focusing on achievements and personal attributes such as determination, integrity, work ethic, or standards.

8. Quantify the candidate's strengths. Whenever possible, quantify the candidate's strengths or rank them in comparison to other applicants or colleagues. For example, you can state that the candidate possesses the best analytical skills you've encountered in your ten years at the company. Include measurable outcomes achieved while working with the candidate, such as boosting website traffic by 25% over six months, resulting in a 10% increase in sales.

9. Discuss the candidate's potential. Explain why you believe the candidate would excel in the role they are applying for, emphasizing their ability to work in a team and work independently, and their key strengths and talents that position them for future success.

10. Express enthusiasm. Showcase your enthusiasm for the candidate's suitability for the position, differentiating them from other applicants. You can convey your willingness to rehire them in your department, underscoring their exceptional qualities.

11. Utilise an active voice. Write in an active voice for a more impactful letter. Active voice ensures clarity and conciseness in your statements. To shift from passive to active voice, place the subject first in the sentence to indicate the action performer. For example, change "The car was hit by the truck" to "The truck hit the car."

12. Include your contact information. Provide your contact information, such as your email address or phone number, after the letter or following your signature. Encourage potential employers or admissions offices to reach out for further information.

13. Proofread diligently. Thoroughly proofread the letter to eliminate typos and grammatical errors. Reading the letter aloud can help you identify and correct any overlooked mistakes.

14. Adhere to the correct format and length. Write the letter in a standard font and font size, such as Times New Roman 12-point for printed letters or Arial 11-point for electronically submitted ones. Ensure one-inch margins for printed letters. Aim for a length between two-thirds to one full single-spaced page.

15. Follow submission guidelines. Consult the candidate to determine their preferred submission method and any specific requirements, such as formatting and delivery instructions. Stay mindful of submission deadlines.

These tips will help you create a strong and effective letter of recommendation for the candidate.

Also read: Strategic Emotional Quotient: Boosting Workplace Effectiveness with Emotional Intelligence

Structure for writing a Letter of Recommendation

Adopt a straightforward structure when formatting your letter:

1. Greeting: If addressing a specific recipient, begin with a salutation such as "Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. [name]:". For a general letter, omit the salutation or use "To Whom It May Concern."

2. Introduction: In the opening paragraph, clarify the letter's purpose and your relationship with the person you're recommending. Mention the duration of your acquaintance with them.

3. Details: The second paragraph should delve into why you believe the individual is well-suited for the job or program. Offer concrete examples illustrating their qualifications and capabilities. If necessary, use multiple paragraphs to elaborate on their qualifications.

4. Summary: Summarise your recommendation in this section. You can use phrases like "highly recommend" or "wholeheartedly recommend [name] for [program/position]."

5. Conclusion: In the closing paragraph, extend an offer to provide additional information about the candidate's qualifications and abilities. Conclude with "Yours sincerely" when addressing a named recipient, or "Yours faithfully" when the recipient is unknown.

6. Sign the letter: End the letter with your name and title. If you're printing and sending the letter via mail, include your handwritten signature beneath your typed name.

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