How to Write a Recommendation Letter
What are Main Points in Letter of Recommendation?
Before you write a letter of recommendation for another person, you should first check the following points to be sure how to write a good letter of recommendation.
- You should first understand the purpose of the recommendation, whether it is for a job, an academic admission, an academic post, a background check, a volunteer position, or just a personal reference. If you know this, you would be able to write a good recommendation letter. If the recommendation letter is for a job, you should focus on the professional qualifications, the personal skills and capabilities, and the attitude and conduct of the person whom you are recommending.
- You should ask specific questions about the position for which the individual is applying and get a comprehensive job description. You should discuss this in detail with the person you are going to recommend. If you happen to know the person who would be receiving the recommendation letter very well, you could talk to that person also and get job details. When you know more thoroughly about the position, you would be able to tailor your recommendation letter exactly, so that it matches the requirements of both parties involved, i.e., the person you are recommending and the recipient of the letter.
- You should remember that you are putting your individual reputation on line when you are writing letters of recommendation and recommending other people. You should be confident that you know enough about that person whom you are recommending. If you think that you do not know too much about that person or if you have even the slightest doubt that the person might not deserve your recommendation, you should decline the request for writing letter of recommendation.
- If you know that person but not too very well, you should get complete information about that person. You could discuss with the individual about the educational qualification and past experience. You could ask that person to provide you with the resume, degree and other education related certificates, proofs of previous employments, etc. When you have all these details and when you know how to write a good letter of recommendation, your letter would be specific and thorough. When you have all the information with you about the person you are recommending, it would make the process that much easier.
Format of Letter of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are like other professional communications and they follow the same general guidelines and rules. The following format would give you an idea of how to write letters of recommendation.
1. Your name, your designation and company name if any, and your address should be on the top right hand corner, followed by the date.
2. The left hand side after that would have the name, designation and company name, if any, and the address of the recipient.
3. The letter should open with a formal greeting, either personal or a business greeting, depending on the type of the letter of recommendation. For example, it could be ‘Dear Mr. Matthews’ or ‘Dear Ms. Cunningham’. If you do not know the name of the recipient, you could address as ‘Dear Sir / Madam’. If you know the designation of the recipient but not the name, you could address as ‘Dear President’.
4. The introduction paragraph should specifically state who you are, how you know that person whom you are recommending, and for what position you are making the recommendation. This summary should inform the recipient about you especially, since the recipient would consider the recommended person favorably, if you are either a superior or a person who is in a position to have studied that person closely for a considerable period. The first paragraph of the sample letter provided below would give you an idea about the introduction portion.
5. The body of the letter of recommendation should be specific about the talents, skills, and achievements of the person that you are recommending. You should use specific examples and instances, instead of being general or vague while describing that person. If that person has made significant contributions or had unique skills, you should expressly point them out.
6. Even though you should express your appreciation of the achievements and skills of that person, you should also ensure that there is no undesirable exaggeration in the letter of recommendation. If you try to put that person on a pedestal, it would be quite obvious to most recipients of your letters of recommendations. Moreover, this would make it more difficult for the candidate to perform in the new position, even if the recipient had believed your exaggeration, since the expectation would be too high and probably impossible to meet.
If the person you are recommending had any weakness, you need not hide that but you should not be blunt about it. You could consider the example below. It states “Before being promoted as Production Supervisor, Jack took pains to attend classes on interpersonal skills and leadership. He was able to put into practice effectively what he learned in those classes when he became Production Supervisor.” This is much better than saying, “Jack lacked interpersonal skills and leadership”.
7. You should be specific in recommending that person to the position which is under consideration. When you clearly state that the person would be useful in the position, instead of being somewhat vague, the recipient would believe in the authenticity of your letter of recommendation.
8. When you write a letter of recommendation, you should not be too brief, which would convey either the meaning that you do not have enough material to speak about that person or it would make the recipient think that you do not know too much about that person. However, you should not go on rambling also. One page letter of recommendation is ideal.
9. The closing of the letter should end in an affirmative and positive note. You could also invite the recipient to contact you if further details are required about the person you are recommending.
10. You should finally close the letter of recommendation with a valediction like ‘Sincerely’ and add your name and designation, if any, under your signature.
If you understand the above points about letters of recommendation, your doubts about how to write a good letter of recommendation would vanish.
Sample Letter of Recommendation
153 Anderson Street
City Center, New York12345
July 15, 2013
307 Collins Street
City Center, New York12345
Dear Mr. Matthews,
I am writing this letter to recommend Jack Robinson for the position of Production Manager at XYZ Company. I had the opportunity to work with Jack when he was the Production Supervisor at ABC, Inc. His organizing abilities and leadership qualities really amazed me. I was the direct superior of Jack at ABC and we worked closely during the time Jack worked there. Hence, I have full understanding of his capabilities.
Jack had the technical knowledge and expertise to maintain the production running smoothly. He was able to motivate the workers under him without too much effort, since he always led by example and automatically inspired them to give their best in their jobs. His flexibility helped him build a good rapport with all of them. He was able to ensure that quality never got compromised in spite of tough delivery schedules. His planning and management of the production line was excellent.
Since he was a very good team man and inspired the workers, ABC was able to increase its production. His suggestions to make improvements in the products to provide more value addition to the customers were highly useful. Before being promoted as Production Supervisor, Jack took pains to attend classes on interpersonal skills and leadership. He was able to put into practice effectively what he learned in those classes when he became Production Supervisor. I really enjoyed the way he developed and excelled at ABC, Inc. Another aspect of Jack that impressed me was his clean habits and maintenance of good health.
With his technical knowledge, dedication, adaptability, and leadership qualities, Jack would definitely make a great Production Manager for XYZ Company. I am confident that you would find it quite profitable if you hire Jack. If you wish to know anything more about Jack, kindly feel free to write to me or contact me personally. I would happy to oblige you any time.
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