Positive Recommendation Letter Samples

Businesswomen discussing project on digital tablet
••• Thomas Barwick / Iconica / Getty Images

Has a student, volunteer, or employee asked if you would be willing to provide a recommendation letter for them? If you agreed to the recommendation letter request, you may be wondering exactly how to write a letter that will impress recipients. Recommendations can carry weight in a job candidate's application, so it's important to write an effective letter of support. 

Discover what elements to include in your note to make it successful, along with two sample recommendation letters that you can use for inspiration as you craft your own.  

The “Who, Why, Where, When, What, and How” of Recommendation Writing

Effective recommendation letters contain the “Who, Why, Where, When, What, and How” that you may familiar with from journalism. Modified for business correspondence, this means you should explain: 

  • Who you are writing for;
  • Why you are willing to write on the person's behalf;
  • Where and When you worked with the person you're recommending;
  • What is so special about the person (his or her unique strengths); and
  • How he or she demonstrated these special qualities to you.

The most powerful letters provide specific examples and descriptions of the talents and contributions of the person you’re recommending. Like any good piece of writing, these letters should “show” how an individual shines rather than just stating it. 

As you sit down to write your letter, think of what has impressed you about the person you are recommending. Try to come up with at least three unique strengths. Then, come up with specific examples of how the person displayed these characteristics. 

Is he, for example, reliable? If so, “how” has he demonstrated this – perfect attendance? Or, if she is detail-oriented, did she show this through her consistently error-free monthly reports? 

Writing your letter will be easier once you've generated examples of each of the individual's strengths. 

Here are two samples of the “5W’s and How” at work in a positive letter of recommendation.

Sample Positive Recommendation Letter (for a Volunteer)

To Whom It May Concern:

Kathleen Doe volunteered for four years in the Women's Health ward at ZBD Community Hospital, where I am head nurse. During this time, she was a dependable volunteer who never missed a shift.

Kathleen was an asset to the hospital. She was always cheerful and willing to assist with any task. In addition, Kathleen was motivated and interested in learning. To this end, she often accompanied our care teams on their rounds so that she knew the status and needs of each individual patient.

Kathleen is relocating due to family circumstances, and, unfortunately, we will no longer be lucky enough to have her services.

She will be missed and I highly recommend her to any future employer or volunteer organization.

Sincerely,

John Smith, R.N.

Sample Positive Recommendation Letter (for a Student)

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with much enthusiasm that I recommend Joe Bloom for inclusion in the College Scholars Program at the University of Tennessee.

I was Joe’s instructor for multiple English classes during his four years at Morristown-Hamblen High School, including AP English his junior year. In our classes, Joe displayed a level of creativity, wit, and analytical thought that is quite rare among high school students.

His writing and research skills are truly phenomenal – for his major essay project in AP English, he researched and wrote a remarkable study of visual imagery in the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Joe’s wide-ranging intellect is such that he would be bored by most freshman- and sophomore-level Liberal Arts courses. He is ready to assume and excel in upper-division classwork, and possesses the self-motivation to successfully create and execute an independent course of honors study.

Joe’s academic strengths are complemented by his demonstrated leadership skills – he was our band’s drum major for two years and served as Vice President of the Student Council and Editor of our high school yearbook. He is also very active in his church and in the Sierra Student Coalition.

Please let me know if I can provide any more information to strengthen Joe’s candidacy for the College Scholars Program.

He has a very special spark, and I trust he will go far in making our world a better place.

Sincerely,

Jane Evans