Writing a letter of recommendation doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Ideally, you're writing the letter for someone whom you feel merits praise, so all you have to do is get your positive feedback on the candidate written down.
That isn't always as easy as it sounds, though. It can be challenging to write a terrific recommendation letter. Also, there are standard things that you want to make sure to mention in your endorsement of the candidate. Following a template can help ensure that you are hitting all the important points in your letter, so it will be as effective and informative as possible.
What to Write in a Letter of Recommendation
To make it easier, ask the individual you are assisting to provide you with their resume, a list of volunteer or extracurricular activities where they have held leadership roles, and a copy of all job postings to which they are applying.
You should also ask them to alert you when they have used your letter of recommendation so that you can be prepared to speak on their behalf should an employer call you for additional information. Your letter should follow a specific format to guide the reader through your relationship with the person you're recommending.
Heading and Greeting
The heading and greeting should include your information and a greeting or introduction.
Your Contact Information
Company or School Name
City, State Zip Code
If you are writing a personal letter of reference, include a salutation (such as Dear Mr. Johnson, Dear Dr. Jameson, etc.).
If you are writing a general letter, use "To Whom It May Concern" or don't include a salutation. If you don't include a salutation, start your letter with the first paragraph.
The Body of the Letter
The body is where you explain why you're a good reference, why they are qualified, and skills you think they have that are relevant.
The first paragraph of a recommendation letter explains your connection to the person you are recommending, including how you know them, and why you are qualified to recommend the person for employment or school.
I met Susan when she was a Freshman in my Introductory Economics course at WVU. Throughout her studies in my department, I had the opportunity to work with her on several research projects where she acted as my assistant.
The second paragraph of a recommendation letter contains information about the individual you are writing about, including why they are qualified for a position, what they can contribute, and why you are recommending them. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to provide details.
Bill graduated with honors in Philosophy, always focused on how his future would progress. He knew he wanted to pursue a doctorate very early on, and has worked independently, in groups, and as a research assistant. I believe that Bill would be an asset to your department, as he brings a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm to his studies. He is a very bright and qualified individual, and a pleasure to work with.
When writing a letter recommending a candidate for a specific job opening, the recommendation letter should include information on how the person's skills match the position they are applying for. Ask for a copy of the job posting and a copy of the person's resume so you can target your letter accordingly.
I believe that Christine would be an excellent addition to your international sales team. When I worked with her at XYZ, I was impressed by her ability to communicate the effectiveness of our products to our clients and close a sale. During the two years I worked with her, she was personally responsible for adding several new clients in Asia and Africa.
Summary, Conclusion, and Closing
This is where you finalize your recommendation with specific wording that should highlight your enthusiasm for the person.
This section of the recommendation letter contains a brief summary of why you are recommending the person. Use phrases like "strongly recommend," "recommend without reservation," or "candidate has my highest recommendation" to reinforce your endorsement.
During my acquaintance with Joanne, she has been efficient, professional, organized, and a fantastic team leader. She has my highest recommendation for the position of office manager at DEF Inc.
The concluding paragraph of your recommendation letter contains an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number within the paragraph, and provide the phone number again and also your email address in the return address section of your letter or under your signature.
Please feel free to contact me at 123-456-7890 or email@example.com if you need any additional information or clarification.
Recommendation Letter Template
Download the recommendation letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word) or read the example below. This letter template shows the format of a typical letter of reference for employment or educational purposes. The format is appropriate for an employment reference, as well as a reference for college or graduate studies (also review more samples).
Recommendation Letter Example (Text Version)
123 Business Street
Anytown, CA 12345
November 2, 2020
680 Main Boulevard, Ste. 300
Ocean City, CA 93650
Dear Ms. Smith,
I’m writing to recommend Mary Thompson for the position of administrative assistant at Acme Corp. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Mary for the past few years at CBI Industries, and have been consistently impressed with her diligence, efficiency, and ability to get things done.
Most recently, Mary has worked for me directly as a receptionist in our main office. In this role, she performed many administrative tasks in addition to greeting customers and other visitors and organizing team events. For example, she currently manages our executive team’s schedules and organizes their appointments, as well as coordinating travel and expense reporting.
I believe that Mary would be an excellent addition to your administrative staff. I’ve been consistently impressed with her organizational skills and grace under pressure. In our industry, as you know, every position is a customer service position. Mary constantly seeks to learn more about our products and programs so that she can help serve our clients and mitigate issues as they come up. She’s also a quick learner who picks up new technology with great speed.
I strongly recommend Mary for the position of administrative assistant at your company. She’s organized, detail-oriented, effective, and committed to getting the job done. She’d make an excellent addition to your team.
Please feel free to contact me at 555-555-5555 if you have any questions.
Signature (hard copy letter)