How To Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you grow into a leadership role in your workplace, you can expect your former co-workers to ask you to endorse their skills through a letter of recommendation. It's an important skill that allows you to support your co-workers in their future career ambitions. A well-written recommendation letter can determine whether they get their dream job. In this article, we discuss what a recommendation letter is, what to include in one and how to write a recommendation letter with a template and example.

What is a recommendation letter?

A letter of recommendation, or a referral letter, is a business document that endorses an individual's skills and experience. Usually, a professional will ask for a recommendation letter from a former employer or colleague so that they can present it to recruiters during the job-seeking process. Not only does it authenticate their resume's claims, but it also acts as a good barometer to gauge their performance and relationship with others.

There are three types of recommendation letters, academic, professional and character references. A specific person writes each type of reference to offer a unique insight about your personality, background and achievements. Here's a summary of what each type of recommendation letter is:

Academic

A person who is familiar with your academic background, such as a professor or a teacher, will write an academic recommendation letter to validate your academic results, certifications and extracurricular activities. Students use this letter to gain admission into a higher education institution. In research-centric career paths, academic recommendation letters also act as proof of your ability to carry out experiments and analyse their results.

Professional

A former co-worker, manager or employer will write a professional reference letter to discuss why another employer should hire you. This is the most common type of recommendation letter. It endorses your skills and experience, while also sharing some insights about your character as an employee. A professional reference is an important document that can help you stand out among other job candidates.

Character

A close friend, relative or mentor will write a character reference to illustrate your personality and their experience throughout their relationship with you. While this does not directly indicate how you will perform at a job, it gives employers a better understanding of your values and motivations. From this information, they can determine how you will interact with others and deal with potential conflicts.

Related: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Referee: Email Examples

What to include in a recommendation letter

To understand what to include in a letter of recommendation, consider answering the 'Who, Why, Where, When, What, and How' (5W's and How). Think of it as a checklist that ensures you cover the major sections of a recommendation letter. Here's a detailed explanation of what to include in your recommendation letter:

  • Who you are writing about. State their name, previous job title and your relationship with the candidate.

  • Why you are writing to the recipient. Describe your intent to refer the person and the key reasons for your recommendation.

  • Where and when you met the person you are referring. Explain your relationship with the person by stating your job title, company or details about your academic background. This legitimises the quality of your recommendation letter.

  • What makes this person an effective professional. Describe the key skills and experiences that your candidate brings to the role.

  • How they demonstrated these unique qualities. Provide examples of their success during your tenure with them.

Before you begin writing, consult your candidate and the provided job description to help you distinguish the most relevant points to include in your recommendation letter. You can also ask for their resume to understand what abilities they want to emphasise to a potential employer.

Related: How to Stand Out if You Can't Impress In-Person

How do you write a recommendation letter?

At some point in your career, a co-worker or close acquaintance will ask you to write a recommendation letter on their behalf. The following are step-by-step instructions on how to write a recommendation letter:

1. Think carefully before agreeing to refer a person

When you get a referral request, do not feel obliged to say yes, immediately. Carefully consider your decision as a recommendation letter also puts your reputation on the line. Acknowledge your relationship with the individual to determine whether you have enough knowledge about them to refer them to another employer. Only agree to a recommendation letter if you think your endorsement will significantly improve their chances of securing a role.

2. Follow the business letter format

Structure your letter using the following format:

  • Formal greeting: Open your letter with 'Dear Mr/Ms. Last name'. The standard letter opening communicates respect for the recipient. Addressing them by name also adds a personal touch.

  • Introduction: Explain your intention to recommend your candidate and state your relationship with them. Think of an introduction as your thesis statement that leads into the main body section.

  • Main body: Elaborate on the points that you introduced earlier. Describe their most employable skills with memorable examples.

  • Conclusion: Summarise your overall experience while working with the candidate. This section essentially explains why the employer should hire them for the role.

  • Closing and signature: Close your letter with a formal salutation, such as 'yours sincerely'. Add your signature above your full name to authenticate the document.

3. Focus on the job description

If you are undecided on which points to include in your recommendation letter, ask your candidate to provide their job description. Try to find a match between their skill set and the qualities their recruiter is looking for. Remember to refer back to the job description regularly, to ensure your recommendation letter appears relevant.

4. Describe your relationship with the person

To make sure the recipient takes your recommendation letter seriously, share your credentials with them. Discuss your experience in the field and your experience working with the person you are writing about. Provide them with your contact details so that they can reach you with any follow-up questions.

5. Focus on two to three relevant qualities

Although a recommendation letter is usually a page long, it's best to select only two to three characteristics about the individual to expand upon. This allows your letter to appear more focused. It means that you can use examples of their achievements. Always maintain a positive tone in your writing to present them as a strong candidate.

Letter of recommendation template

Here's a recommendation letter template you can use when composing your own:

Dear Mr/Ms. [Last name],

It's my pleasure to strongly recommend [candidate's name] for the position of [job title] at [company name].

I am [your name], a [your position] at [company name]. I have [number] years of experience working in [your industry or academic focus] and have seen many young professionals come and go. [Candidate's name] is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, [candidate's name] displayed exceptional talent in [skill, trait, experience, class, etc.]. [His/her] understanding of [key topic] is something I truly admire.

[Insert example that demonstrates their ability to use the mentioned skill, trait or experience].

[Candidate's name] was a joy to work with because of [his/her] amazingly positive attitude and [positive trait]. [His/her] [positive trait] and [positive trait] were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by [his/her] peers, who often relied on [him/her] to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that [candidate's name] would be a great fit for your [institution/company]. Not only will [he/she] bring the skills and experiences you're looking for, but [he/she] will also be an asset to your team.

If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [contact information]. Thank you for your time. I wish you and [candidate's name] all the best in your future careers.

Yours sincerely,
[Your signature]
[Your name]
[Your job title]
[Your company name]

Letter of recommendation example

Here's a recommendation letter example for your reference:

Dear Ms. Lee,

It's my pleasure to strongly recommend Tony Chan for the position of 'Account Manager' at ABC Company.

I am Steven Lam, an Account Director at ABC Enterprises. I have over 15 years of experience working in campaign management and have seen many young professionals come and go. Tony is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, Tony displayed exceptional talent in client management and creative thinking. His understanding of client expectations and ability to prioritise the creative integrity of a project is something I truly admire.

Whenever we were working with challenging clients, Tony was always brave enough to intervene. He would respectfully talk through misunderstandings to understand client goals. Tony's ability to gain constructive feedback was essential to the successful delivery of several of our marketing campaigns.

Tony was a joy to work with because of his amazingly positive attitude and solid work ethic. His interpersonal skills and passion were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by his peers, who often relied on him to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that Tony would be a great fit for your company. Not only will he bring the skills and experiences you're looking for, but he will also be an asset to your team.

If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at 98769876 or via email at steven@email.com. Thank you for your time. I wish you and Tony all the best in your future careers.

Yours sincerely,
Steven Lam Account Director
ABC Enterprises

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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