Requests for letters of recommendation are common, but these documents are crucial for educational or professional advancement. Letter writers can actually do candidates a disservice by providing a vague statement.Employers and schools rely on recommendation letters to gain a sense of the character of prospective hires or students. An imprecise letter suggests that you do not care enough about a candidate to consider whether they merit the position in question. Even if you do not make negative statements, a poorly written letter speaks volumes.It is important to focus on why you are making the recommendation and comment on abilities and qualifications that pertain to the particular position or honor. Use our recommendation letter templates to produce a statement that helps the subject attain the position or honor you believe they merit.
Recommendation Letter Template
Matthew Murphy is a communications specialist working at a public relations firm on a team directed by Ann Richardson. Matthew has excelled in this position for four years and is applying for a director of communications position at another firm. Ann holds Matthew in high esteem and believes he can succeed as a director. She agrees to provide him with a letter of recommendation.
I highly recommend Matthew Murphy for the director of communications position at Barnes Associates. Matthew has worked as a communications specialist under my direction on more than thirty projects over the course of four years. During this time, he has made many contributions to successful campaigns for major domestic and multinational clients.
Matthew quickly completes all work assigned to him and is always thorough in performing market and opinion research. He does a great job of asking the right questions and gathering useful data. He worked directly with our data analysis branch on a number of campaigns to produce precisely targeted marketing, outreach, and image remediation campaigns. He is capable of presenting ideas persuasively and taking advice or insights offered by other team members into account.
I am certain that Matthew will excel in a communications director role. He has put in the work to comprehend the responsibilities of every member of a public relations team and is open to input from any team member, from interns to management. Please contact me if you would like to discuss Matthew’s contributions to our firm at greater length.
How To Write a Recommendation Letter
A recommendation letter provides support for an educational or professional application. Whether a candidate is seeking admission to a program of study, advancement in a career, or reward for academic or professional achievements, recommendation letters provide evidence of his or her abilities, character, and experience. Writers of these letters may describe different facets of the candidate’s character depending on their personal interactions. Former supervisors, teachers, coworkers, or peers can often offer thorough recommendations. Others who can give input include acquaintances who have known the individual long enough to address character and skills.
It is a good idea to begin this letter with a confident statement indicating your approval of the individual for the position or honor at stake, and then describe the candidate’s specific qualifications for the role. Also, try to back up any praise you give with unique examples. Although you do not need to go into a lot of detail, you do want to make sure the reader will know you are speaking from personal knowledge and not simply offering unmerited praise.
It is a good idea to conclude your letter of recommendation with an offer to expand on the brief descriptions, if the recipient chooses to contact you. Provide your contact information either at the top of the letter or at the bottom, following your signature and printed name. As shown in the recommendation letter template, the closing paragraph is also an appropriate place to reiterate your attitude toward the candidate and your confidence in his or her abilities.
What To Avoid in Your Recommendation Letter
If you cannot recommend a candidate in good faith, you should refuse to write a letter of recommendation. A less-than-glowing or overtly negative letter can damage a professional’s prospects. If you do not know an individual well enough to write a recommendation, you should suggest that he or she contact someone else. Regardless of the type of recommendation, a vague letter or one that contradicts the applicant’s representations of personal experience or personality can do more harm than good.
Recommendation letters are not an ideal place to air grievances, criticize character or conduct, or give reasons why you do not think someone is capable of succeeding. If you have any reservations about a candidate, discuss your impressions with him or her. If you feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation but would like to refresh your memory of an individual’s background and experience, ask if you can get a copy of his or her resume.
How To Follow Up After Sending Your Recommendation Letter
Depending on the position or distinction for which you wrote a recommendation letter, you may want to follow up with the recipient to ensure that they received your letter and added the document to the appropriate file. If the candidate is applying to a school or job through an online portal, there may be an automated system that will indicate receipt of your letter. If this option is not available, you might call or write an email to make sure that the addressee has everything he or she needs.
Beyond making sure that your letter arrived, the prospect of a more extensive follow-up is usually left to the recipient. Provide ways for the addressee to contact you and encourage them to do so if they have questions or would like more information.
Top 5 Recommendation Letter Writing Takeaways
1. Establish your connection to the candidate
The reader of a recommendation letter should be able to determine quickly how you know the applicant. The way you describe your relationship establishes the kind of insight you can offer regarding his or her character and skills.
2. Clearly state your recommendation
The first paragraphs of a referral can make or break your presentation. If you come across as reluctant or without personal interest, the recipient may not take the time to read anything beyond your introduction.
3. Demonstrate the candidate’s ability and character
Support any praise you give with concrete examples. If you write someone is a hard worker, mention a time his or her work ethic made an impression on you. The examples you provide should align with your relationship to the candidate and your own background or areas of expertise.
4. Conclude by revisiting your recommendation
Draw your letter to a close by restating your recommendation in light of the evidence you give. This detail can be more specific based on the reasons you offer for believing the individual is the right choice.
5. Encourage the recipient to follow up
Indicate that you are willing to discuss a candidate’s qualifications at greater length or respond to inquiries. Be sure to include a phone number or email address to make it easier to contact you.