How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
If somebody—a current or former student, colleague, intern, employee, or mentee—asks you to write them a letter of recommendation, take a moment to be proud of yourself. You’ve made an impact on them, and they trust you enough to ask you to help them move forward in their career, educational or otherwise.
After you give yourself a pat on the back, get to work on writing the kind of letter of recommendation that will make them stand out as an ideal candidate for the position they’re seeking. That’s the key to writing an effective letter of recommendation: It’s not enough to express that they’re a great person; you need to demonstrate that they would be an asset to the company, school, or program for which they are applying.
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What is a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is an honest testimonial about an individual that recommends them for a specific role, grant, or acceptance into a program. Although the goal is to present the letter’s subject in the best light possible, you need to present the information in a factual manner.
Types of letters of recommendation
There are a few different, common reasons why an individual might ask for a letter of recommendation. The goal is the same for every letter of recommendation: to present the candidate as an ideal match for the position or program they’re seeking. But the right topics to cover in your letter vary between the different types.
Academic letters of recommendation
If you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student, your letter should speak specifically about their academic performance as well as the character traits that make them a strong candidate for the spot in the program or grant they’re seeking. There can be various application scenarios where a student might ask for a letter of recommendation:
- Undergraduate college
- A specific academic program within a college, such as the honors program or a particular major
- Graduate, medical, or law school
- A grant or scholarship
- An internship or fellowship
Whenever possible, tailor your letter of recommendation to the specific institution or program where the student is seeking acceptance.
Professional letters of recommendation
Professional letters of recommendation are another fairly common type of letter of recommendation. Many candidates ask former employers and mentors to help them with their job searches by recommending them for positions.
Here’s a key difference between an academic letter of recommendation and a professional one: In a professional letter of recommendation, the focus should be almost exclusively on the candidate’s professional performance and fitness for the specific role they’re seeking.
Home rental referrals
Another kind of letter of recommendation is for home rentals. Often, landlords ask prospective tenants for recommendations from previous landlords about their experience with the tenants. If you’re asked to write this type of letter of recommendation, keep the new landlord’s concerns in mind and highlight the experiences that made your relationship with the tenant a positive one, like their promptness in paying the rent and the care they took of the property.
Recommendation letter format
Your letter of recommendation shouldn’t be more than a page long. Keep it to approximately the same length as a cover letter : a few tight, focused paragraphs that express your point without fluff.
Tone-wise, a letter of recommendation should be professional. Write it in the same tone you would use to write an email to a professional contact or a reference letter . It shouldn’t be in the same formal tone that you would use for a piece of academic writing, but it also shouldn’t assume familiarity with its recipient or read like a casual letter. Using an inappropriate tone for your recommendation letter can reflect poorly on the person you’re recommending, so be sure to get your tone just right .
In most cases, your letter of recommendation should adhere to the following format:
In the first line of your letter, greet the recipient directly. Don’t try to get creative here; a simple “Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Mx./Dr. ____” is the best choice. If you don’t know the recipient’s name, start your letter with “To whom it may concern.”
In the next line, clearly state the name of the candidate and the position for which you are recommending them. You can also introduce yourself in this section. Here are a couple examples of effective introduction lines:
“I am writing to recommend [Candidate’s first and last name] for acceptance into [University’s name] . I have had the pleasure of teaching [Candidate] for the past three years at [High school’s name] .”
“It is my pleasure to recommend [Candidate’s first and last name] for the Copywriter position with [Agency name] . [Candidate] and I have worked together at [Company] for the past six years.”
In this section, clearly state the attributes that make the candidate the ideal choice for the position they’re seeking. Depending on the type of recommendation you’re making, this could be a mix of personality traits and skills, or it could be strictly focused on the candidate’s skills and accomplishments.
Elaborate on the traits you discussed in your overview with personal stories that highlight the candidate’s traits and skills. Be as specific as possible here—if there was a particular project where the candidate took the lead or there are stats you can share about their work, include them here.
Bring your letter to a close with a statement reiterating your recommendation. This statement can include a personal testimonial, such as the following example:
“After renting to [Candidate] for the past two years, I can confidently recommend her as a responsible, conscientious tenant.”
Finish out your letter with a signature.
Much like a professional email signature, your recommendation letter signature should include more than your name. Although you likely mentioned your relationship to the candidate in your letter, include your professional title beneath your name.
The letter’s recipient might want to contact you to discuss the candidate further, so make it easy for them to reach you by including your contact information in your signature. Usually, a phone number and email address are the best choices to include, along with your work hours.
Tips to keep in mind when you’re writing a letter of recommendation
Keep it relevant.
Maybe the candidate rescued a family of lambs from a burning barn. That’s heroic and adorable, but unless they’re applying for a job with the local livestock fire department, it’s probably irrelevant to your letter.
Just like a cover letter , your letter of recommendation should be concise. It should highlight the key reasons why the candidate is the ideal choice for the position they’re seeking, and any details you choose to include should support these reasons. Discussing the candidate’s character can be helpful, but tie it to their fitness for the role they’re seeking—if they’re applying for nursing school, discussing their commitment to ethics is an important detail to include. If the application is for a grant to conduct archeological research, make sure you mention the research projects they spearheaded while working with you.
Include specific anecdotes, facts, and statistics
The more specific facts you have about the candidate’s work, the more compelling your letter of recommendation will be. For example, if you’re writing a letter for a colleague who’s seeking a digital marketing position, mention specific conversion rates they achieved while working with you. Similarly, if you’re recommending a high school student to a university, make sure you include anecdotes about their performance on specific assignments and/or extracurricular activities in your letter.
Use a positive, friendly, yet professional tone
As we mentioned above, the right tone for a letter of recommendation is one that’s professional, yet approachable. Your relationship with the candidate and your regard for them should be evident in your writing’s tone.
If you can’t write an effective letter of recommendation, don’t
You might find yourself in a situation where you can’t write an honest, effective letter of recommendation for somebody who asks for one. This might be because you simply don’t know the person or their work well enough, or it could be that you found their work to be underwhelming or unsatisfactory.
In either case, the professional way to decline the request is to simply tell them that you aren’t familiar enough with their work to discuss it effectively, or don’t believe you would be the best person to write them a letter of recommendation. Depending on the situation, you could direct them to another person in your organization who’s more familiar with their work and is thus more capable of writing an effective letter of recommendation. If this isn’t feasible, simply let them know that you’re not able to write them a letter of recommendation and leave it at that. This isn’t the time to denigrate their work or tell them why you aren’t impressed with it.
Mistakes to avoid
Take a look at these two testimonials:
“ Luis was a great student. He is very smart and a hard worker, and because of these traits, I know he’ll succeed at Rutgers University.”
“When he took my Chem I and Chem II classes, Luis consistently put 100 percent into his assignments. He demonstrated his innate intellect and dedication to his schoolwork through his thoughtful and often creative responses to critical thinking questions and assignments. Because of his passion, drive, and capacity to handle rigorous coursework, I know he’ll succeed at Rutgers University.”
In the second example, the letter writer discusses specific courses Luis took and how he worked hard in those courses. There are lots of great students out there (and they’re applying for the same limited number of university spots), so it’s crucial that your letter communicates exactly what makes the candidate an ideal choice.
Just like you shouldn’t send a generic write-up of the candidate’s achievements, avoid embellishing them. Compare these two examples:
“Nobody has ever been a better salesperson than Alicia.”
“Alicia exceeded her projected sales figures every quarter.”
In the first example, even if it’s true, reads more like a description of a comic book character than a testimonial of an actual person’s work. Using hyperbole in your letter of recommendation undermines its credibility, which can hurt the candidate’s likelihood of being accepted or hired.
Not introducing yourself
In your letter, you’re personally vouching for the candidate. For that vouching to have any impact, the person who reads your letter needs to know who you are and why you’re qualified to recommend the candidate. A quick introduction and a sentence or two about your relationship with the candidate are sufficient.
Letter of recommendation examples
You can find great recommendation letter samples all over the internet. Just search for the type of letter you’re writing and you will find numerous examples of letters that work.
Take a look at this academic letter of recommendation .
In it, a former supervisor discusses a candidate’s fitness for a graduate school program. This is an important point to keep in mind—even if you knew the candidate in a professional setting, your insight to their work could be just as valuable as an academic contact’s recommendation when they’re applying to college or graduate school.
Here is an example of a professional letter of recommendation .
See how this letter makes its candidate stand out by discussing specific examples where he went above and beyond? If you have those kinds of anecdotes to share, include them in your letter.
Letter of recommendation FAQs
A letter of recommendation is a written testimonial of an individual’s abilities, achievements, and capacity for continued growth.
How should I start a letter of recommendation?
Start your letter of recommendation with a greeting that acknowledges the letter’s reader. Whenever possible, address them by name. When this isn’t possible, use a formal, professional greeting like “To whom it may concern.”
What should go into a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation should include the following:
- An introduction that states the candidate’s name and the position they are seeking
- A clear statement of your relationship with the candidate
- An honest testimonial of their work
- A clear recommendation of the candidate
- A signature that includes your contact information
How should I end a letter of recommendation?
End your letter of recommendation with a signature that includes your job title and contact information. By including these, the letter’s reader can easily contact you to discuss the candidate in greater detail.
Write confidently when you’re recommending the best
Even the most glowing letter of recommendation will make its subject look like a poor candidate if it’s riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. Before you send your letter to its subject (or their prospective new supervisor), have Grammarly give it a once-over to catch any mistakes you might have missed and make suggestions you can use to write a more effective letter of recommendation.
This article was originally written by Kimberly Joki in 2017. It’s been updated to include new information.
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- Career Planning
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How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)
Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.
- Writing a Recommendation Letter
Collect Information Before You Start
- What to Include in the Letter
- Recommendation Letter Example
Formatting Your Letter
Sending your letter.
For some jobs, employers request written letters of recommendation . They may even request them as part of the application process . In these cases, applicants need to submit recommendation letters (typically two or three) along with their resume and cover letter.
Other employers may ask for references further along in the hiring process, either at the end of an interview or afterwards.
These letters of recommendation carry significant weight to their recipients. If you're asked to write one, it's important to include details that build a strong case for the applicant. If you do not feel comfortable endorsing the applicant, it's better to decline to write a letter than to write something lukewarm.
Here's what you need to know to write a positive letter supporting a job applicant.
Tips for Writing a Recommendation Letter
If you’re asked to provide a reference for a specific job , you should write the letter with the requirements of that particular job in mind.
Read the posting or job description carefully, looking for specific skills and knowledge that you can include in the letter for your candidate.
In your letter, note where there is a match between the applicant's qualifications and the job's responsibilities.
With a general recommendation letter, focus on the types or category of jobs for which the person is applying. Your examples in this type of letter will be more broad, and less specific.
Ask the person for whom you are writing to supply you with a copy of the job posting and their resume or curriculum vitae (CV) before you begin composing your letter. It can also be helpful to review their cover letter to see how they themselves pitch their qualifications for the job.
When you are writing a more general recommendation, ask the subject of your letter to outline their targets for employment, along with providing you with an example or two of jobs they are applying for.
Also ask them to share their most marketable assets for that type of work, especially ones you may have observed in your relationship with the person you are recommending.
The more information you have about the jobs or types of jobs the candidate is applying for, the more effective your recommendation can be.
What to Include in a Recommendation Letter
The first paragraph of your letter should explain how you know the person for whom you are writing. Reference your job title and the individual's job title at the time when you interacted, as well as the nature of your relationship, including whether you supervised the person you're recommending.
Typically, you would also include the length of time you have known the person.
Body of the Letter
The body of your letter should reference the skills , qualities, areas of knowledge, and other assets of the person you are recommending. Start by making a list of the strengths which you would like to convey in your recommendation.
Then compose sentences that show proof of your assertions—this will make your letter more credible. Provide specific examples of instances where you observed the candidate using skills they are highlighting to the hiring manager.
This might consist of a project or role where they successfully applied a certain skill. Citing accomplishments where value was added to your organization and describing the strengths which enabled the person to generate those results can be particularly compelling. If you can quantify the individual’s specific contributions with impressive sales or dollar figures, numbers, or percentages, this is even better (Example: “Joan led our sales team to achieve an unprecedented 48% growth in lead generation last quarter”).
In your closing statement, it can be very effective to mention that you would hire the person again. Or, mention your belief that the person would be an outstanding addition to the company.
Share Your Contact Information
As part of your close, you can also share a telephone number and email address with a mention of your eagerness to share additional perspective on the candidate. That way, potential employers can easily get in touch if they have any follow-up questions.
Employment Recommendation Letter Example and Template
Download the letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.
Employment Recommendation Letter Example (Text Version)
Megan Greene Sales Director Acme Incorporated 14 Oak Drive Anycity, CT 32444 555-222-3333 firstname.lastname@example.org
May 26, 2020.
Marlene Gray Domestic Sales Manager CBI Industries 321 Main Street Bigtown, NY 12000
Dear Ms. Gray,
I am writing to you regarding Mark Slade, who has applied for the position of sales associate with your company. Mark has worked in my department as a sales associate since graduating with honors last year from University of Connecticut. We hired him after graduation in part due to his outstanding performance as an intern the previous summer.
Mark has been a fantastic addition to my team. He assimilated easily into our department, quickly and thoroughly learning about all of our products, not just those he was responsible for selling. His enthusiasm for his work and his superb communication skills made him an instant asset to the company. Mark exceeded his personal goals for every quarter and even made time to help his peers close particularly difficult sales. Mark is competent and organized, and his positive attitude and sense of humor made him popular among our customers as well as his colleagues.
I believe that Mark has a tremendous amount of potential and would be an outstanding addition to your staff. I would have no reservations about hiring him again and am confident in recommending Mark for employment with your company. If you have any further questions or would like to speak with me personally, please feel free to contact me.
Your Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter)
Here are guidelines for formatting recommendation letters including length, format, font, and how to organize your letters. If this is your first time writing a letter of recommendation, you may find it helpful to use a template .
You may be asked to send the letter to the person you are recommending or directly to the employer. If you’re sending via email, attach a copy of your letter to the email message as a PDF or Microsoft Word document. The job posting or the employer will typically specify how the recommendation should be sent and who it should be sent to.
When You Can’t Write a Positive Recommendation
If you have difficulty honestly framing a compelling letter for a candidate, then it's fine to decline the request .
It's actually better to say no than it is to write a letter that doesn't strongly endorse the person you are recommending.
You can simply say something vague like you don't feel totally comfortable writing a recommendation or you don't have the type of exposure that would enable you to supply the right kind of letter.
Chron. " Do Companies Check Your References Before the Interview ?" Accessed May 24, 2020.
Clemson.edu. Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation ." Accessed May 24, 2020.
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How to Write Your Own Recommendation Letter
Published: Sep 13, 2012
So you’ve developed a great relationship with your professor, mentor or supervisor, and it’s time to ask for a letter of recommendation. While the standard practice is for references to write their own recommendation letters, it’s becoming increasingly common for time-strapped individuals to ask you to pen the first draft of a letter yourself. This is a great opportunity for you to make sure that you get a stellar recommendation letter that highlights the most relevant skills and experiences you have to offer. Here, some tips for writing your own letter of recommendation:
- Prepare an outline of your letter by making a list of your strengths, abilities and skills. Choose several of these to highlight in your letter. You should also select two or three specific examples of your performance to which your recommender can attest (i t doesn’t make sense for your college professor to talk about the details of your summer job performance). At least one accomplishment discussed in your letter should be directly related to your experience with the recommender: for example, the A+ term paper you wrote or your lively class participation. However, it’s okay to touch upon related activities that weren’t directly supervised by your reference. In other words, it’s plausible that your professor would know about your involvement with student government even if he or she didn’t serve as the organization’s advisor.
- Use the correct voice. It might feel a bit odd, but remember that the letter must be written in the voice of your recommender. This means you will have to refer to yourself in the third person.
- Begin the letter by stating the purpose of the letter and the capacity in which your reference knows you. For example, “It is my pleasure to recommend Jane Smith for admission to your graduate program. I have known Jane for nearly four years, during which time she was my student as well as a teaching assistant for my introductory psychology course.”
- Don’t be shy. The purpose of a recommendation letter is to highlight your best qualities in the most positive light possible. Now is not the time to be modest; your recommender can dial down the tone if he or she sees fit. Be specific about skills and, where possible, provide comparative metrics of your accomplishments. For example, instead of writing, “Jane was a great student in my Clinical Psychology Seminar,” try, “In a class of nearly 50 students, Jane earned the highest grade in Clinical Psychology.”
Have you written your own recommendation letters? Share your strategy in the comments below!
Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 9 sample excellent recommendation letters for your job.
Letters of Recommendation
Anyone who's applied for a job knows how important recommendation letters can be to getting hired. While you've probably asked for a reference letter in the past, you may be less familiar with writing one. If someone asks you for a reference, how can you produce a great letter that will help your employee, colleague, or friend get hired?
To help you through the writing process, we're providing nine samples of effective letters of recommendation (scroll down to skip to the samples!). By reading through these examples, you'll gain a clear understanding of how to structure your own letters.
Before getting to the free recommendation letter samples, let's briefly review the role that reference letters play in the hiring process. Why are they important, and what makes some stand out over others?
Why Are Recommendation Letters Important?
Many employers request recommendation letters to help them decide who to hire or internally promote. Throughout the hiring process, the applicant strives to present herself in the best light. Beyond the interview and resume, hiring managers look to recommendation letters to confirm the candidate's qualifications and to gain insight from an outside party.
The hiring manager wants to know what experiences the candidate will bring to the new role, how she'll contribute to the company or organization, and how she'll behave in the day-to-day. Recommendation letters can point to a candidate's future performance by talking about her past achievements.
Reference letters can also shed light on what it's like to manage, work with, or, in the case of a character reference, be friends with the person under consideration. They complement the candidate's story and suggest what she'll bring to the table in her next job.
If you get asked to write a letter for someone, it's safe to assume you want to do a good job. Helping someone get hired is not just a satisfying good deed, but it's also good professional karma! So how can you turn those good intentions into a stand-out employee letter of recommendation?
Each letter will, of course, be different, but good letters share certain key features. Read on to learn about three important characteristics of strong reference letters.
Your recommendation letter's not the time to be cagey about your identity! The hiring manager wants to know who you are and why you're qualified to recommend the applicant.
What Makes a Recommendation Letter Stand Out? 3 Key Features
Strong letters give positive descriptions of a candidate's skills in a concise and powerful way. Beyond using language that's clear and error-free, what elements should your recommendation letter include to be effective?
As you write your letter, make sure it does the following:
#1: Explains Why You're Qualified to Recommend the Candidate
In order to hold weight, a recommendation letter should come from a reputable source. If an employer wants a professional reference, then the writer of that letter probably worked with the candidate in a supervisory capacity. Some employers will also be interested in letters from a colleague or, occasionally, a friend, neighbor, or family member. Most letters, though, will be written by a supervisor, manager, or boss of some sort.
In the first paragraph, you should explain who you are and how you know the candidate. How long did you work with her and in what capacity? By explaining your relationship, you show that you're qualified to give an honest assessment.
If someone who feels like a relative stranger asks you to write a letter, you might consider declining or recommending someone else to write it. If you didn't get to know the candidate's work performance or only did so in a way completely unrelated to the new position, then you might not be able to provide a helpful letter of recommendation from employer to employee.
The best letters are written by people who can speak to the candidate's skills and accomplishments. Make sure to state clearly in the beginning of your letter who you are and why your opinion matters.
#2: Customized to the New Position
While you should speak to the candidate's accomplishments in her past role, you should also show why she'd make a good fit in the next one. Even if the candidate's making a career change, you can explain why she'll be able to do well in the new industry.
Here's where open communication with the applicant is important. She should share the job description so you have a clear understanding of the position's requirements. As the writer, you're not expected to do much research on the new job. The candidate should provide you with everything you need to know to customize your letter.
By drawing on this information, you can express confidence that the candidate will succeed in the new role. Then when the hiring manager reads your letter, she'll feel reassured that the candidate would make a good fit.
#3: Uses Specific Examples and Anecdotes
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your letter should provide specific examples about the candidate. Don't just list adjectives like, "friendly, intelligent, and hard-working"; instead, present circumstances in which the candidate demonstrated those qualities. To borrow a favorite phrase of English teachers, "show, don't just tell."
Not only will examples point to the value the candidate brought to your organization or company, but they'll also paint a picture of how she works in day-to-day operations. Using two to three specific anecdotes in your letter will boost its level of persuasiveness. It will also sidestep a common rec letter trap: becoming a generic list of cliches.
Just as you should only write a recommendation letter if you feel qualified to assess the candidate, you should also only write it if you can provide a great one. While you don't want to go over the top and sound insincere, your letter should be a strongly positive endorsement.
Sample Recommendation Letters
As you read through the nine free job recommendation letters below, notice how they all share the three key features described above, even though they differ in terms of their source and target audience. Below are nine sample recommendation letters, each followed by an analysis of what it does well!
- Sample Recommendation Letter 1: Written by a Direct Manager for a Full-Time Employee
- Sample Recommendation Letter 2: Written by a Principal for a Teacher
- Sample Recommendation Letter 3: Written by a Direct Manager for a Part-Time Employee
- Sample Recommendation Letter 4: Written by a Manager for a Remote Worker
- Sample Recommendation Letter 5: Written by a Supervisor for an Internal Promotion
- Sample Recommendation Letter 6: Written by a Supervisor for a Student Intern
- Sample Recommendation Letter 7: Written by a Coworker
- Sample Recommendation Letter 8: Written by a Professor for a Former Student
- Sample Recommendation Letter 9: Written by a Friend as a Character Reference
After checking out the above samples of recommendation letters, read on for some final thoughts on how to write an excellent letter of recommendation for an employee, coworker, or friend.
Now that you've got all the building blocks, you can put them together into a powerful letter of recommendation!
Writing Strong Letters of Recommendation: Final Thoughts
While the above samples of recommendation letters will help guide you through the letter writing process, they can't look exactly like your final product. Writing a letter is a significant undertaking, as it requires you to customize your words to the candidate and make your letter unique. Even though the specifics will vary, strong letters of recommendation do have certain features in common. Each letter should...
Use an Official Format
The sample letters show the proper format for a recommendation letter. They have the employer's name, position, company, and company's address at the top. To give one example, here's the header for recommendation letter sample #1:
Ms. Greta Johanssen Sales Manager Streambase Corp. 66 Western Boulevard Santa Fe, New Mexico 87500
You should also use official letterhead that has your name and contact information across the top, in whatever way you've chosen to present it. Each letter is addressed to a specific person, a greeting that's more personal than, "Dear Hiring Manager." Typically, paragraphs are single-spaced with a double space in between each one.
Finally, every letter concludes with an invitation to contact the writer for any further information. Then the writer may include her position, company, phone number, and email below her name.
Start with a Strong Opener
The strongest letters start out with an immediate statement of support. They might say, "It's my honor," "It's my pleasure," or "I'm very pleased to provide this letter of recommendation for Joe." Stating the obvious with a sentence like, "I'm writing to recommend Joe," looks weak beside a more enthusiastic opener.
In the first paragraph, explain who you are and why you're qualified to recommend the candidate. Write a line or two of praise about her professional and personal strengths, perhaps with a summary of the main points you'll present in the rest of the letter.
Include Two to Three Specific Examples
As mentioned above, strong letters typically include two to three body paragraphs with specific anecdotes about the candidate. They don't just describe the applicant's great qualities and accomplishments; they give examples and prove to her prospective employer that she's made achievements in the past that predict future success.
You might talk about a project or responsibility of the applicant or the value she's brought to your company. Consider relevant qualities like flexibility, initiative, leadership, growth, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and/or ability to perform within a certain environment or culture.
To Sum Up...
Depending on your relationship with the candidate, you might focus more on her work performance or personal character in your recommendation letter. An employer will focus more heavily on professional skills while a coworker may add personal qualities.
A friend or neighbor providing a character reference would produce the most personal letter. It falls upon the candidate to choose her recommenders wisely and to share any relevant information about the prospective position to help them write the best letter they can.
As long as you incorporate the key features discussed above and take the time to make your letter positive and specific, you'll provide a strong recommendation letter that will help your employee, colleague, or friend get hired. And who knows—perhaps in a year or two, she'll be writing a recommendation letter for you!
Are you tasked with writing a recommendation letter for a student applying to college? If so, check out these samples of recommendation letters from teachers and counselors, along with additional writing tips and a thorough recommendation letter template!
- 4 Amazing Samples of Recommendation Letters from Teachers Should You Move to a State with No Income Taxes
- 3 Examples of Excellent Recommendation Letters from Counselors
- Complete Guide: Writing a Strong Letter of Recommendation
- Unsecured Credit Cards for Those with Bad Credit
- A Great College Recommendation Letter Template
Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.
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Writing the perfect recommendation letter
Andy Tay is a freelance writer based in Singapore.
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Undergraduates need them for graduate-school applications; PhD students and postdocs use them to apply for fellowships and jobs; senior scientists often have to have them to apply for awards and promotions. But writing an effective and personal recommendation letter can be time-consuming, especially for academics who must juggle grant applications, manuscripts, teaching and student supervision. And some might struggle to say the right things to support a former employee or student in their career move, while sounding original and unique.
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How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
Last Updated: September 20, 2023 Approved
This article was co-authored by Shannon O'Brien, MA, EdM . Shannon O'Brien is the Founder and Principal Advisor of Whole U. (a career and life strategy consultancy based in Boston, MA). Through advising, workshops and e-learning Whole U. empowers people to pursue their life's work and live a balanced, purposeful life. Shannon has been ranked as the #1 Career Coach and #1 Life Coach in Boston, MA by Yelp reviewers. She has been featured on Boston.com, Boldfacers, and the UR Business Network. She received a Master's of Technology, Innovation, & Education from Harvard University. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 29 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 14,751,589 times.
Writing a letter of recommendation can be intimidating, especially because the person you’re writing it for is counting on you to pull through for them. Fortunately, there's a general formula you can use to write a letter of recommendation that is both professional and effective.
Writing the Letter
- Place your address on the top right, followed by the date—spelled out.
- Below that, on the left, place the recipient's name (if known) and address.
- Open the letter with a formal business greeting. Ex:
- Dear Ms. Smith,
- Dear Sir or Madam, (if you don't know the recipient's name)
- "It makes me extremely happy to recommend Michael for the position of Director of Development at XYZ Corporation."
- "Any company should count themselves lucky to have an employee as bright, friendly, and dedicated as Gina."
- "No matter what she does, Helena Bonham does it well."
- "As VP of Application Development, I was Michael's direct supervisor from 2009 through 2012. We worked closely together on several key projects, and I got to know him very well during this time.
- "I was both Gina's adviser and teacher throughout her time at Hamilton College. I watched her shine both in the classroom and in office hours, and had the joy of watching her meet and then exceed expectations with her thesis."
- "As the Dean of Students, I deal with many young people throughout the day. However, I was lucky to spend several hours a week with Ms. Bonham in her role as Committee President. In my 32 years as Dean, I have rarely been so impressed."
- "Michael's sophisticated grasp of database architecture, combined with an innate feel for UX design and a warm, personal approach to his in-company client base dramatically improved the productivity of our company's merchandising, creative, and editorial departments. His approach to managing application support, maintenance, and training was highly professional and greatly respected, both by end users and by the executive team."
- "Gina was always inquisitive but never pushy. Despite being able to answer almost any question, Gina would rather sit back and help others find the answer for themselves. Countless students, who I thought were doomed to struggle, happily told me how tutoring sessions with Gina helped them turn the corner. And I had many conversations, both as her professor and a peer, that I will remember happily for years."
- "When Ms. Bonham hears the word "no," you can almost see the gears start to turn. She is mover and a shaker -- interfacing with students, faculty, staff, and even outside agencies to find solutions to any problem."
- "Michael's output of completed projects has exceeded the combined results of all other development efforts I've witnessed during my 8 years at UVW Company."
- "The best students are ones that genuinely love to learn. A student that pushes themselves ever day to learn more and be better, and enjoys every minute. Gina is that kind of student.
- "I can say with confidence that my job working with the Student Committee was never easier, nor more enjoyable, than when I got to work with Ms. Bonham."
- "Despite coming in as a novice, Michael has worked hard to improve his documentation and commenting of scripts and processes, making it easier for those filling his shoes in the future to work effectively."
- "Gina is always on the move -- tutoring, taking classes, joining clubs, etc. -- and though her schedule is perhaps too tightly packed, she somehow manages it all with a smile on her face."
- "Of course, Ms. Bonham's determination and drive occasionally led to butting heads and conflicting opinions. However, though she is never one to shy away from conflict, Ms. Bonham passion was never mean-spririted or rude."
- Don't say "Over the course of the last couple years, I have been pleased to watch the ongoing development of Michael's talents." Say instead, "Michael's skills have grown rapidly in the last couple years."
- "Gina exhibits the drive and dedication of the best students. Her writing is clear and concise, a rarity among many young people but effortless for her."
- "Ms. Bonham fights for what she believes is right, even if it doesn't mesh with her own preferences. This clear-eyed and selfless attitude will catapult her far in life."
- For example, say, "For all of these reasons, I think Michael will make a fine addition to your team. Should you have any questions, I invite you to contact me at the number or address, above."
- "Gina is the kind of person I would love to hire to work for me, and I know she will be an incredible asset for you."
- "I have no qualms about giving Ms. Bonham the highest recommendation for the position. If you have any questions, please contact me."
- "Best regards,"
- "Thank you,"
Starting to Write
- Your qualifications, how you know the candidate, general recommendation.
- Why they will be effective, productive workers. Examples of successes.
- Why they will be a great addition to work and office culture.
- Reaffirm your willingness to recommend them, offer contact information.
- For example, if the letter is part of a job application package, it should focus on the professional qualifications and conduct of the candidate.
- The more you know about the position, the better you will be able to tailor your letter to suit the needs of both parties.
Tip: You put your own reputation on the line when you write a letter of recommendation. If you feel you do not know the person well enough, or they are somebody you cannot in good conscience recommend, decline their request.
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- If you ask a candidate to write their own letter of recommendation, recognize that many people find it difficult to write about themselves in this way. Read the letter and make sure that you agree with what they have written before you sign it. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
- Type the letter. It is more formal and businesslike—and your recipient won't have to decode your handwriting. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
- The first time you name the candidate who is the subject of the letter, use his or her full name. After that, use either the first name or a title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and the last name, depending on how formal you want to be. Whichever you choose, be consistent. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 2
- A letter of recommendation should focus on the key knowledge, skills, and abilities of an individual. Don't spend your time inflating your letter of recommendation with excessive positive tones, as this is generally overlooked by recruiters. Thanks Helpful 12 Not Helpful 5
- Decide carefully whether to give a copy of the letter to the candidate, particularly if you express reservations. A recommendation may hold more sway if the recipient knows that the views in it are candid, and not written for the gratification or flattery of the candidate. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 3
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- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/professional_technical_writing/basic_business_letters/index.html
- ↑ https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~mernst/advice/write-recommendation.html
- ↑ https://career.sites.clemson.edu/documents/faculty_writing_guidelines.pdf
- ↑ https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/07/14/job-seekers-use-recommendation-letters-to-give-yourself-an-edge/#9b81b868e9e3
- ↑ https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/teacher-tips
About This Article
The best way to write a letter of recommendation is to start out with a formal greeting, or using "To whom it may concern" if you don't know the recipient. Follow the greeting with 2-3 sentences of praise for the person you’re recommending. Then, explain how you know the person and why you’re qualified to recommend them. Include specific examples of the person's qualifications and successes in the body of your letter, then end with a sentence affirming that you recommend the person for the job or position. For more tips, like why you shouldn’t exaggerate, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to Write Your Own Letter of Recommendation
Requesting medical school recommendation letters from professors or former bosses can be a daunting task, but it could get worse if they ask you to write your own. This is why you need to learn how to write your own letter of recommendation. Even if you’ve been in several of their courses, submitted multiple projects to them, spent time with them in office hours, and exchanged basic pleasantries with them, it can be hard to feel confident in their evaluation of you. Students – even (or perhaps especially) top students – are notorious for their self-doubt. That’s not always a bad thing, as it keeps you striving to do more and do better, but it can lead to a significant under-evaluation of your successes, accomplishments, and overall standing as a student.
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Article Contents 10 min read
So, when you send that request for a letter of recommendation, it may be done with bated breath and a sense of uncertainty – What if they say no? What if they laugh at your request? What if they’ve just been being nice to you? Well, first things first: Relax. The latter two of these are highly unlikely, and if the former happens, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. You should be asking for letters from professors with whom you’ve been building rapport for some time – those in whose classes you’ve done well, those who have evaluated your work, and so on – and if you’ve built that rapport, there’s very little chance that they’ll say no. If you’re desperate for, say, a third letter-writer and are reaching out to any and every prof you’ve ever met, well, then you may get a “no”. But, unless you just completely bombed a course, those negative responses are often in your best interest. A professor will usually only refuse to write a letter if they feel they simply don’t know you and your work well enough to write you the kind of recommendation you need to actually succeed. You’ll need to search for someone else at that point, but that’s better than a poor or ineffective letter of recommendation! In any case, all of this points to the need to find quality letter-writers and build relationships with your professors throughout your time in university.
At this point, you may assume that your request for a letter of recommendation will be met with one of two answers: “Yes, happy to!” or, “No, sorry”. Well, things are actually a bit more complicated than that. Imagine seeing that reply to your request hit your inbox, taking a deep breath to brace yourself before opening it (“Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes…”), and then seeing this:
Hi! Sure, happy to help! Go ahead put together a draft and I’ll review and sign it.
For many, the response to such a request would be abject horror! You may think that this is some kind of test of your ethical sensibilities, or an indication that your professor doesn’t really want to act as a referee for you. Relax, it’s neither. If you’ve never seen a request like this before, it’s okay – it’s not all that uncommon, and it doesn’t reflect negatively on you. In fact, it likely indicates two things: 1. That your prof is over-worked, but still wants to support you, and, 2. That they trust you to provide an honest self-evaluation.
In some ways, this request to write your own letter of recommendation can actually be a positive thing. Generally, letters of recommendation aren’t accessible to students – back when they were sent exclusively in hard copy, students and professors had to go to considerable lengths to demonstrate that the student had not accessed the letter, like submitting it in a sealed envelope with the professor’s signature across the seal. This meant that you had no idea what the professor had said about you, and that’s still largely the norm (though some professors may still send their student an open copy of the letter, but that depends on the individual professor and their relationship with the student).
However, if you’re contributing to the letter, then you at least have some idea of what it says, and you have the opportunity to include specifics and ensure the things you want mentioned or highlighted have a good chance of making it into the final draft. Of course, your professor will retain the right to modify the letter in whatever way they want, and you may not get access to that final draft, but you do have a say, which is more than many students have had in the past. So, think of this as an opportunity, and be thankful that your professor thinks highly enough of you to trust you with this task!
Be humble, but acknowledge your accomplishments
By definition, a letter of recommendation is a document that highlights your strengths, assets, and accomplishments. You should be clear and honest about the ways in which you excel academically, and the contributions you’ve made through your research, service, and extra-curriculars (to the extent that this professor is aware of things like your extra-curriculars, volunteering, etc.). A lot of students are uncomfortable discussing themselves in a positive light, but you should be able to objectively acknowledge the things you do and have done well, and those things should be the basis of your letter.
Think about it this way: if you’re asking for a letter of recommendation, that means you’re applying to a competitive program that requires excellence of its applicants (grad school, med school, law school, etc.). You wouldn’t be applying to such a program if you didn’t think you had what it takes to put together a competitive application, right? So, what has led you to consider yourself a viable candidate for that program? Make a list of those qualities, achievements, and strengths that helped you decide to apply, and then determine which of these this professor has witnessed. That will give you some key themes around which to construct your letter. If you’re not sure which kinds of qualities to emphasize, look at the qualities valued by the profession you’re pursuing and use these as a guide. Academic excellence is a constant in all fields, of course. As well, resilience, dependability, community service, intellectual inquisitiveness, critical and creative thinking, and collegiality are all valued in a wide variety of fields.
Just be sure to retain a measure of humility. While you're likely an outstanding student, you wouldn't want to claim that you are "by far, the most impressive, hyper-intelligent, and promising student" your professor has ever taught, for example. First, that's just not language used in a letter of recommendation. Second, that content isn't actually very useful, as will be discussed further shortly. Finally, unless you can say without a doubt that you are the top student of all the thousands of students your professor has known, that would be an excessively bold claim to make.
The above said, you likely won’t be able to discuss every single strength, asset, or accomplishment, so after making that list, you’ll need to narrow it down. Briefly discuss some of the most note-worthy contributions you’ve made in this professor’s courses, including significant projects or papers you’ve completed for them, or any work you’ve done together. You’ll likely end up with 2-3 major themes or qualities to emphasize, supported by a few examples. A letter of recommendation is usually around 1 single-spaced page, so use that length as a guide for how much content you should include.
When I was a graduate student, I was on a hiring committee for my department. I remember sitting in the massive office of our department chair, reviewing files and letters of recommendation with others on the committee. As we read through one candidate’s letters, the chair let out a hearty laugh, “Oh dear, ‘a hard worker’? Talk about the death knell for your application!” Everyone else laughed knowingly, and I sat there very, very confused. When I asked why being a “hard worker” was such a bad thing, they explained it to me: it’s not that there’s anything wrong with being a “hard worker”, it’s that the term is cliché and very imprecise. Essentially, if the best praise someone can give you is that you’re a “hard worker”, that’s seen as quite unfortunate. So, avoid cliché phrases like this and aim for clear demonstrations of your skills and abilities. If you do consider yourself a “hard worker”, then offer examples of times when you went above and beyond expectations or successfully juggled multiple pressing responsibilities. This will be much more effective.
Show, don’t tell
Brief anecdotes that demonstrate your strengths are always more effective than lists of qualities or accomplishments, and letters of recommendation often include such stories. Using specific examples of exceptional projects, meaningful interactions, or professional observations, and use narrative that shows the reader your excellence in action, rather than just telling them that you are a stand-out student.
Ensure the grammar and style are impeccable
While your professor will still review and edit the letter, you want to be keenly aware of your grammar and style as you’re writing. Remember, you’re not writing in your own voice; you’re writing as your professor. So, use a semi-formal but professional style, and proofread, proofread, proofread. Your writing should be impeccable, both for the letter itself and for you to continue demonstrating your compositional prowess to your professor.
You can think of a letter of recommendation as similar to a short essay, with an intro and “thesis”, body, and conclusion. The “thesis” is that you’re a strong student who will succeed in the program to which you are applying, and the support for that thesis comes in the specifics of the work you’ve done for and with your professor.
The introduction is the opening paragraph, where you should include a clear statement of support (e.g., “I am happy to write in support of [Student’s] application to [program]”), as well as an indication of your relationship with the professor, the time you’ve known them, and the capacity in which you’ve worked together (e.g., if they’re your supervisor, if you’ve worked for them as a teaching or research assistant, etc.). Include specifics like the courses or projects you’ve had together, and anything else that demonstrates how well they know you and your work – the better they know you and your work, the better they are able to evaluate your potential for future success.
The body would consist of 2-3 paragraphs with specific examples and anecdotes that support the “thesis”. Again, you can discuss courses you’ve completed, projects you’ve submitted, professional exchanges, discussions of your volunteer or extra-curricular work (if your professor is familiar with these), and any other aspect of your professional relationship with your letter-writer.
The conclusion wraps up the letter, often using this opportunity to reflect a bit on personal attributes, as opposed to professional accomplishments (e.g., inquisitiveness, collegiality, confidence, etc.), and emphasizing enthusiasm for writing the recommendation. As well, an invitation to reach out for any additional information traditionally ends a letter of recommendation, often with the professor’s email address and – if they’re comfortable doing so – their home phone number (this final detail, in particular, emphasizes the letter-writer’s enthusiasm for recommending the student – an invitation to call them at home suggests they’re particularly invested in the student’s success).
If you simply cannot bring yourself to write a letter of recommendation for yourself, there are a couple of options for you.
First, you can always say no. The request to write your own letter of recommendation is just that, a request – not a demand. But this is probably no a good idea and you don't want to antagonize or argue with someone who you hope to paint a positive picture of you. It is highly unlikely that saying no will result in you not getting a letter at all from this person. If this is the case, arrange to meet in person to discuss your concerns and reservations. To this meeting, you should bring materials to help your professor write the letter quickly, easily, and effectively. So, bring your proposal or personal essay from your application, your CV/resume, and a brief write-up of the key qualities you think this professor can speak to, including your courses with them, the projects you’ve completed for them, and your marks in those courses. Remember, your professor likely has hundreds, if not thousands, of other students, so you want to make this easy for them. It’s much easier for you to compile your own individual information than it is for your professor to go back through possibly years’ worth of courses and student information to isolate your specific connections with them. But at the end of the day nothing is easier than you writing the letter for them and letting them edit it. So try not to say "no".
That said, many students would be just as uncomfortable saying no to their professor as they would be writing their own letter of recommendation. So, you can always propose something in between writing the full letter itself and the above suggestion of saying no but offering materials for reference. If you’re not ready to write something all the way from “Dear Selection Committee” to “Sincerely, Professor Z”, you can work primarily on what would be the body of the letter. Assemble some bullet points, specific examples of you demonstrating your strengths in connection with this professor, notes on the work and projects you’ve done that you think could be highlighted, and some discussion of what you hope the professor can speak to in their letter. Again, thinking of the letter as a brief essay, compile the “research” for them, to make finalizing the letter itself easier.
However you decide to move forward after receiving a request to write your own letter of recommendation, remember that the letter-writer will still have final say. While you want to put sincere effort and thought into framing the draft you compose, if there’s anything they feel is missing, anything they think should be worded differently, anything that doesn’t represent their voice, they will edit it and make it what it needs to be. So, consider taking this opportunity to ensure that your letter of recommendation does and says all the things you hope it will do and say!
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Sign up to our newsletter, how to write a letter of recommendation for yourself.
Medical schools require letters of recommendation as part of the application process. You may have asked your employer, professor, or research supervisor to write your letter of recommendation, only to receive the following answer:
“Sure, I’d be happy to help. Please write a draft, and I will review and sign off on it.”
Securing strong medical school letters of recommendation is daunting enough, but now you have been tasked with writing your own letter of recommendation. In this blog, we will help you successfully navigate steps to take if you find yourself in this situation.
We will discuss options to consider, what to include and what to avoid in writing a letter of recommendation for yourself, and how to structure your letter of recommendation. Finally, we will provide a sample letter of recommendation so that you can ace how to write a letter of recommendation for yourself.
Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement
Why Have I Been Asked to Write a Letter of Recommendation for Myself?
Letters of recommendation for medical school applications are an essential component in evaluating applicants. Recommendation letters from supportive references tell admissions officers about your unique and outstanding qualities that make you an excellent candidate.
This can include an overview of your skill set, your greatest accomplishments, what sets you apart from the crowd, the desirable qualities you possess, and your honorable character. When you ask your letter writers for a letter of recommendation, they will respond in one of three ways:
1. They will say yes.
This is the best-case scenario if you have built a strong rapport with your letter writer and they are familiar with your work. Generally, your letter writer will only say yes if they truly feel that they can fairly endorse your stellar work ethic and character. In this case, they’ll agree to write a glowing letter of recommendation that will improve your chances of acceptance into your dream program.
2. They will say no.
Rejection is never easy, and a potential letter writer saying no to your request can be disheartening. However, it is important to reframe your perspective and realize that hearing no is likely a blessing in disguise.
Remember their reasons for saying no—they either do not have the time for additional tasks at the moment, or they likely do not know you well enough to write an effective letter of recommendation that will do you justice.
In this case, they are actually looking out for your best interest because a mediocre or vague letter of recommendation will negatively impact your medical school application. So, thank them for their time, and move on to ask someone who knows you and your work better.
3. They will give you permission to write your own letter of recommendation.
Usually, you will receive this answer from those who truly do want to help with your application, but they are pressed for time and trust you to write the initial draft, which they will then review, send back for revisions if necessary, and sign.
Writing a letter of recommendation for yourself might sound ethically questionable, but it is actually a positive if you look at it this way: It is an opportunity for you to be in control and part of your own evaluation. After all, no one knows what you have achieved better than yourself, so you can be your own biggest advocate.
You have been asked to write your own letter of recommendation because your reference supports you and trusts you enough to delegate this responsibility. You can rise to the occasion and be just as enthusiastic about your accomplishments as your reference feels about them.
Options to Consider: Refuse, Provide the Highlights, Go for It
If you have been asked to write your own letter of recommendation, you have three options to consider:
This is straightforward—simply thank the individual you asked for their time, be professional, and move on to ask others for a letter of recommendation. You are not obligated to write your own letter of recommendation if you do have the time or feel that you will not succeed in writing your own.
It is always better to secure a letter of recommendation from someone who is enthusiastic about you and your work. Anything less than enthusiastic may actually harm an otherwise strong application.
Provide the highlights.
In this situation, you and your letter writer reach a compromise where you don’t write your own recommendation letter in its entirety. Instead, you give your letter writer a list of highlights (with some supporting details) to include in your letter of recommendation.
Not only does this save valuable time for your letter writer, but it also extends the courtesy of reminding your letter writer of your specific accomplishments and strengths. (Remember, your professors, supervisors, coaches, and mentors oversee many individuals, so it is best to be considerate of their time and assistance.)
This is also straightforward—you thank the individual you asked for their time and let them know when to expect the first draft of your letter of recommendation for them to approve (or provide feedback) and sign.
What to Include and What to Avoid
Knowing what to include and what to avoid in your letter of recommendation will ensure that the writing process is smooth and efficient for you.
Before you begin to write your letter of recommendation, keep the following things in mind:
- Tell stories/anecdotes that are rich in detail and speak to your individual accomplishments, assets, and strengths.
- Focus on the specific qualities and abilities that will ensure your success as a medical school student and physician.
- Be sure that the experiences you are writing about are an honest assessment that your letter writer will approve and sign. Be objective.
- Provide insights and information in your letter of recommendation that are not found elsewhere in your application.
- Maintain a positive, professional, and humble tone throughout your letter of recommendation.
- Include both quantitative and qualitative evidence to support your strengths. (For example, exceeding company quotas is quantitative and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter is qualitative.)
Additionally, there are certain elements that you should avoid in your letter of recommendation:
- Avoid cliches and generic descriptive terms for pre-meds (compassionate, hardworking, intelligent) without backing them up with specific, detailed examples.
- Don’t let your letter of recommendation rely on too many adjectives without concrete examples and stories that support them.
- Avoid giving too many examples. It is better to discuss a few noteworthy examples that go into rich detail and are insightful than too many that get lost trying to compete with each other for attention.
- Avoid being too vague and general. Remember, you want to connect with the admissions committee and show how your experiences and qualities will help you succeed in a medical setting.
- Show, don’t tell. The most effective anecdotes weave compelling stories.
- Avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Since you are doing the writing, be sure to thoroughly proofread your letter of recommendation multiple times.
Structuring Your Letter of Recommendation
Structuring your letter of recommendation is essential to maximize your experiences while remaining concise. A great letter of recommendation adheres to the following structure:
The opening paragraph indicates how long the recommender has known you and in what capacity. It includes the titles and responsibilities that were held by both the recommender and you during the relationship.
An effective opening paragraph ends with a “thesis statement” that highlights two to three characteristics/experiences/examples that will be expanded upon in the body paragraphs. The characteristics/experiences/examples should show your excellence as a candidate.
Each characteristic/experience/example that is stated in the thesis statement should be expanded upon with anecdotes and rich detail in its own separate body paragraph. Dedicating one full paragraph to every example will ensure that it is thoroughly discussed.
Keep your concluding paragraph brief, as most of the convincing will be done in the body paragraphs. You can add a personal touch and make a final endorsement for your candidacy.
Letter of Recommendation Sample
The following is a sample of a letter of recommendation that follows all of the criteria that makes a great and positive endorsement for an applicant’s candidacy. It combines desirable qualities, specific anecdotes that support them, and details about accomplishments not included elsewhere in the student’s application.
(Note: This sample has been reworked to fit our purposes and was originally provided by the University of Michigan Medical School. )
“Dear Admissions Committee Director’s Name:
It is a true pleasure for me to write this letter of recommendation for [Student Name], who was my student in Sociology 115, “Introduction to Sociology,” in the winter term of XXXX. [Student Name] is, without question, one of the four or five most outstanding students I have taught at Big State University in my six years of teaching.
[Student Name] is a careful and creative thinker with an eye for detail and a devotion to logic, which serves her well both in the sciences and outside of them. She has the terrific ability to draw on her own experience and observations to develop thoughtful opinions on a variety of issues. [Student Name] already knew she wanted to major in biology when she took my course, but this did not diminish her intellectual curiosity about the topics we covered in Introductory Sociology. Her regular contributions to full-class discussions provided insight both for her peers and for me as an instructor.
[Student Name] was also invaluable in small-group interaction with her peers. Without my asking, she took on the responsibility of helping her classmates consolidate vast amounts of information into coherent sets of ideas, and she quickly became a study group leader. In addition, [Student Name] was very generous with her time and energy. I remember her meeting individually with a student from Thailand several times before the final exam to help him master all the material in a foreign language.
[Student Name] breaks the “scientist” stereotype with her writing: she was the best writer in the two sections I taught that semester. What was perhaps even more impressive was that she took the task of improving her writing more seriously than any other student in the class. One of her essays was later published in the annual sociology magazine “Title of Magazine.”
[Student Name] is not only an excellent student, but she is also personally delightful. She is as comfortable with herself as she is engaging, pleasant, and humorous. As I got to know [Student Name] over the semester, I became only more impressed by the wide range of her abilities—and by her modesty about them. She is an accomplished musician and scientist, both of which she does with a passion rare in undergraduates.
I wholeheartedly recommend [Student Name] as a prospective medical school student. In fact, I can think of few students whom I would recommend as highly. She will add a great deal to any incoming medical school class. I can also envision [Student Name] as a highly competent and caring physician someday, which I say as a high compliment indeed. Please contact me if there is anything else I can do on [Student Name’s] behalf.
Professor Name / Signature”
1. How long should my letter of recommendation be?
An effective letter of recommendation is one page total. Admissions committees read thousands of application documents, so you want to be considerate of their time.
2. I’m finding it difficult to write objectively about myself. What should I do?
It might be helpful for you to pretend that you’re writing a recommendation letter for someone else. Pro-tip: Swap out your name with a fictional name. This will allow you to gain some distance and concentrate instead on the content of your body paragraphs. Just remember to delete the fictional name and replace it with your own.
3. What if I have to write multiple letters of recommendation?
Ideally, your letter writers will write the majority of your recommendation letters. In the event that you are tasked to write several letters, remember that you do have the option to politely refuse and move on. Also, keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to have extra letters of recommendation.
Ask additional people so that if one letter writer falls through due to unforeseen circumstances, you have options and back-up letters for your medical school application.
4. What should my turnaround time be for submitting my letter of recommendation to my letter writer?
Please be respectful of their time, and mutually agree on a date of first submission. The reason that you have to write your letter of recommendation is because they likely could not commit fully to the time it takes to write it, but they still very much want to help you with your application.
Be mindful of your school’s application deadlines as well, and ensure that your letter of recommendation will be finalized and signed well before the deadline.
5. What template should my letter of recommendation follow?
Follow the traditional formal business letter template (and be sure that it also follows your application requirements). Include a heading, contact information, salutation, and closing signature.
6. Since I am writing my own letter of recommendation, is it appropriate to slightly exaggerate a project I worked on to look good?
It is never a good idea to be dishonest or embellish your achievements. If you feel the need to exaggerate, then that example is likely not strong enough to discuss in your letter of recommendation. Instead, focus on areas that make you shine as a candidate.
If you struggle coming up with examples, reach out to your letter writer and see if you can compromise and work together on this one section. Perhaps your letter writer has a memory of your work that you have forgotten.
7. I’m still in the very beginning stages of securing letters of recommendation. Who should I ask?
Always be sure that the people you ask know you well and can advocate for your work. You can ask science faculty, non-science faculty, employers, and supervisors in any volunteer or extracurricular activities. It is good to secure letters of recommendation from a variety of sources, as this will maximize your candidacy with diverse talking points.
Letters of recommendation are an essential component of medical school applications. Glowing letters of recommendation can increase your chances of acceptance into your dream school. While it is ideal to obtain letters of recommendation that are written by your letter writers, sometimes you will be tasked to write your own.
With this guide, you will successfully write a letter of recommendation for yourself that will make you shine.
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How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (Template + Tips)
A strong letter of recommendation can be the deciding factor in getting into your desired school or landing your dream job.
Leer en español. (Read in Spanish.)
When you apply for admission to a university, a job, or a scholarship, you may be asked to include letters of recommendation. These letters, typically written by teachers, counselors, or managers, are meant to vouch for your qualifications and character.
A strong recommendation allows the person reviewing your application to get to know you beyond your resume, giving a more complete picture of who you are and what motivates you.
Looking for a letter of recommendation request template? Find one here .
What are letters of recommendation for?
Letters of recommendation frequently appear as a requirement on college applications. You’ll usually need one to three of these reference letters when you’re applying for an undergraduate program or, sometimes, graduate school.
Job applications more commonly require a list of references, rather than a reference letter, but you may see this requirement show up from time to time. Even if a job application doesn’t require a recommendation letter, attaching one to your cover letter or application could give you a competitive edge over other applicants.
Watch this to learn more about what a letter of recommendation is, and what makes a letter effective.
How to request a letter of recommendation
It’s totally normal to feel nervous about asking for a letter of recommendation. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s a normal part of the application process. With a bit of preparation, you can maximize your chances of getting stellar recommendations.
1. Choose who you want to write your letters.
The most effective recommendation will come from someone who knows you well and can speak to your character on a personal level. Make a list of several people who you could ask. You’ll probably only need three, but it’s always a good idea to have backups in case something falls through.
If you’re applying to college, consider asking a teacher and your high school guidance counselor. Choose teachers of classes where you performed well (and who you had good rapport with). Teachers you had during your junior or senior year will have the freshest memories of you (and are likely more accustomed to writing such letters).
Many college applications require at least one letter from your guidance counselor. If you don’t know this person well, don’t be afraid to make an appointment so they can learn more about you.
If you’re working on a grad school application, your letters will likely come from one or more of your professors. Ideally, ask professors who are in the same field as the program you’re applying to. If you’re a working professional currently applying to go back to school, your options include bosses and mentors, colleagues, or former professors with whom you had a good relationship.
When you’re applying for a job, your former managers or supervisors often make the best letter writers. The closer the former job aligns with the role you’re applying for, the better. If you decide to ask a current or former coworker, try to choose someone with more years of professional experience than you. They’ll be able to endorse you with greater authority.
2. Prepare a resume or brag sheet.
One of the best ways to get a strong recommendation is to make it easy for the person doing the writing to highlight your accomplishments and personal strengths. One easy way to do this is by providing a copy of your academic transcripts and resume to the person writing your letter.
If you’re still in school and don’t yet have a resume, you can make what’s called a brag sheet instead. This is a concise list that highlights your qualifications and best characteristics. Make sure to include:
The courses you took with this teacher or professor and the grade you received
One or two of your top attributes with examples of how you’ve demonstrated them in class or at work
Your overall GPA, test scores, and top academic accomplishments
Extracurricular activities or volunteer work you’ve done
A short blurb about your goals for the program or position you’re applying for
While it might feel a little awkward to brag about yourself, remember that this is the time to show off your hard work and celebrate your wins.
Read more: How to Write an Effective Resume
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3. Ask in person first.
Before you send a formal, written request for a letter of recommendation, speak with each individual in person. Preparing what you’ll say ahead of time can help you feel more calm and confident. Explain what it is you’re applying for and why you’re asking this person to recommend you.
You’re asking for a favor, but the people who know you well probably want you to succeed and will gladly do what they can to help. Teachers and professors in particular are used to writing these letters—it’s sometimes even a part of their job description.
4. Send a formal letter of recommendation request.
After you’ve confirmed your request in person, email a formal written request to each individual who has agreed to write your recommendation. Feel free to use the template below to guide your writing. When you send your request, also include:
Information on the position or role you’re applying for
Details about how and when the letter should be submitted
An updated resume or brag sheet
A pre-addressed, stamped envelope (for letters that need to be sent by mail)
A sample letter (if requested)
5. Follow up before the due date.
Follow up with a polite reminder a week or two before your letters are due. This is a good opportunity to thank them for writing the letter and offer to send any additional information they may need.
6. Say a final thank you.
It’s common courtesy to send a short thank you note to each individual who wrote a letter on your behalf. Express your appreciation for their support with a mailed handwritten note or email. And be sure to update your recommenders with the good news when you’re accepted to the role.
Tips for getting the best letters of recommendation
Ask early to give ample time..
Teachers and faculty members sometimes get inundated with requests to write recommendation letters around the time when college application deadlines roll around. Asking well in advance will allow them to spend some time and attention on your letter. For professional recommenders, try to ask three weeks in advance.
Tip: Applying for college? Ask your teachers for a recommendation at the end of your junior year and you’ll be well ahead of schedule.
If you sense hesitation, ask someone else.
There are many reasons someone may not feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you. And it may not have anything to do with you or your qualifications. This person might not feel like they know you well enough or cannot speak to the skills and qualifications of the role you’re applying for.
You want letters of recommendation that vouch for you without hesitation. If someone hesitates or turns down your request, you’re better off asking someone else who can write you a strong recommendation.
When you leave a job, ask for a letter of recommendation.
This is especially if you had a positive working relationship with your manager. Get a letter now while the memories of the impact you’ve made are still fresh in your manager’s mind. You’ll have it ready to submit to potential employers.
Letter of recommendation request template
Use this template to get you started on your letter of recommendation request. You can download the template here .
Dear Ms./Mr. [Recommender Name] ,
I hope you’re well. I’m in the process of applying to [school or company name] and want to ask if you feel comfortable writing a strong letter of recommendation on my behalf.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as [your relationship to the recommender] . As my [teacher/counselor/manager] , I believe you could honestly and effectively vouch for my [list of skills or qualifications] I’ve demonstrated during our time together.
I appreciate you considering my request. The deadline for submitting the letter is [date] . I’ve attached an updated version of my [resume/brag sheet] , as well as the [job posting/admission requirements] and details on how to submit the letter. If you need any additional information, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for your time and support.
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
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How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (Template + Tips)
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How To Write a Recommendation Letter (With Examples)
Writing a recommendation letter might sound easy though it’s not. It can be a challenging task to write a recommendation letter. Logically, when you’re writing a letter of recommendation, it should always be about showcasing the positives of a candidate, so all you have to do is write down all your positive things regarding the person.
In addition, there should be some standard things that you can mention about the candidate in the endorsement of the person. A letter of recommendation template can make your task easy by ensuring you cover all the important points in your letter. This also makes the LOR more effective and informative as much as possible.
Without any further let’s dive into the article to find out how you can write a letter of recommendation.
Table of Content
- How to Write a Recommendation Letter (With Examples)
- What is a Letter of Recommendation or Letter of Recommendation Template?
- How to Write a Recommendation Letter?
- Steps to write a letter of recommendation
Tips For Writing An Effective Recommendation Letter
Here are some letter of recommendation template, letter of recommendation sample, what is a letter of recommendation .
The full form of LOR is “Letter of Recommendation” also known as Recommendation letter. The higher authorities usually have the right to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. In support of your application for a position, a course of study, or other chances, the letter needs to attest to your abilities, qualities, and character. LORs are important for highlighting a person’s skills and are frequently employed to judge a person’s appropriateness for a job or program . In decision-making processes, these letters hold a lot of value. Following the tips mentioned in the letter of recommendation template can make your task easy and effective.
How to Write a Recommendation Letter ?
There are various points that should be kept in mind while you write a letter of recommendation as it is a task that comes with great responsibility. You should strongly highlight the strengths and qualities of the person you are going to recommend.
Below are some tips that you should keep in mind when you write a letter of recommendation.
Here’s what the letter of recommendation template includes: Start with a formal salutation. Introduce yourself and your relationship with the candidate. State the purpose of the letter. Highlight the candidate’s strengths and qualities. Provide specific examples of their skills and achievements. Explain why the candidate is suitable for the opportunity. Mention any challenges the candidate has overcome. Compare the candidate to others if relevant. Include your contact information. Offer to provide further information or answer questions. End with a formal closing and signature.
Steps To Write a Letter of Recommendation
Even though there are several letter of recommendation template available, make sure to keep the following things in mind while writing a letter of recommendation.
Step 1- Writing the heading and greeting
The heading and greeting should include a proper introduction. Below is the information that you should mention in the heading. The contact information Your name Your title Name of the company Address City, Zip Code Date
Step 2- Writing a Salutation
For the personal LOR, you can add a salutation like (Dear Mr. John, etc) For the professional or general LOR always use “ To Whom It May Concern” In case you are not adding a salutation simply start your letter with the first paragraph.
Step 3- Drafting the body of the letter
The body of the LOR is a section where you explain why you as a company are a good reference and why the individual is qualified. You can also describe the relevant skills of the individual in this section.
- The first paragraph of the body – The first paragraph of the recommendation letter usually portrays your connection with the person you are recommending which can include how you know the person and why you find that person qualified.
For example – I met Ankit when he was fresher in my Introductory Business course at IIT. Throughout his studies. It was a great opportunity to work with him on several research projects where he acted as my assistant.
- The second paragraph of the body – This section of the body covers the information about the individual you are writing about which includes why they are qualified for this position, what can they contribute and why are you recommending them .
For example – Jhon graduated with honors in Science and he was always focused on how his future would progress. He is a very bright and qualified individual and a pleasure to work with.
Step 4 – Add Summary, Conclusion, and Closing
This is the section where you finalize your recommendation with specific wording that can highlight the person.
Step 5 – Conclusion
The conclusion of your recommendation letter covers an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number within the paragraph, and provide the phone number again and your email address in the return address section of your letter or under your signature.
- Recommender name
- Email address
- Phone Number
Every letter of recommendation template has the above things mentioned, but make sure to customize them as per your needs and requirements.
Writing an LOR that is effective is very important because it is very influential and plays a very important role in shaping the career of a candidate. A letter of recommendation template will be a perfect reference letter sample. Below are some tips that can help you draft an effective LOR,
1. Understanding the purpose
Understanding the main purpose of the LOR should be a priority as you should know whether it is a letter of recommendation for employee or a sample recommendation letter for student.
2. Using proper format
A LOR consists of a proper letter of recommendation format with a formal tone, the format includes your contact information, the date, your name and address, salutation, body, and closing.
3. Highlighting the key qualities
Always try to focus on the skills of the candidate’s goals . Highlight their academic performance, work ethics, teamwork, etc .
4. Be clear and concise
Being clear and concise on your part really matters as it makes easy for the other person as well and they can understand it properly.
5. Use professional language
Use professional language and try to avoid casual expression . The tone of the language that you use should be respectful and positive.
Consider the above points while finalizing your reference letter sample
Below are some letter of recommendation format that’ll be helpful whether you are looking for a sample recommendation letter for student or letter of recommendation for employee.
Subject: Request for Letter of Recommendation Dear [Manager’s Name], I hope this email finds you in good health and high spirits. I’m reaching out to you with an important request as I embark on an exciting journey – applying to the [Name of Program] at our esteemed company, [Name of Company]. One of the mandatory components of the application process is the submission of letters of recommendation. Given the invaluable professional relationship we’ve cultivated during my tenure at [Name of Company], I am writing to kindly request your support in crafting a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I believe your unique perspective, as my manager, will lend significant weight to my application. To provide you with context regarding my choice of this specific program, it aligns perfectly with my career aspirations because [Explain your reasons briefly]. Your endorsement, highlighting my strengths, work ethic, and character, would greatly bolster my chances of securing admission to the [Name of Program]. The ideal recommendation letter would encompass some of my notable and pertinent work achievements, along with an insightful commentary on why you believe I am well-suited for success in this program. For formal documentation, I kindly request your contact information, and a hand-written signature on your letterhead. You may send the letter via [Scan/Email/Fax] to the following address: [Email Address/Fax]. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or require additional information. I am deeply grateful for your consideration and time in assisting me with this work. I eagerly anticipate your response. Thank you, and best regards, [Your Name]
Here are letter of recommendation example which will also allow you to understand the format of a letter of recommendation.
(The candidate’s name) (His title position) (Company or organization name) (Address) (City, State, ZIP Code) (Candidate’s Email Address) (Candidate’s Phone Number) (Date) (Recipient Name) (Recipient Title) (Recipient Organization/ institute) (Recipient address) (City, State, ZIP Code) Respected ( Recipient’s name) I am writing to recommend (Name of the candidate) for (mention the purpose of recommendation). I have had the privilege of working closely with (Name of the candidate) for the past ( number of years) in my guidance as (the position) at (name of company/institution) At the time of our working together, we had the opportunity to witness (candidate’s name)’s great skills and qualities. He/She has constantly showcased a strong work ethic, outstanding creativity, and great dedication to their work which is truly commendable. One of the qualities that stands out in him/her (mention the quality) and he/she has showcased their skills like( mention the skills) through various projects and achievements. (Name of the candidate) is also excellent in (adding more relevant skills) and is able to convey ideas clearly. If you require any further information or have questions about the recommendation, do not hesitate to contact me (at the Email address ) or (phone number). I will be providing additional insights or context. Thank you for considering my recommendation, I am confident that (candidate name ) will be an asset to your organization. Sincerely, (Your Name) (Job Title) (Name of organization)
These were some letter of recommendation sample that you can consider while drafting your final piece.
Drafting a Letter of recommendation is a task that comes with great responsibility and professionalism. One should always keep in mind that every small detail should be given attention. There are various letter of recommendation template or letter of recommendation sample available that make the process hassle-free.
While you write a LOR you should always follow the steps mentioned above in the article and also keep in mind some important tips like using proper format, understanding the purpose, highlighting the key qualities, being clear and concise, and always using professional language. Using the letter of recommendation template can make your task easy and professionally toned.
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How to Write an Effective Scholarship Recommendation Letter (Tips, Template and Example).
Academic and professional letters of recommendation play a crucial role in various admission processes for international study programs and numerous scholarship applications. Therefore, I'm here to provide you with valuable advice that has assisted both me and my clients in successfully pursuing overseas education and securing scholarships.
What is the Purpose of a Scholarship Recommendation Letter?
Recommendation letters, or references, are essential components of academic and scholarship applications . These letters are composed by a third party who outlines their identity, describes their relationship with you, and provides compelling reasons why they endorse your candidacy for a particular academic program or scholarship.
Essentially, these letters offer institutions or scholarship providers an external perspective to evaluate your character and capabilities. In simpler terms, recommendation letters serve the purpose of corroborating the information you've presented in other application documents, such as your CV and Motivation Letter, while also supplying additional insights into your profile.
Who Should Author a Scholarship Recommendation Letter?
Contrary to common misconceptions, recommendation letters need not be authored by prominent figures like deans of faculties or top-level company executives with whom you've worked. What institutions and scholarship providers seek are letters from individuals who have directly interacted with you and have firsthand knowledge of your personality and performance. Therefore, it is advisable to choose recommenders like professors, thesis advisors, supervisors, employers, or, in certain situations, colleagues.
It's important to note that these recommenders might lack experience in composing letters of recommendation, could be uncertain about your expectations, or simply might not have the time to draft such letters. In these cases, you should be prepared to guide them and, in some instances, even draft the recommendation letter yourself for their review and signature. So, please consider and incorporate the following suggestions:
Header Tips for Recommendation Letter:
- Ensure the date on the letter is recent, avoiding the use of generic letters from previous applications.
- Use a clear title such as "Letter of Recommendation" or "Reference."
- Address the letter specifically to the program or scholarship provider to demonstrate personalization, avoiding generic phrases like "To whom it may concern."
Content Tips for Recommendation Letter:
- Include the reason for recommending the applicant and explicitly mention the program to which they are applying.
- Describe who you are, your position, the institution you are associated with, and your relationship with the applicant.
- Provide a brief description of the program or work context to emphasize its importance.
- Explain why you are recommending the applicant based on their personality, academic or professional skills.
- Reinforce the recommendation by stating why the applicant is the right fit for the program or scholarship.
- Offer to provide more information or answer questions from the selection committee.
Tips to Get Strong Letters of Recommendation:
- Request letters well in advance, considering the letter writers' busy schedules and application deadlines.
- Share your CV and motivation letter with those writing your recommendation to help them understand your background and goals.
- For academic recommendations, establish contact with professors who know you well or with whom you've had significant interactions.
- Reconnect with professors you haven't been in touch with for a while to help them remember you.
- Ensure that the recommendation follows the application guidelines, especially if there are specific formats or requirements.
- Use appropriate language for the target program, and consider official translations if necessary.
- Keep the letter concise and focused on the applicant's strengths and qualifications.
- If possible, use institutional letterhead for added formality.
- Include contact information in the letter for verification purposes.
Recommendation Letter Template:
A template for a scholarship recommendation letter might look like this:
[Recipient's Name and Title]
[Institution or Company]
[Address] [City, State, Zip]
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to highly recommend [Applicant's Name] for [Scholarship Program or Position]. I am [Your Name], [Your Position] at [Your Institution or Company], with [Number] years of experience in [Relevant Field]. I have worked with many individuals, and [Applicant's Name] stands out as a remarkable candidate.
During our time together, [Applicant's Name] demonstrated outstanding skills in [Specific Skills]. Not only did they excel in these areas, but their positive attitude and [Positive Traits] set them apart. Their contributions were highly valued by both myself and their peers.
I am confident that [Applicant's Name] is a perfect fit for your [Scholarship Program or Position] and will contribute significantly to [Institution or Company]’s growth.
If you need more information or examples, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide further details about my experiences working with [Applicant's Name].
[Your Name, Your Company/Institution, and Your Title]
Example of a Recommendation Letter:
College Scholars Program
University of Tennessee
123 Business Rd. Business City, NY 54321
I am pleased to recommend Joe Bloom for inclusion in the College Scholars Program at the University of Tennessee.
As Joe's instructor for multiple English classes during his four years at Morristown-Hamblen High School, including AP English his junior year, I can attest to his remarkable academic abilities. His writing, research skills, and analytical thinking are exceptional for a high school student.
Joe's talents extend beyond academics. He held leadership roles in our school band and served as Vice President of the Student Council and Editor of our yearbook. He is also an active member of his church and the Sierra Student Coalition.
I believe Joe is well-prepared for upper-division coursework and possesses the motivation to excel in independent honors study.
If you have any questions or need additional information to support Joe's application, please feel free to contact me.
I have no doubt that Joe Bloom will make a positive impact on your program and the world.
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Should You Use AI to Write a Student Rec Letter?
What’s covered:, pros of using ai to help write rec letters, cons of using ai to help write rec letters, 3 tips for using ai to write recommendation letters, how to use ai to write good rec letter drafts.
AI is taking the world by storm, people are using it more and more to make their lives easier. School counselors may be wondering if it is okay to have AI assist in writing student rec letters.
At CollegeVine, we have our own free Rec Letter Assistant to help school counselors come up with a first draft more efficiently. In this article, we want to explore the pros and cons of using AI to help write rec letters, and provide tips on using it ethically.
You’ll Save Time
Your time is precious and when application season rolls around you’re spread thin between advising students, compiling profiles, and writing countless letters of recommendation for all your students. Just imagine how much time you could save with AI!
All you have to do is plug in some details about each student and within seconds you are presented with a detailed, well-written letter that you can tweak as you see fit. Cutting down on the time you spend writing will allow you to spend more time working with students to help them with other aspects of the college process. Not to mention, you won’t have to worry about writing letters after hours and will have more free time!
You Can Better Focus on Telling the Students’ Stories
Admission officers greatly value the specific stories and details that counselors put into letters to get the best sense of the type of student they might admit. In fact, Sarina Holder, the Director of Admissions from Longwood University, told CollegeVine this:
“As an admissions officer, I rely on rec letters to better understand each student’s journey. CollegeVine’s Rec Letter Assistant makes drafting more efficient so counselors can focus on the heart and substance of their students’ stories.”
If you use AI to create a template for your letters and generate general paragraphs, you can then go in and add details about your students. AI can provide a framework for your writing, and you can supplement with stories about the student’s passions, praises from their teachers, and your personal description of their character.
You can spend less time worrying about the introduction, conclusion, and transition, and spend more energy on showcasing each students’ strong suits.
No Need to Worry About Grammar and Editing
One of the best parts about using AI to write is you don’t have to worry about grammatical slip-ups or spelling errors. AI takes the tedious work of editing and double-checking your writing out of your job so you won’t have to worry about sending out unpolished letters. The last thing you want is for colleges to judge a student on the unprofessionalism of your rec letter, so AI provides a sense of security that your writing will be error-free.
Although AI can make your life easier, many people are still hesitant to fully trust it. Let’s look at some of the drawbacks of AI-generated recommendation letters now:
AI Can Make Information Up
While it’s truly impressive some of the things AI can generate with a simple prompt, it is still pulling from existing information and might jump to conclusions when processing your request. In the case of rec letters, this might mean that the AI-generated letter includes details that might sound like they belong in a letter of recommendation, but have absolutely nothing to do with your given student.
For example, the letter might talk about the student’s strong work ethic and their passion for learning—admirable qualities that many counselors write about, which is why AI included it. However, your student might be the complete opposite. You wouldn’t necessarily characterize them as having a strong work ethic, but you would say they have an innate curiosity and when they find a topic that intrigues them they come alive. In this case, relying on AI would have incorrectly represented this student and would have backfired.
You Could End Up with a Generic Letter
Another large concern with using AI is that your letter will sound generic. AI tends to follow a very simple structure when writing, so it’s a valid concern that your letter will sound like a machine, not a person, wrote it.
That being said, CollgeVine’s Rec Letter Assistant allows you to upload your student’s brag sheet and examples of previous rec letters you have written to emulate your voice. By pulling detailed information about your student and creating the letter in your writing style, our AI tool helps alleviate the concerns of producing a generic letter.
AI Can Be Biased
Unfortunately, AI is not immune to bias. The programs reflect the biases of the data fed to them, which can sometimes result in biased results. For example, gender biases in Amazon’s resume-reading algorithm was a result of providing the AI with mainly male sample resumes. Additionally, racial biases were discovered in an algorithm used to predict defendants’ recidivism rates.
With the knowledge that AI isn’t perfect, you might not feel comfortable employing it to handle something as important as a student’s college chances. If you do choose to use AI, you should be aware of the possible hidden biases it might include and be prepared to look out for anything suspicious or incorrect.
If you decide to use AI to help you write letters of recommendation, what’s the best way to leverage this powerful tool to your advantage? These three tips will be helpful to keep in mind as you start navigating AI-generated letters.
1. Use It as a First Draft
To avoid a generic rec letter, only use AI to generate a first draft. Plug in some information and see what AI populates for you. Chances are, it won’t perfectly encapsulate the student you’re writing about and you’ll have to go back and add more details or change a few sentences to sound more natural.
But, when you use AI to create your first draft, you’ll cut out a lot of time coming up with general formatting and will already be a good portion of the way to a great letter.
2. Check for Potential Biases or Made-Up Information
As we mentioned above, two big negatives about AI are the fact it can make up information and that it can include biases. To avoid these issues, make sure that you carefully read through what is created to ensure that everything is accurate. You might have to go back and edit things yourself, but this just goes back to the idea that you shouldn’t rely on AI to provide you with the only, and final, draft of a recommendation letter.
3. Provide Enough Information on the Student
To cut back on the amount of time you need to spend editing, make sure that you are as detailed as possible when you request the letter in the first place. Make sure you provide information like:
- Student name
- College they are applying to
- Academics and extracurricular activities
- Any awards or major accomplishments
- Intended major
- Career goals
- Feedback from teachers
- Student’s background and family situation
- School environment
In addition to providing all of this information, it’s also a good idea to specify certain aspects of the student’s profile to create a solid narrative. For example, if you have a student who excels at multiple subjects and is an active member of multiple clubs but they dream of becoming a doctor, you should tell the AI to focus on their aspirations of medicine, highlight their work in their AP Biology class, and emphasize their shadowing at a hospital over their other extracurriculars.
While you could use a tool like ChatGPT to help you write rec letters, we at CollegeVine have a free AI Rec Letter Assistant that is already trained and helps you get a solid first draft in minutes. Upload a past example of a rec letter so it can write in your voice, fill out information about the student, and then get a draft you can further polish.
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How to ask for a letter of recommendation (with examples)
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What are letters of recommendation typically for?
Letters of recommendation vs. references, steps to ask for a letter of recommendation, who to ask for a letter of recommendation, what is the fastest way to ask for a letter of recommendation, how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email, tips for requesting a letter of recommendation, letter of recommendation request samples.
Although it’s not always required, a recommendation letter can increase your chances of being hired for your dream job.
But do you know how to ask for a letter of recommendation? And who to ask?
Asking for a letter of recommendation can be quite daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before. You want to ask someone who will be honest and highlight your best attributes and accomplishments.
Here’s how to confidently ask for a letter of recommendation and some examples to use.
A recommendation letter is written by someone who can recommend your professional or academic performance. Because the writer is personally recommending you, the letter can add favorable weight to your reputation. It shows that you have the personality, character traits, and abilities to succeed in the program or role you’re applying for.
Most letters of recommendation fall under two categories: employment and academic recommendation letters.
Employment recommendation letters are typically used to apply for a new job or to help you get a promotion . They are sent to potential employers or hiring managers in addition to your job application.
Because letters of recommendation help make a good first impression , they can create opportunities for your career development and 5 year plan . A well-written letter can give you that confidence boost you need to overcome job search depression and nail your dream job.
Academic recommendation letters are usually for college applications, scholarships, or fellowship programs. They are often sent to admissions officers as part of the application process. These letters provide additional information about your academic achievements and talents.
Most selective colleges and universities require one to three recommendation letters with your application . They are usually written by a guidance counselor or teacher.
In this article, we are going to focus on letters of recommendation in a career setting.
While they may sound similar, references and a letter of recommendation are not the same things.
A reference letter is more general in nature than a letter of recommendation. It is a broad assessment of skills and experience. Reference letters are usually addressed "To Whom It May Concern" rather than a specific person.
Potential employers will often ask for a list of references in addition to your resume to determine if you’re a good fit for a role . According to a recent survey, 94% of employers conduct at least one kind of background check .
Each reference should include the contact information of people who have agreed to vouch for your character and skills. For references, you can ask former employers, supervisors , business contacts, mentors , clients, teachers, lecturers, or faculty members.
A letter of recommendation also covers a person’s work ethic, attitude, and suitability for what they are applying for. It is a unique letter written based on the writer’s personal experience with you.
A good letter of recommendation is often stronger than a reference because the writer is recommending you for a certain job or program. These letters are addressed to a specific recipient, such as the hiring manager of a company.
Choosing the right person to write your letter of recommendation is essential. While it’s ideal for them to be a professional in their field, what’s more important is their relationship with you . Choose someone that has an understanding of your personality and career aspirations .
Depending on your situation, you could ask a manager , supervisor, teacher, or coach. While they may know you best, family members and close friends aren’t a good idea, as they have an emotional bias.
It’s also important not to ask the same person to be both a professional reference and to write a letter of recommendation. This is because they serve different purposes.
It’s also preferable to have a diverse group of people vouching for your abilities. If the same person writes your letter of recommendation and acts as a reference, this could appear as though you do not have enough people willing to attest to your skills and personality.
Now that you understand what defines a recommendation letter, let’s focus on the next step in the learning process: how to ask for one.
- Make a list of possible people to ask
- Reach out to the person, followed by a formal letter
- Provide enough time
- Send your resume or brag sheet
- Provide other necessary details
- Send a thank-you letter
Let’s look at what each step entails.
1. Make a list of possible people to ask
Before you dive in and send your request, think about who would be the best person for the task. Make a list of your networking connections that are close to you. Remember, they should know you well enough to speak to your character on a personal level.
2. Reach out to the person, followed by a formal letter
If possible, it’s best to have an in-person conversation with the person you’d like to write your letter of recommendation. Writing a letter of recommendation requires time and effort, so you should put in some effort to connect with them , too.
If you can’t ask in person, the next best thing is to give them a call or send a friendly email. We’ve covered how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email below.
Once you’ve made that initial connection, email a formal written request. This way, you can include all the necessary details, and you’ll have a paper trail of the request.
3. Provide enough time
Most professionals have busy schedules and many priorities to consider. Even if they are eager to write your letter of recommendation, you should give them ample time to write it. The last thing you want is a rushed letter.
4. Send your resume or brag sheet
Make it easy for the person writing your letter by sending them your updated resume or ‘brag sheet.’ A brag sheet is a list of relevant and transferable skills and accomplishments that you would like highlighted.
Sending these documents won’t just make the writer’s life easier. It will also prevent them from leaving out any important details that they may not have been aware of.
5. Provide other necessary details
Give detailed information about the job or program you are applying for. This includes logistical information like who to address the letter to and the letter due date.
6. Send a thank-you letter
A little bit of gratitude can go a long way. Express your appreciation by sending a thank-you letter or email to the person writing a letter of recommendation for you.
Another great way to show your appreciation for their act of kindness is to keep the writer of the letter updated. Keep them in the loop about your future endeavors so they know the impact their letter made.
Deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation is a crucial part of the process.
They need to be someone who knows you well. They also need to have neutral judgment and have some professional gravitas in your field.
You might be tempted to ask someone who simply holds a lot of power . But it is more important that you pick someone who has personal experience with you as an individual.
The intention for your letter of recommendation is also a determining factor when choosing who to ask.
Academic letters would be best written by a teacher or lecturer. Professional or career-based letters are best left to trustworthy colleagues, supervisors, or managers.
Start to narrow your list of potential candidates down until you are left with just two or three. Then, you can ask those around you for objective guidance about who would be best suited for the task.
If you are between jobs or competing with others for a certain position, you might feel stressed and pressed for time.
If you work or study in the same property as them, making a scheduled appointment and asking them in person would be the fastest way.
If that isn’t possible, asking via email is the quickest, most efficient way to reach them. You could also call them to request the letter, then follow up with the details in an email.
Requesting a recommendation letter via email is different from asking in person because of the lack of eye contact and human interaction . You will need to be even more clear and deliberate about your request.
If you are wondering how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email, we’ve got you covered.
Here are some top tips for compiling a solid recommendation letter request via email:
- Use a concise subject line. You want the recipient to know exactly what to expect from your email. Avoid emojis, excessive punctuation, and long-winded statements.
- Make them aware of who you are. Advocate for yourself by announcing who you are clearly and confidently at the beginning of the email. If there’s a chance they don’t remember you from previous interactions, make sure to remind them of your connection.
- Be friendly but direct. This is a professional request for something that could drastically alter the trajectory of your career path . Be straightforward without compromising on affability.
- Make it as easy as possible for them. You can show your respect for their time and energy by doing everything you can to make their job easy. Don’t leave the research up to them. For example, you could share your personal vision statement with them so they are aware of what you want to do and why.
- Attach the necessary information. The last thing you want is to appear disorganized. Triple-check that all of the necessary PDFs and documents are attached before hitting send. This includes documents like your resume and the job description of the position you are applying for.
- Be honest about your timeline. Ensure the person you ask knows the application deadline and when you hope to submit the letter. Even if you’ve left it to the last minute, it’s best to be honest. This way, they can politely decline if they aren’t comfortable writing the letter in time.
Asking someone for a letter of recommendation can be daunting because so much of your future relies on it. But the fact that you are here and doing the research is already an indication that you are taking it seriously.
Use this list of tips to help you feel more prepared.
- Don’t leave it to the last minute . A slap-dash request rarely conveys competence. Manage your time efficiently so that the letter writer has plenty of time to write a good recommendation.
- Preferably ask in person . When possible, request a letter of recommendation in person. This may allow for better communication through body language .
- Show appreciation . It is important to acknowledge that they are doing you a favor.
- Use a bit of flattery . There is nothing wrong with using a touch of flattery to amplify your chances of success.
- If they aren’t comfortable, ask someone else . If they are too busy or simply don’t want to assist, be understanding and move on to the next person on your list.
- Be graceful if they decline . Even though it can be disappointing, try to be accepting and understanding about a declined request.
- Be clear about what you need . Avoid a disappointing letter of recommendation by clearly stating what you would like the letter to include.
- Use professional and confident language . Avoid slang and being over-familiar. Pull out the stops and be your most professional self.
Below are two different examples for recommendation letter requests. Let’s first take a look at a professional example:
Dear Mr. Collier,
I am writing to ask if you would be willing to write a letter of recommendation in support of my application for Head Manager at JHI Associates. The hiring manager has asked me to provide a letter of recommendation from someone who knows me on a professional level and can speak to my skills and achievements.
Since we have worked together for several years, I believe you can provide some insight into my qualifications as an ideal managerial candidate. I learned a lot from you while working at Collier Caller Services. With this in mind, I think you would be a great person to vouch for my interpersonal and decision-making skills.
Please let me know if you are comfortable endorsing my candidacy for a managerial role. Should you be willing, I can provide you with all the necessary information to help you write your recommendation.
I have attached my resume to bring you up to date with my experience and professional accomplishments.
Thank you in advance,
Now, let’s take a look at an academic example.
Dear Professor Jameson,
I thoroughly enjoyed your Mathematics class last semester, and I learned so much. In fact, it confirmed my belief that pursuing a career in accounting is the right choice. I’m hoping that you feel you got to know me and my academic abilities during the semester because I’d like to ask you to write a recommendation letter.
I’m working toward a scholarship that’s awarded by ACME Accounting. I have enclosed my cover letter to the scholarship committee and a copy of my application. I’ve also included a summary sheet of my achievements in your class and those outside the classroom to refresh your memory.
Could you please let me know if you are comfortable endorsing me for this scholarship? If need be, I would be more than happy to answer any questions or provide additional information that would help you write your recommendation.
Thank you for all your support and for taking the time to review my request.
Some of the most important parts of a recommendation letter request include the following elements:
- Formal greeting : Dear Name
- Statement of intent : I would like you to write me a letter of recommendation
- Offering specific details : It is for X Program or X Employment Position at X University/Business
- Purpose of letter : It will allow me to graduate/find employment
- Reason why you are asking them : We have X years of working experience together
- Affirmation of ambition : I am confident in my ability to reach this goal
- Gratitude : Thank you for your time
- Signature : Your Name
Drafting a request for a letter of recommendation may feel a little overwhelming. But keep in mind that it is a common practice in professional settings.
Ready to ask for a letter of recommendation?
Despite its ability to influence your career path , knowing how to ask for a letter of recommendation is not something everyone is taught. It’s normal to feel awkward about asking for a recommendation letter, especially if it’s from a boss if you are leaving your job .
However, it’s important to remember that most people are more than willing to oblige if you ask nicely, especially if you have a good relationship with them.
A strong letter of recommendation can help you stand out from other applicants during a job search. It can also reinforce your social capital in the corporate or academic world and increase your confidence in yourself.
All of these things are important for professional development.
If you’d like to take your career and individual transformation to the next level, BetterUp can help. Get in touch with us today to find the right expert coach for you.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC
Character references: 4 tips for a successful recommendation letter
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