How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

This is it!

You, yes you, were asked to write a letter of recommendation!

But . . . what now?

Whether you are writing a letter of recommendation for a student entering into college or for someone in the workforce, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • You are vouching for someone’s aptitude, experience and skill
  • Your letter does not need to be perfect, but it needs to be genuine.
  • You are offering your opinion on whether or not an applicant would be a good fit for a position.

It’s as simple as that.

But here are a few tips to help you along the way.

1.) Don’t be afraid to use a template

Your letter does not need to be a dissertation to be effective.

The hiring manager is more interested in what you have to say on the applicant’s behalf.

A template can help guide your writing and keep your letter focused.

2.) Start with the simple stuff

How long have you known the applicant?

How do you know the applicant?

Did you work together, was he/she a student of yours, are you neighbors etc?

Try to incorporate relevant dates. If you do not have the specifics, provide your best estimate.

3.) Treat it like a conversation

Describe the applicant’s skills and performance.

What makes him/her an ideal fit for this position?

Try to stick to his/her top 3 qualifications and provide the recipient of the letter with specific instances where the applicant showcased these attributes.

Remember, you want to tell the hiring manager why the applicant is a good fit for a particular role, so you’ll want to keep your examples relevant to the job or company.

4.) Dig deep

The job-seeker asked you to give them a recommendation for a reason.

Try not to list generic skills that almost every applicant puts on his/her resume and in his/her cover letter.

Not sure if you can give a positive recommendation?

Take a look at “How to Write a Reference Letter for an Average Ex-Employee” by Anam Ahmed.


You can always politely turn down the applicant’s request. Elizabeth Alterman gives her advice on how to do this in “Just Say No: Your Guide to Turning down a Reference Request.”

5.) Stick with what you know

If the applicant is a mechanic (and you know nothing about cars) don’t fabricate statistics or copy/paste technical jargon into your letter.

Tell the hiring manager what you do know, what you can confirm with your own words.

If you need a guiding force, it can be helpful to ask the job-seeker which skill(s) he/she would like for you to verify.

6.) Offer to follow up

Include your contact information in your letter in case the hiring manager has questions or concerns that he/she would like to address with you.

7.) Reread

Always, always, always reread your work.

Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes show poorly on you and the applicant.

Have someone that you know take a look at your letter before sending it out.

It is amazing what fresh eyes can catch!

8.) Follow instructions

Submit your letter exactly as asked.

If the job-seeker did not give you specific details, ask.

With these tips, you should be well on your way to crafting your letter of recommendation.

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