Tips To Request and Write a Letter of Recommendation

By Indeed Editorial Team

May 18, 2022

Having someone who can vouch for your qualifications and personal character can make potential employers more likely to consider you for a role. Most job applications allow an opportunity to list references who can attest to your capabilities as an employee. A letter of recommendation validates your work, skills or academic performance. You may be reaching out to a reference for a recommendation or you may be the person asked to write the letter.

In this article, we offer tips to write a letter of recommendation as well as to request one. Explore examples of each to help you better craft your letter of recommendation or request.

Read more: What Is a Letter of Recommendation?

Recommendation Letter Format

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Recommendation Letter Format

  1. Introduction and statement of recommendation

  2. List of specific reasons you are recommending them to the position

  3. Personal story with evidence of their qualities (soft and hard skills)

  4. Closing statement with contact information

  5. Signature

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a formal document that addresses your suitability for a particular position. They differ from standard references that are often a casual conversation by email or phone. Former managers, supervisors or mentors are typically the most appropriate people to ask for a letter of recommendation since they have established working relationships with you and can attest to your strengths as an employee.

How to write a recommendation letter

An honest recommendation details a personal account of your experiences with the applicant. You should have knowledge of how the candidate acts and performs in a work environment. Consider the following before you accept a request for a recommendation:

  • Have you worked with or directly observed the applicant?

  • Do you know relevant strengths and skills you can personally elaborate on?

  • Do you have specific examples of the individual’s work?

  • Can you provide positive feedback about this individual?

If you do not have enough experience with or positive comments to share about the applicant, let them know quickly and respectfully that you aren't able to fulfill the request. This gives the candidate plenty of time to find an alternative solution.

Related: 15 Tips for Writing a Great Letter of Recommendation

How to request a recommendation letter

At some point, you may need to request a recommendation letter. Consider asking former managers, colleagues, teachers, mentors, clients or vendors for verification of your skills, traits and work ethic. This should also be someone you’ve had a positive working relationship with who can thoughtfully discuss your skills and abilities.

Speak with them first about your request, then send a formal email with more details. Include your resume, job description, submission details and requested deadline. You might also send them the template that’s included below. This can help lessen their workload and make them more likely to agree to your request. Make your request at least two weeks before the letter is due to give ample time to complete the letter as they may be working on several at the same time.

Read more: Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

Format for a letter of recommendation

Your letter of recommendation should include five items:

  1. A brief introduction that states who you are, your relationship to the applicant and your personal experience or expertise.

  2. An overview of the applicant’s strengths as you’ve experienced them and as they relate to the recipient.

  3. A personal story that elaborates on one to two traits the applicant possesses.

  4. A closing statement that summarizes why the individual you are recommending would be a good fit for the opportunity.

  5. A signature that includes your name and contact information.

If the candidate hasn’t provided you with an up-to-date resume and the job description, ask for them so you are fully prepared to write the recommendation. You can use the resume to get a full understanding of their experiences and achievements.

You should review the job description to understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Use it to guide what you should include from their resume and your personal experiences working with them.

Read more: Letter of Recommendation Formats (With Templates and Examples)

Recommendation letter template

Whether you are writing a letter of recommendation for students or professionals, your letter should have a similar structure. You should include a brief introduction, the applicant’s background and experience, a personal story and a closing statement.

Download our free template of a recommendation letter you can send or use this template as inspiration when drafting your own:

To Whom It May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend [Applicant Name] for [position with Company Name or acceptance to Institution Name].

I am [Your Name], a [your position] at [Institution or Company]. I have [number] years of experience working in [your industry or academic focus] and have seen many young professionals come and go. [Applicant Name] is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, [Applicant Name] displayed great talents in [skill, trait, experience, class, etc.]. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with [Applicant’s Name], but during the time we worked together, her understanding of [key topic] grew far more than that of her peers.

[Insert personal story elaborating on key skills, trait or experience].

It’s not just [Applicant's Name] technical skills that impress me, however. [Name] was a joy to work with because of [Pronoun] amazingly positive attitude and [positive trait]. [Pronoun] [positive trait] and [positive trait] were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by [Pronoun] peers, who often relied on [Pronoun] to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that [Applicant Name] would be a great fit for your [Institution/Company]. Not only will [Pronoun] bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, but [Pronoun] will also quickly become an asset and help your [Institution/Company] grow in any way [Pronoun] can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at [contact information]. As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of [Pronoun] talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with [Pronoun].

Sincerely,
[Your Name, Company, and Title]

Recommendation letter example

Here’s an example of a completed letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Annie Chiu for a position as a data analyst for L&Q International.

I am Robert Cunningham, a regional manager at Mountain View Unlimited. I have 15 years of experience working as a statistician and client services specialist and have seen many young professionals come and go. Annie Chiu is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, Annie displayed great talents in technical applications, such as ArcGIS, R coding, Python and several other data visualization tools. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with Annie and the technical skills she had on day one, but during the time worked together, her understanding of data analysis and the tools of the trade grew far more than that of her peers.

My first experience with Annie’s adaptability came not long after she was hired. Last year, we had one client who sent data in Excel that needed extensive cleanup. At that time, Annie’s experience with Excel was limited, but she worked extra hours to learn how to properly clean up data in Excel through the use of functions. Within the week, the client’s data was properly formatted so that it could be effectively analyzed and visualized. Annie even handled the data visualization with skill and the client had nothing but praise for the end result.

It’s not just her technical skills that impress me, however. Annie was a joy to work with because of her amazingly positive attitude and eagerness to stick tightly to deadlines. Her can-do attitude and team-building skills were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that Annie would be a great fit for L&Q International. Not only will she bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, but she will also quickly become an asset and help L&Q International grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at 555-123-4567 or by email at rcunningham@mvunlimited.com. As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of her talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with her.

Sincerely,
Robert Cunningham
Regional Manager
Mountain View Unlimited

Tips for writing a recommendation letter

  • Keep it positive. Your letter should confirm that you believe the person is a strong candidate for the job with no reservations. Avoid any comments that might suggest otherwise.

  • Use a standard business letter format and tone. You can use the template below or a standard business letter format to write your letter. Your tone should also remain formal and polite.

  • Focus on the most important qualifications. For the highest impact, discuss two or three of the candidate’s achievements that are most relevant to the job description and provide specific examples to illustrate their fitness for the role.

  • Follow the request instructions. Ask the candidate how you should submit your letter. Strictly follow the instructions and deadline request to avoid negatively affecting their application status.

Popular types of recommendation letters

Here are popular types of recommendation letters for specific situations:

  • How To Write a Recommendation Letter for a Friend

  • Letter of Recommendation for College Students

  • Becoming a Manager: How To Write a Recommendation Letter for an Employee

  • How To Write a Business Recommendation Letter

  • How To Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student

  • How To Write a Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker

  • How To Write an Academic Recommendation Letter: Examples and Tips

  • Letter of Recommendation for a Teacher

Customizing a general recommendation letter according to these common situations could help you better support the applicant in their career development.


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