How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

Tips for Writing a Reference Letter for a Job

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For some jobs, employers request written letters of recommendation. They may even request them as part of the application process. In these cases, the applicant is asked to submit recommendation letters (typically two or three) with their resume and cover letter.

Tips for Writing Letters of Recommendation for Employment

If you’re asked to provide a reference for a specific job, the most effective letter of recommendation will be one that is written with the requirements of that particular job in mind.

Refer to the job posting or job description to find specific skills and knowledge that you can include in the letter for your candidate.

When you’re asked to write a general recommendation letter, you can still focus on the types or category of jobs for which the person is applying.

Collect Information Before You Start

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 pitch their qualifications for the job.

When you are writing a more general recommendation, you should still ask the subject of your letter to outline their targets for employment.  Ask them for 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 their job title when you interacted, as well as the nature of your relationship, including whether you supervised the individual.

  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 which include references to any proof which will make your assertions about those assets 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.

Letter Closing

In your closing statement, it can be very effective to mention that you would hire the person again.  A positive statement about your belief that the person would be an outstanding addition to their staff can also be incorporated into your closing.

Share Your Contact Information

Sharing a telephone number and email address with a mention of your eagerness to share additional perspective on the candidate can also be helpful.

Formatting Your Letter

Here are guidelines for formatting recommendation letters including length, format, font and how to organize your letters.

Sending Your Letter

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.

Review Recommendation Letter Samples

Not sure what to write? Review letter of recommendation samples, including letters for employment, academic letters of recommendation and character and personal reference letters.

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. Here’s how to turn down a recommendation request.

Read More: Letters of Recommendation | Letter of Recommendation Samples | Requesting References | Letter of Recommendation Template