A letter of recommendation is a written and signed document that provides information and feedback about someone’s personal character or professional performance. These letters are most often used by applicants for jobs and college courses. The letter is usually prepared by a person who knows the applicant well and in many cases may have had some level of authority over them. For example, a teacher, professor, or manager.
Key Elements of a Recommendation Letter
There are several key elements that should be used in a recommendation letter. These help to provide the information required with the correct formality required in the situation.
The main parts of a letter of recommendation include:
1. The introduction: Establishing the reason for contact.
2. The reasons for the recommendation: Explaining why you are recommending the person requesting the letter.
3. Personal stories and evidence: Providing more background information on the person’s strengths.
4. Closing statement and contact details: A short conclusion and details on how you may be contacted.
5. Signature: Including your full name and professional title.
Types of Recommendation Letter
Recommendation letters can come in many forms. Depending on their purpose, they may be known by different names and can be adjusted to include specific information.
The most common types of recommendation letters are:
Student recommendation letters
Teacher recommendation letters
College recommendation letters
Graduate school recommendation letters
Employee recommendation letters
Personal recommendation letters
Scholarship recommendation letters
Tenant/landlord recommendation letters
There are, however, many more types of letters that can be used to provide a personal reference. These might be used for situations such as court cases or entering the military amongst others.
How to Write a Compelling Recommendation Letter — 9 Step Guide
Following these steps will help you create a convincing letter of recommendation that is sure to be an invaluable part of any application.
Step 1: A Polite and Personable Salutation
The way you greet someone when meeting them for the first time has a huge impact on their first impression of you. The way you address someone in a letter is no different. As such, it’s important to use a polite and personable salutation to start your letter off strong.
Step 2: Start Your Introduction With a Punch
The first sentence of your recommendation is arguably the most important because it sets the tone for the entire letter. The best openers are those that immediately express the heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant.
Step 3: Establish Your Relationship
The remainder of your introductory paragraph should be devoted to describing who you are and your relationship with the applicant. This is an essential step because it establishes the relevance of your letter.
Step 4: Give Words of Praise
Finish your introduction with a sentence or two highlighting some of the applicant’s key strengths or personality traits.
Step 5: Showcase the Applicant’s Professional/Academic Strengths
Your first body paragraph should start by mentioning 2–3 of the applicant’s specific skills, talents, or experiences that are relevant to their target job position or college program.
It is essential that these points are then followed up with detailed and descriptive examples of the applicant’s accomplishments that prove the aforementioned abilities.
Step 6: Highlight the Applicant’s Best Personal Qualities
The next body paragraph should focus on 2–3 of the applicant’s positive personality traits and characteristics — particularly those that would be beneficial or desired by their target company or school.
Step 7: Explain Why the Applicant is Leaving [Optional Paragraph for Job References]
This paragraph is only relevant if you’re writing a letter of recommendation for employment purposes. That being said, you should only include this section if the reason the applicant is leaving your current company is either neutral or positive.
Step 8: Encourage the Reader to Accept the Applicant
Begin the concluding paragraph by reiterating your complete, unreserved, and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant. Follow this up by emphasizing the value of the applicant as an asset. Use strong, authoritative, and confident language when writing this sentence.
Step 9: Politely Sign-off
Your letter closing should be formal and polite. Sincerely, Regards, and Best regards are all great examples. Sincerely is widely considered to be the best sign-off because not only is it undeniably polite, it also carries a warm, friendly tone.
* The free templates above are provided for reference only, for all legal matters, you should always talk to a professional.
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