Letter of Recommendation: How to Write [+Examples]

Letters of Recommendation: How to Write [+Examples]

Worried about how to write a letter of recommendation or who and how to ask for one?

We’ve got both sides of the coin covered! You are going to learn all that in the next few minutes! 

A letter of recommendation, also called a “reference letter” or “recommendation letter”, can be personal or professional.

In most cases, you need letters of recommendation for professional use such as job applications, college admissions, and scholarships. 

But there may be situations when a personal reference letter from a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance can be used. 

The goal of every kind of recommendation letter is the same: to prove that you are worthy of the job or the task at hand. 

In this post, we are going to mostly focus on the professional aspects of recommendation letters. 

Letters of recommendation mean a lot to the person you are writing it for. 

Their next big job opportunity depends upon what you are going to write about them. 

This person thinks highly of your relationship with them to ask for your written recommendation.

So, you have to be very careful and honest about it.

When someone asks for a recommendation letter from you, make sure you know enough about the person and are well prepared to write one for them. 

If your associate did not provide it already, get all the necessary information from them like the job posting and their resume to tailor your reference letter to their specific needs.

If you think you are not in a suitable position to write a positive letter of recommendation for them, it is very important that you frankly let them know that. 

It is better to not write a letter at all than to write a not so impressive or boring one. 

How to Start a Letter of Recommendation

After the letterhead and the contact information of both the parties, you should start by directly addressing the person, the group, or committee you are writing to. 

Make sure you have that information from the person you are writing for. 

Start by writing:

Dear Clara/ Dear Ms. Jones/ Dear Hiring Manager/ Dear Board Members

Try to avoid the bureaucratic phrase “To Whom It May Concern” unless you have no other options. 

Then, jump into the opening paragraph of your letter with a hook. 

Explain for whom you are writing, how you know the person, and why you are willing to write this recommendation letter for the person. 

It could be something like this: 

Dear Ms. Jones, 

With utmost confidence, I can vouch for the immense capabilities Marian Adams possesses as a Software Engineer. I have worked as her supervisor at XYZ Corporation for five years where I have seen the magic she performs with her code. 

Or

Dear Ms. Jones, 

Marian Adams is no ordinary programmer. As her supervisor at XYZ Corporation for five years, I have seen her work with awe and amazement. I can assure you that there are very few software engineers out there with as much depth and knowledge as her.

These samples effectively answer the who, why, and how questions with enough appeal for the hiring manager to take it seriously.

How to Write the Body of a Letter of Recommendation

After you have established the tone and setting with the first paragraph, it is time to expand on the applicant’s core strengths, capabilities, and your own experience with him/her. 

It can be a single or multiple paragraphs depending on your needs. 

First, make a list of the person’s most impressive skills, strengths, experiences, achievements, and your own observations about them.

Then, pick the ones that are most relevant to the job they are applying to. 

Try to provide real-life examples of their successes as witnessed by you. 

Real examples and stories work like magic in a recommendation letter. 

Try to create something like this: 

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she overcomes complex challenges that are essential to being a software engineer. 

Her solutions to problems are thorough and enhance the team’s overall performance. Once, I saw how she came with the perfect code in a day where the whole team was struggling for two weeks. 

Any software project she was a part of, the management knew from the very beginning that it would be a grand success. 

If I ever end up having my own business, she is going to be my lead engineer for sure!  

How to Close a Letter of Recommendation

You should always close the letter of recommendation with your final verdict about the applicant and with a call to action. 

Invite the reader for an in-person call or follow-up email to further discuss any other questions that the reader might have. 

It could be something similar to this:

I would whole-heartedly recommend Marian for your Software Engineer position and I believe you should seize the opportunity to have a dynamic and skilled programmer on your team. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

(Writing a recommendation on LinkedIn? This is for you: How to Write an Incredible LinkedIn Recommendation.)

How to Write a Targeted Letter of Recommendation

While writing a letter of recommendation, you should always keep it focused on the job in question. 

Go through the job post and the resume of the applicant. 

Find out the main keywords related to the job requirements, responsibilities, and skills. 

Then, incorporate those keywords into your letter as naturally as possible. 

The use of keywords should feel like it naturally fits into your description. Not forced into the text just to make an impression. 

Take a look at this job posting for an Audio Engineer on Indeed:

Job posting

What are the keywords you should focus on?

Team player, productive attitude, skilled in operating acoustics equipment, and artistic objectives - these are the keywords with maximum impact here. 

Now, use the ones that you have witnessed in the applicant while working with him in any scope. 

Dear Mr. Jones,

It is with great enthusiasm that I personally recommend Stewart Price for the position of Audio Engineer at AFK Entertainment Inc. I have worked with him at numerous events as his supervisor. His skills in operating acoustics equipment and productive attitude is something that I seldom witnessed in others. 

He is a wonderful team player and knows how to fulfill the artistic objectives of the project in the best way possible. 

Did you notice how the keywords have been used above? 

It should flow naturally into your letter. 

Examples of Letters of Recommendation

So far, you have read all about the inner workings of how to write a recommendation letter. 

Now, let’s have a look at some practical examples. 

You can also download the specific example that fits your situation to use it as a letter of recommendation template and tailor it to your needs.  

General Letter of Recommendation

The example used above to explain the step by step formation of a recommendation letter can be seen as a great example of a general letter of recommendation. 

Let’s stitch the parts together:

Dear Ms. Jones, 

With utmost confidence, I can vouch for the immense capabilities Marian Adams possesses as a Software Engineer. I have worked with her at XYZ Corp for five years where I have seen the magic she performs with her code. 

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she overcomes complex challenges that are essential to being a software engineer. 

Her solutions to problems are thorough and enhance the team’s overall performance. Once, I saw how she came with the perfect code in a day where the whole team was struggling for two weeks. 

Any software project she was a part of, the management knew from the very beginning that it would be a grand success. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend Marian for your Software Engineer position and I believe you should seize the opportunity to have a dynamic and skilled programmer on your team. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

Best regards, 

Jacqueline Meyers

⬆ Download Letter of Recommendation Template in Word

Letter of Recommendation for a College Student

A letter of recommendation for students might be needed when the applicant is applying for a scholarship, a particular academic program, or a job. 

Dear Mr. Davis, 

It is with great enthusiasm and pleasure that I recommend Samuel Johnson for the College Scholarship Program. I had the wonderful opportunity to know Samuel as his instructor for a philosophy course where I was blown away by his agility with complex ideas and thought processes. 

I firmly believe that he will complete his graduation as one of the top students in his class and will become one of the thought leaders in the art, literature, and philosophy space of academia.

Time and again, he has impressed me with his class performance and academic essays. The level of maturity of his thoughts is seldom witnessed in students of his age. 

I wish him all the success in life and whole-heartedly recommend him for the scholarship program. You may contact me without hesitation if you have any further questions. 

Regards, 

Professor Andrew Wilson

Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School

A letter of recommendation for graduate school is required for pursuing higher studies after graduation.

The applicant may need it while applying for admission into a master’s, doctorate, or similar program.

Dear Admission Committee, 

It is an honor to personally recommend Samuel Johnson for admission into your esteemed graduate school. I had the wonderful opportunity to know Samuel as his instructor for the philosophy course of his bachelor’s program, where I was blown away by his agility with complex ideas and thought processes. 

It was no surprise to me that he went on to complete his graduation as one of the top students in his class. I firmly believe that he will become one of the thought leaders in the art, literature, and philosophy space of academia.

Time and again, he has impressed me with his class performance and academic essays. The level of maturity in his thoughts is seldom witnessed in students of his age. 

I wish him all the success in life and whole-heartedly recommend him for the graduate program. 

You may contact me without hesitation if you have further questions. 

Regards, 

Professor Andrew Wilson  

Make sure to highlight the academic excellence and any special award or achievements of the applicant along with your positive personal views.  

Letter of Recommendation for an Intern

You want a bright future for your interns, right? 

They always try their best. 

Here’s how to help your interns move forward in their career with a positive letter of recommendation:

Dear Ms. Jones, 

I am writing on behalf of Marian Adams to whole-heartedly recommend her for the position of Junior Graphics Designer at XYZ Inc. With utmost confidence, I can vouch for the immense capabilities Marian Adams possesses as a Graphic Designer. She has worked closely with me at XYZ Corp as an intern with the digital marketing team for six months where I have seen the magic she performs with her designs. 

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she visualizes complex ideas into impressive designs.

Her solutions to problems are creative and have enhanced my team’s overall performance. Her ability to adapt to changes and engage with the team members has impressed me as I have never seen an intern be so confident and qualified before. 

I would have hired her as a permanent employee if she was not interested in the position at your esteemed organization.

I would sincerely recommend Marian for your Graphic Designer position and I believe you should seize the opportunity to have a dynamic and intuitive designer on your team. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

Best regards, 

Jacqueline Meyers

Do not forget to showcase the applicant’s dedication and passion the most, as an intern may not be much of an expert yet, but it’s their passion that will make them one. 

Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker

Writing a recommendation letter for a coworker is often the easiest. 

You know so much about them and have so many fond memories that you shouldn’t lack great things to write. 

Dear Ms. Jones, 

With utmost confidence, I can happily vouch for the immense capabilities Marian Adams possesses as a Software Engineer. I have worked with her at XYZ Corp for five years where I have seen the magic she performs with her code. 

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she overcomes complex challenges that are essential to being a software engineer. 

Her solutions to problems are thorough and have enhanced the team’s overall performance. Once, I saw how she came with the perfect code in a day where the whole team was struggling for two weeks. 

Any software project she was a part of, the management knew from the very beginning that it would be a grand success. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend Marian for your Software Engineer position and I believe you will take the opportunity to have a dynamic and skilled programmer on your team. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

Best regards, 

Jacqueline Meyers

As a coworker, you should try to create a much closer view of the applicant’s core strengths and positive character traits. 

Also, don’t forget to mention some of their achievements that you have witnessed and how hard they worked for those. 

Letter of Recommendation for a Teacher

A teacher is all about care, patience, and understanding.

They are the most cherished personalities for their students. 

This is how you can best portray a teacher in a letter of recommendation: 

Dear Ms. Jones, 

It is with great pleasure, I personally recommend Marian Adams for the role of Senior Lecturer at your esteemed institution. I had the opportunity to witness the immense capabilities she possesses as a Teacher at XYZ College for five years. Time and again, I was awestruck by her charismatic teaching methodologies and practices.

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she overcomes complex challenges that are essential to being a teacher.

Her ingenious methods of teaching and care for the students made her one of the most popular teachers at the institution among students, parents, and staff alike. Her patience coupled with creative modes of teaching has helped our underperforming students to raise their grades by 20% on average. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend Marian for your Senior Lecturer position and I believe you will take the opportunity to have a dynamic, caring, and experienced teacher for your students. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

Best regards, 

Jacqueline Meyers

You can write about the impact the teacher had on the lives of their students, how they were loved by all, and how they took care of the underperforming students. 

Letter of Recommendation for a Nurse

A recommendation letter for a nurse should be as flawless as the nurse themself. 

Dear Mr. Jones, 

It is with utmost confidence that I personally recommend Marian Adams for the role of Senior Nurse at your esteemed institution. 

I had the opportunity to witness her caregiving skills and love for nursing as her supervisor at the XYZ clinic for five years. Time and again, I was awestruck by her charismatic personality and the amount of patience she has for patient care. 

During the time we worked together, I have seen how dedicated she is towards her work and how skillfully she overcomes complex challenges that are essential to being a nurse.

Her calmness, level-headedness makes her indispensable for any emergencies at my unit. She never complains about the long hours she was often subjected to as a nurse and took it as an opportunity to care for more humans in need. 

I would whole-heartedly recommend Marian for your Senior Nurse position and I believe you will take the opportunity to have a dynamic, caring, and experienced nurse for your patients. Please contact me if you need further information about her. I would be glad to help you and Marian as much as I can. 

Best regards, 

Jacqueline Meyers

The most amount of focus should be on their caregiving skills, patience, calmness, and the ability to work under pressure. 

Personal Letter of Recommendation

Personal letters of recommendation are generally used for such things as court hearings, renting a house, or immigration purposes.

However, a personal recommendation letter can also be used for a job application. 

This is especially true if it is the applicant’s first job or he/she had a significant gap in employment and has no professional connections who can write a reference letter. 

The structure and guidelines for writing a personal letter of recommendation are quite the same as you would write a professional one. 

Just keep the focus on your experience with the person and the relevance of their success stories in relation to the job they are applying to. 

Dear Hiring Manager,

It is with immense joy that I am recommending Jason Miller for the position of Junior Data Analyst at your esteemed organization. I have known Jason since he was a teenager and am grateful for having him as a helpful neighbor and a trusted friend. 

We became close friends due to the common interest we have in computer science and statistics. I met him at a volunteer event in the neighborhood and we instantly bonded over our ideas regarding the bright future of data and analytics discipline.

He has helped me numerous times with his ingenious ideas and practical skills in Python to solve the problems I was facing at my office as a data engineer. I have witnessed his cheerful and helpful spirit when we participated in many of the same volunteering events to help the community. He always walks the extra mile to help the people around him and to do as much as possible to solve their problems. 

I wish him all the success in life and guarantee that he will be a great asset to your data team. Please let me know if you need further information about Jason. I would be glad to chat.

Regards, 

Peter Powell    

In a personal recommendation letter, you can be a bit closer to the person as a human rather than a worker. 

So, it is okay to focus on their being a good human if you don’t have much to say about them professionally. 

One of the most crucial parts of getting an effective letter of recommendation is to know who and how to ask for it.

Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

In the case of a professional recommendation letter, the following persons would be most suited to provide you with a great letter of recommendation. 

  • You former bosses, supervisors, and managers who appreciate your work.
  • Your coworkers with whom you have worked closely with. 
  • Your teachers or professors for academic applications like scholarships or school programs.
  • Recommendation letters from teachers can also have an impact in the case of job applications. Especially if you are a new graduate. 
  • For personal recommendation letters, you can pick from your friends, neighbors, people you have volunteered with, or other acquaintances who know you enough to say something good about you.

While choosing the person to approach for a letter of recommendation, always pick the ones who know the most about you and have the most positive ideas about your academic and professional achievements. 

Tips for Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

It is always better to ask for a recommendation letter face to face in a polite manner. 

Explain your needs for the letter in clear terms and tell them everything about why you need it. 

Provide them with all the information they might need for writing the letter, such as the job posting, your resume, the course or scholarship details if it is for academic purposes. 

You may even include a memory or success that you shared to help your reference get started. 

Always leave the option open for them to say no to your request, as you don’t want to make them feel pressured. 

The ones who are really willing to help you out are the ones who are likely to offer the most impressive reference letters. 

After you ask them for the letter, you can say something like:

It would be completely okay if you are busy right now or think that you might not be the right person to write a letter of recommendation for me. Please don’t hesitate to decline.

(Want recommendations on LinkedIn? Take a peek at How to Properly Ask for a Recommendation on Linkedin.)

In case you don’t have the opportunity to ask for a recommendation letter face-to-face, an email will also work quite well. 

Here are two sample emails for asking for a letter of recommendation. 

How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation

Approach the professor with whom you have worked most closely. 

Provide them with all the necessary information that they might need to write a great letter. 

Subject: Request for a letter of recommendation 

Dear Mr. Smith,

I hope this finds you well. 

Recently, I have applied for the ABC Scholarship Program of JNU University and they require a recommendation letter for my application to be evaluated. 

I believe there is no other person more suited than you to write one for me. 

Would it be possible for you to write me a recommendation letter for the scholarship?  

It would be completely okay if you are busy right now or think that you might not be the right person to write a letter of recommendation for me. Please don’t hesitate to decline.

I have attached a copy of the scholarship detail and my application here. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this request.  

Sincerely, 

Jane Thomas    

If the professor you are writing to may not remember you so well, it is okay to reference the courses you took with them or any academic activities that might remind them of you. 

How to Ask your Employer for a Letter of Recommendation

Your boss is busy.

You have to keep it short and simple and include all the information that he/she might need. 

Subject: Request for a letter of recommendation

Dear Mr. Smith,

I hope this finds you well. 

Recently, I have applied for the position of Senior Data Scientist at the XYZ Corporation and they require a recommendation letter for my application to be evaluated. 

I believe there is no other person more suited than you to write a recommendation letter for me as we have worked together for more than 7 years at ABC Inc. 

You have seen my work up close and personal and are very well acquainted with my level of expertise in the field of data science and engineering, especially my statistical modeling that identified all the high-potential customer accounts so effectively.  

Would it be possible for you to write me a recommendation letter for the position?  

It would be completely okay if you are busy right now or think that you might not be the right person to write a letter of recommendation for me. Please don’t hesitate to decline.

I have attached a copy of the job posting, my application, and resume here for your consideration. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this request. 

Sincerely, 

Jane Thomas   

Apart from including all the necessary information, you should also hint at your successes and achievements so that it is easy for them to recall and include those in the recommendation letter. 

Conclusion

We have reached the end of this comprehensive and all-inclusive guide to letters of recommendation. 

The key takeaways of this article are:

  • Letters of recommendation are important for the person you are writing for, so you should write the letter carefully with honesty.
  • Make sure you get all the information you need to write the letter from the person you are writing for.
  • Tailor the letter to the specific needs of the situation. 
  • Use real-life examples and success stories of the person as witnessed by you. 
  • Praise their skill, expertise, and experiences along with a couple of personal traits. 
  • Ask for recommendation letters from the people who know you well enough and have a positive impression of your professional abilities. 
  • Provide information to the writer so that they can write an effective letter.

For more career advice, check out the rest of our blog. 

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