Heath Alva
Community Specialist
Community Specialist
Posted February 17, 2021

How to write a letter of recommendation – a complete guide with examples

Whether a colleague or friend has asked you to write a recommendation or you are in need of a letter and want to know what to ask for, this is the only guide you will ever need.
Heath Alva
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How to write a letter of recommendation –  a complete guide with examples
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In the US there are around 6.5 million new job openings every month. Despite the large number of positions, getting past the first recruitment stage can be a competitive process.

A letter of recommendation could be the differentiator that helps one applicant land their dream job over another.

A strong letter will make the candidate stand out and give a potential employer confidence that they’re getting the right person for the job. In the following article we’ll teach you how to wrIte a letter recommendation for a friend or a coworker.

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What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a written reference. It can be a traditional physical letter, an email, or uploaded as an attachment on an online application.

It is used to confirm that the information provided on the resume is correct, along with an assurance that the candidate in question is capable of doing a specific job.

While letters of recommendation are commonly used for job opportunities, they may also be beneficial for educational programs, internships, or volunteer positions.

Why is it essential to have a letter of recommendation?

Networking can play a vital role in career progression. A positive endorsement works like a product review. The employer doesn’t know the candidate and they are looking to others who may be willing to vouch for them. Letters of recommendation are that positive product review of you.

It is always better to be prepared and have a letter of recommendation ready before an interview, even if it wasn’t specifically requested.

The hiring manager may ask for a written reference before, or after the job interview. This is a good time to reach out to your personal network and ask for letters of recommendation that showcase your strengths to the position you're applying to.

What should a letter of recommendation include?

If you are wondering how to write a letter of recommendation, we’ll break it down for you section by section. We suggest splitting the letter into four bite-sized sections:

  • An introduction
  • An overview
  • A relevant personal story
  • A closing paragraph

This sample letter is an example of how the four sections come together:

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Here’s a breakdown of the template for a letter of recommendation:

1. The introduction

The introduction is an opportunity to mention the candidate and the letter writer. When someone is applying for a specific position, personalize the document with the name of the organization and recruiter.

If this is a generic letter of recommendation, “To whom it may concern” is the correct salutation.

Be sure to flag any experience the writer has and their relationship to the candidate.

Here’s an example of an introduction:

Dear Ms. Mary Jane,

It is with great pleasure that I recommend Jenny Lane for the full time Assistant Manager position at {Their Company}.

By way of introduction, I am John Doe, Senior Manager at {My Company}. I have over 25 years of industry experience, specializing in marketing and promotions. One part of my role is to oversee the work of young leaders, and Jenny has always been a model employee.

2. The overview

The overview should briefly discuss the candidate’s previous position. It should highlight any relevant skills that could benefit the recruiting company, such as industry experience.

Here’s an example of an overview:

For over three years, Jenny has been involved with the day to day delivery of marketing campaigns and quickly climbed the ranks from intern to senior team member. Jenny has played a key role in content creation, social media, and scheduling.

Jenny is a highly motivated individual and she is respected by her peers. She has the confidence and experience to successfully manage a team, offering support and guidance to new recruits.

3. The personal story

The personal story section should cover specific areas where the applicant stands out. While it is a personal reflection, use professional examples to back it up.

If the letter of recommendation is for a specific position, the story should highlight strengths that match the recruiter’s desired capabilities.

Here’s an example of a personal story:

While it was not an official part of Jenny’s job description, she has delighted customers and staff by regularly contributing to the {My Company} blog. Jenny’s wit, creativity, and commitment has inspired other team members to strive for success.

Jenny is an intelligent and highly motivated individual. When {My Company} was looking for a new sales representative, Jenny used her networking skills to secure the right candidate for the job.

Jenny has worked closely with other employees and customers, and her contribution to {My Company} has not gone unrecognized. Feedback from her peers has been positive, suggesting Jenny is both approachable and professional in a management position.

4. The closing paragraph

The interviewer may have additional questions, so it is important to include your contact information. A signature is optional, and the following closings are acceptable:

  • Warm regards
  • Yours sincerely
  • Kind regards

Here’s an example of a closing paragraph:

If you would like more information about Jenny Lane, you can phone me at 555-555-555.

Warm regards,

John Doe
Senior Manager
{My Company}

What questions should a recommendation letter address?

A reference letter should be honest and relevant. No one should ever feel obligated to write a letter of recommendation for a friend or colleague if they can’t offer genuine insight into their performance. If you can't be a recommender for a friend or past colleague politely tell them you wouldn't feel comfortable providing them one.

The answer should be “yes” to all of the following questions if someone is going to be writing a letter of recommendation for you.

The questions are:

  • Have you previously worked with, or directly observed the applicant?

  • Can you confidently elaborate on their personal skills and strengths?

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

  • Can you provide a strong recommendation for this individual?

Remember, it is better to say no than to provide a negative letter.

How long should a recommendation letter be?

A letter of recommendation should fit neatly onto one page. Aim for 250 to 300 words, being careful to use correct spelling, grammar, and formatting.

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Who should you ask for a recommendation letter?

The best person to write the recommendation letter would be someone who’s worked with the applicant. This could be a manager, colleague, teacher, or professor. There are different types of reference letters, including academic, professional, and personal.

A written character reference is usually from a personal connection, rather than a professional one.

FREE professional recommendation template

Wondering how to write a letter of recommendation for yourself? Or do you need to write a recommendation for a friend or colleague?

This basic template is adaptable for professional use:

Dear {FirstName LastName},

It is with great pleasure that I recommend {ApplicantName} for the {position} at {Company}.

My name is {RecommenderName}, a {position} at {Company}. I have over {length of time} of experience, specializing in {expertise}. Part of my role is to {job function}, and {ApplicantName} has always been a {positive attribute of applicant}.

For over {length of time}, {ApplicantName} has been involved with {job function} and {summarize accomplishment}. {ApplicantName} has played a vital role in {work task}, {work task}, and {work task}.

{ApplicantName} is a {positive adjective} individual and is respected by {his/her colleagues}. {ApplicantName} has the {attribute} and {attribute} to perform {a specific role} offering {professional qualities}.

While it was not an official part of {Applicant’s} job description, {Applicant} has delighted customers and staff by {personal story}. {Applicant’s} {personal qualities}, and {professional qualities} have inspired other team members to strive for {positive outcome}.

{ApplicantName} is a {personality quality} and highly {professional attribute} individual. {Brief example showcasing the applicant’s unique skills}.

{ApplicantName} has worked closely with {demographic}, and his/her contribution to {Company} has not gone unrecognized. Feedback from {Applicant’s} peers has been positive, suggesting {ApplicantName} is both {personal quality} and {professional quality} in {position}.

If you would like more information about {ApplicantName}, you can phone me on {phone number}.

Warm regards,

{RecommenderName}

{Recommender position}, {Company}


There you have it, everything you need to know in order to write a perfect letter of recommendation.

Now, are you ready to turn a good letter into a great letter? By following the above guide, you’ll be sure to impress any hiring manager.

For more job search tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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