How to write a letter of recommendation
Structure of a letter of recommendation
While there is no strict format, following this plan will make the letter look neat and you will definitely not forget to mention anything important.
- Title. The paper is usually called a “recommendation letter,” even if it is a reference letter in nature.
- Sender’s details are listed in the following order: manager's name, title, company name, street and house number, city, and postal code, country. Everything is located in the upper left corner.
Example of registration of details
- Mr. Smith
- Director of the marketing department
- Advertising agency “Engagement”
- 1, Hill St
- Houston 77001
- Date. Located three lines below the sender’s requisites. Example of writing: June 18th, 2021.
- Introduction. It has to be formal and as personalized as possible. If you know the applicant’s name — address them by it (Dear Mr. Brown). Otherwise use their position, or the name of the department, if you don’t know how many people will read the letter (Dear President/Dear Customer Assistance Department). Only resort to the vague “To Whom it may concern/Dear Sir or Madam” if you have no better option. Oh, and never address the letter to “Dear Sirs” — this is very judgemental and had gone out of fashion by the 1960s.
- The purpose of the letter. Indicate it in the first sentence of the first paragraph: “I am writing in enthusiastic support of ...”, “I am pleased to recommend ...”, “I am delighted to be called upon as a reference for…” The main notion here — don't use abbreviated verbs. And don’t worry about clichès, they are unavoidable in formal letters.
Main part. This is where you list all the relevant personal traits and skills, achievements, and other characteristics of the employee. Don’t forget to back the evaluations with illustrative facts:
- Information about the old place of work — indicate the name of the organization, position, and your full name;
- characteristics of the employee — information about professional achievements: victories in competitions, sales records, ideas that helped the company develop (it is appropriate to describe the typical tasks and experience in the company);
- personal characteristics — two or three positive qualities that help in work — ideally, they should be supported by examples;
- reasons for leaving the company (only if they are positive or neutral).
- Conclusion. This part contains advice for future employer. Filled in at will. The main goal is to help the new company make effective use of the employee's qualities. Write what position you recommend the candidate for: “I recommend… as a promising candidate for...”
- Signature. The last line is reserved for a polite goodbye and your signature: “Yours faithfully/sincerely.”
Example of a letter of recommendation
Tips for writing a letter of recommendation
- The main idea is contained within the first sentence. The first phrase sets the tone for the entire letter. It has to be informative, not verbose. Your task is to make the reader want to go through the entire thing: “We confirm that Natalya Ivanova worked in our department for 3 years and during this time she has organized 20 festivals with an average attendance of 10 thousand people.”
- Confidence. The most important thing for a new company is to know that the letter of recommendation was written sincerely. Your letter will be trusted if you show that you have worked a lot with the employee and hold responsibility for everything written. State how long you have known each other and how often you interacted.
- Objectivity. Don't write a letter of recommendation at all if you think the employee was not performing well. Lying will ruin the reputation of the employee, as well as yours and your company’s;
- Substance. Only write what actually happened. Don't use meaningless wording like “honest” or “productive.” Either illustrate the employee’s qualities with examples or omit them altogether if there’s nothing to base the characterization on. The letter will not benefit from abstractions.
Mistakes to avoid when writing a recommendation letter
- Too short or too long. The optimal letter length is a single A4 sheet — even if all the advantages of the candidate do not fit on one page. A company that receives several resumes and letters of recommendation every day will not spend more than the allotted time reading yours. On the other hand, if there is too little information, do not write a recommendation at all. Most likely, you won’t provide anything to help the new company make a hiring decision.
- Personal information. Do not write about things that are irrelevant to the employee’s work and relationships within the team. This includes their hobbies, personal qualities that are not used in work, or information about achievements in a field that is far from the company's activities.
- Uncertainty. Do not write about a candidate if you know them poorly or if you doubt their professionalism. Most likely, you will be contacted by the new company for confirmation. You will not be able to provide an answer that satisfies the HR department. But even if you manage, sooner or later it will be found out that the applicant does not live up to what you wrote.
- Negative reason for dismissal. An appropriate reason for quitting a job is either a neutral (moving to another city) or positive (searching for career growth) one. If it seems to you that the reason for leaving work is rather negative, it is better not to write about it. Otherwise, you will make the candidate look bad.
- Poor timing. Jobseeker tip: do not submit a letter of recommendation along with your resume. At the initial stage of reviewing applicants, their resumes are commonly the only thing the HR manager will look at. Any additional materials will not be even read — if 50 people are applying for the position, the HR manager will not check unnecessary papers. But even if they do, suspicions will arise about you — it might look like your resume and qualifications are not enough and you are looking for outside support. It is best to bring a recommendation for an interview or send it by mail after the first stage of selection. But if you still want to immediately show that you have a letter of recommendation, just make a note in your resume that you are ready to provide a recommendation upon request.
Other documents for employment
A formal and concise document that describes your experience, skills, and education. A well-written resume allows the employer to quickly find out the most important information about you.
Unlike a resume, this is a less formal way to talk about yourself and your professional skills. In this document, you can write what was not entirely appropriate for the resume format — usually, you should state why you chose a particular company and position. In the cover letter, you can reveal in more detail your professional experience and the desired salary. There is no universal format for a cover letter — write politely, on-point, and do not forget to include your contacts.
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