How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
Knowing how to write a letter of recommendation, for someone such as yourself who is in the position to be asked to write a letter of recommendation (i.e. someone who most likely has, at the very least, reasonable writing skills), should, for the most part, be about the etiquette of what and what not to include. The following ‘how to’ should be used as a basic guideline on how to write a letter of ‘recommendation’ for anyone, no matter how confident you are in their abilities, that may ask.
1- Gauge an appreciation of the person who has requested the letter of recommendation. Should someone request a letter of recommendation from you but you’re not comfortable to give them one, honestly tell them. Rather than simply refusing to write it, explain that you can write them one but only something that truly represents your appreciation of them. Perhaps you don’t know them that well or you had the impression that they aren’t that driven. Give the candidate the opportunity of dialogue. Conversely, should you be highly appreciative of the candidate’s qualities, then a letter of recommendation from yourself may eventually turn out bolstering your reputation. Invest your time and effort accordingly.
2- Understand what role or opportunity the letter is for, and write towards this end for a strong candidate. Reading between the lines, if the role requires someone with good leadership skills, then hint towards this in your appraisal of this person.
3- Use standard letter writing formatting.
4- Introduce yourself in the first paragraph and why you are writing the letter.
5- Detail how you know the candidate in the next paragraph and provide a personal appreciation of their character.
6- Provide a more professional appreciation of the person in the next paragraph, detailing the qualities that you feel make this person appropriate for this opportunity. Write in positives only; should the person display negative qualities or the opposite of what the role requires, do not state so, instead, simply neglect to say anything. In this way you will give the candidate the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and the best possible chance of success without having your reputation on the line. If the candidate clearly has a weakness and you really feel that you need to mention it, phrase it in the positive by stating something such as “James has worked hard at improving his interpersonal skills”.
7- The reader may not be familiar with the candidate’s qualifications so make it easy for them by drawing comparisons to the rest of the populous or his/her peers (if it paints them in a good light of course).
8- If appropriate or should it possible to give examples, write in specifics rather than generalities. Tell the reader about a time that such and such did a great job at doing whatever when something or other happened.
9- Finish by inviting the reader to contact you with more information if required (be sure to have information about the candidate to hand if you do), and then close as you would any other letter.
Type the letter rather than handwrite it.
The first time you use the candidate’s name, use their full name. From then on in, it is appropriate to use just their first name.