How to Write a Recommendation Letter (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

11 February 2021

Writing a recommendation letter for someone can feel like a big responsibility. If you are asked to write a letter to endorse someone's abilities, it's often helpful to research some of the key features and formatting requirements before you begin writing. In this article, we explain what a recommendation letter is, explore steps for writing one and provide examples and templates to help guide you as you write a recommendation letter.

What is a recommendation letter?

A recommendation letter is a positive endorsement showcasing the strengths of an applicant and framing them as an ideal candidate for future employment or admission at an educational institution. In the letter, you have the opportunity to outline the characteristics, capabilities and qualities that make them the right person for a particular opportunity.

In a competitive environment, a good recommendation letter improves the candidate's chances of being considered for a position. A recommendation letter informs a hiring manager or admissions office of their strengths and weaknesses, which ultimately aids them in making a final decision in the selection process.

How to write a recommendation letter

The letter of recommendation you write should be professional, relevant and personalised. Here are some steps to follow to create an effective recommendation letter:

  1. Follow traditional formal letter writing rules

  2. Start with a brief opening line praising the candidate

  3. Outline the letter's intent

  4. Detail why the candidate is a good fit for the job

  5. Provide specific examples and anecdotes

  6. Write a closing statement

  7. Include a professional closing and signature

  8. Proofread for grammar, spelling and formatting errors

1. Follow traditional formal letter writing rules

Since a letter of recommendation is a professional letter to an employer, it should be treated as such by following a standard letter writing format. You'll write your information on the top left-hand corner, followed by your job title, company and professional address. If you know their name, use it at the start of the letter. Use Mr., Mrs., or Ms to remain professional when addressing it. If you don't know their name, use "To Whom it May Concern."

2. Start with a brief opening line praising the candidate

Begin the letter positively by expressing your enthusiasm for the opportunity to recommend the candidate. This grabs the hiring manager's attention and makes them want to learn more about why you're so excited to recommend them. For example: "I'm extremely excited to recommend Rajnish for the opportunity to work with your company."

3. Outline the letter's intent

The first paragraph of your recommendation letter should explain your purpose for writing, your relationship with the candidate and how long you've known the person you're recommending. Briefly mention your job title as well. Explaining your relationship shows that you're qualified to give an honest assessment. This also helps hiring managers better understand if your perspective is from a supervisor or employee standpoint. Here's an example:

"I serve as the vice president of marketing at Artisan Creations and was Rajnish's direct supervisor when he was the marketing manager. We collaborated closely on many projects that were crucial to enhancing both the marketing department and the company's overall efficiency. I've watched in admiration as he regularly and creatively solved many challenging projects over the years."

4. Detail why the candidate is a good fit for the job

Along with the candidate's achievements in their past role, you should also explain why they're a good fit for the open role. Do some research on the company's culture, visions and goals so that you can properly compare them with the candidate's values, goals and personality. If the candidate is making a career change, explain why they will be able to succeed in the new role or industry.

To successfully accomplish this, the candidate should share the job description with you. This will help you form a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities related to that position. When you're well-informed of the requirements, your letter of recommendation will be strong, unbiased, insightful and will reassure the hiring manager that the candidate is the right fit for the job.

5. Provide specific examples and anecdotes

Mention specific details about the person, such as why the candidate is well-suited for the role and what they can contribute if they're hired. Make your recommendation letter more credible by including some specific examples relating to the candidate's qualifications. The examples will give a good idea of how the candidate works in day-to-day operations.

Providing two to three specific anecdotes will add credibility to the letter. In short, your letter should be an effective and positive endorsement of the candidate. The best letters are those that reflect the candidate's skills and accomplishments and explain how the candidate will use them to be successful in the role they're applying for.

6. Write a closing statement

In the concluding paragraph, explain that you're open to providing more information about the candidate if necessary. You can mention your phone number or include an email address and a phone number in the signature of the letter. End the recommendation letter by summarising why you think the individual would be a good fit for the opportunity.

7. Include a professional closing phrase and signature

Finish the letter with your name and title. Use common closing phrases like "sincerely," "thank you" or "best regards." If you're giving a hard copy of the letter, sign the document underneath your typed name as shown below:

Sincerely,

Signature (for hard copy)

Writer Name

Job Title

8. Proofread for grammar, spelling and formatting errors

Double-check your letter to ensure it makes sense to the reader and is relevant. The recommendation letter should be brief and related to why the candidate is the perfect fit for the position. Maintain professionalism by checking for any grammatical or spelling errors, especially if you've written the hiring manager's name on it. Ensure everything is aligned and formatted properly as well so that the letter looks clean and professional.

Tips for writing an effective recommendation letter

Follow these tips to help you write a strong recommendation letter:

  • Craft a recommendation letter that highlights the candidate's achievements, qualifications, skills and educational background.

  • For future reference, keep a copy of the letter in your records.

  • Write the recommendation letter on your letterhead with your initials on it.

  • Get to know the candidate more by spending time with them to understand their objectives and goals.

  • To keep the letter brief and relevant, expand on just one or two key traits and skills the employee has that make them a great fit for the role.

Template of an email recommendation letter

Here is a template that you can use as a guide as you write your own recommendation letter:

Subject: Recommendation - [Applicant name]

[Your name]

[Your job title]

[Your company]

[Your professional address]

[Date]

[Salutation]

It is my pleasure to endorse [applicant's name] for [opportunity] in [organisation or institution]. [Details about your connection and experience with the candidate].

[Information about the applicant's skills, qualifications and experience].

[Endorsement for candidate's ability to excel in the specific opportunity]. If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at [your phone number and/or email address]

Sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your signature]

[Your position]

Sample recommendation letter

Here is an example of a recommendation letter written by a manager for a former employee:

Peter Patel

Manager, HR

Credible Industries

Industrial Area, Raipur, 492003

March 27, 2020

To whom it may concern:

It is my pleasure to endorse Sanjay Singh for employment in your esteemed organisation. I have known Sanjay for over three years, during which he worked as a communication executive in my office.

I was highly impressed with Singh's attitude and efficiency during the time that he worked with me. Sanjay is both very bright and highly professional. I am confident that he will display a high degree of commitment and discharge his job duties and responsibilities with diligence in your organisation. He is a fast learner and has shown the ability to absorb large volumes of information. Mr. Sanjay has demonstrated the ability to beautifully express information and ideas in both written and verbal forms.

Sanjay has also been successful in his efforts to engage the media in our outreach program. He has been able to convince editors to publish his exciting press releases and articles in their publications. Mr. Sanjay is willing to take risks and doesn't shy away from putting in extra hours of work. He is outgoing and willing to reach out to people and involve them with projects. I particularly appreciate Sanjay's team spirit and his willingness to help the office serve its stakeholders in a better manner.

I recommend Mr. Sanjay without reservation. I am confident that he will quickly build rapport with your staff and stakeholders. If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at 7000314778 or by email at ppatel@email.com

Sincerely,

Peter Patel

Manager HR