How To Write A Letter Of Recommendation | Guide + (Samples)

A pen on top of a letter of recommendation.

Recommendation letters are a common part of the corporate culture and educational institutions. A colleague, intern, or student could reach out to you for a recommendation letter. Often, this means they respect you and your contributions to their lives. It also means they value the input you’re expected to make. When in need of a recommendation letter, people reach out to those who can speak to their competencies.

So, if you receive any such notification, writing a letter becomes necessary if you feel good about the candidate. You’ll need to learn how to write a strong letter for that purpose. Is there a letter of recommendation template or reference letter examples? What should a letter of recommendation contain? We will answer all these questions and other specific details in this guide.


What Is A Letter Of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is written on behalf of a candidate by someone who can vouch for their competence and performance. This can be in terms of their educational status or their previous work experience.

Understandably, letters of recommendation are crucial to how the world works. New employers or schools want to understand the track records of their potential candidates. After all, you must have worked or attended a school somewhere in the past. What do your supervisors and mentors have to say? This is the rationale behind the concept of a recommendation letter.

These letters offer great insights into the abilities of a candidate. They help recruiters make informed decisions and better understand their potential employees or students. When you write this letter, it’s important to do so honestly. A letter of recommendation can make or break a candidate’s job application. When people reach out for one, they expect you to speak positively, especially if you’ve had a previous great relationship.

Whether you’re writing a recommendation letter as a teacher, colleague, or manager, writing a great recommendation letter can strengthen a candidate’s application and move them to the next stage of their application.


What To Include In A Letter Of Recommendation

A young woman sitting at her desk reading a letter.

The essence of a recommendation letter is contained in the title — you’re recommending someone. Therefore, the first part of your letter should establish your relationship with said individual. You’ll need to make references to your job title and the individual’s role or job title when you worked with each other. 

It’s also important to mention the nature of your relationship. For instance, a supervisor will be better positioned to write about a student’s academic excellence. A manager is better suited to discuss the work ethic of someone they managed. Essentially, it’s important to establish that you’re adequately positioned to speak about the candidate for the application’s purpose. 

You’ll also typically mention the length of time for which you have known the candidate. Once you’ve established these key factors, you can proceed to the body of the letter.


— Body Of The Letter

This is where you go into the details of the candidate’s competence. This part of the letter should discuss the skills and positive attributes of the individual. Write about the skills that make them an asset to a team. Reference the strengths you’ll like to discuss in detail.

Following that, you should establish the scenarios where the person has exhibited the different skills you’ve referenced. The potential employer would expect to read about projects you both worked on or an assignment you gave to them and how well he/she executed it. It’s crucial to provide very specific examples, as this is how to make your story believable. Generic stories won’t serve the purpose, as they could have happened to anyone.

You should also cite some accomplishments the individual partook in that contributed significantly to your organization. If it’s a job role, quantifying the individual’s contributions in numbers, either in percentages or some sort of valuation, will be symbolic. For instance, “when John led our sales team for a period of two years, he was able to drive up sales about 42% YoY.”


— Closing Part Of The Letter

You should end your letter on a promising note. Your task here is to make the recruiter feel they are making the right decision by bringing the candidate on board. You might even mention that you’d hire the said person again if you had your chance. You can also mention that the person is a great addition to any team. This is similar to how you also close a cover letter.


— Provide Your Contact Information

You should share your contact information after your closing statement. This is important as it shows the recruiter that you’re available if they are looking to reach out. To further help the candidate, you can mention it outright that you’re eager to share further information if necessary and can be reached via phone number/email.


Types Of Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters exist for different purposes. Some of the reasons a candidate might reach out to you for such a letter includes academic and work purposes. The goal of every recommendation letter is to put this individual in a good light. No one reaches out for a bad recommendation.


— Academic Recommendation Letter

If you’re writing a recommendation letter for a student, you should speak about their academic performance when they were in your institution. You should also talk about their positive attitude toward learning, ethics, and crucial skills to improve their chances of getting that particular program they are applying for.

A student might request a recommendation letter for different academic reasons. This makes it important to carefully study why they are reaching out, so you can write a letter that meets their needs.

Some of these reasons include:


  • Grants
  • Internship
  • Undergraduate college
  • A specific scholars’ program
  • Graduate study


Always write your recommendation letter to reflect the needs in question. If they are applying to a scholars’ program, you should definitely speak to their academic excellence and how they maximize opportunities handed to them. The University of Central Florida has provided some tips for this purpose.


— Professional Recommendation Letter

This is another common form of recommendation letter where a candidate reaches out to a former employer to recommend them for a new role. Of course, you should find grace with your former employer if you resigned from the company on a good note.

The focus of a recommendation letter here should be strictly on your professional performance. The new employer is not looking to learn details about the candidate’s educational qualification or high school extracurricular activities. Instead, the recruiters want to understand how they’ve handled past projects and how much success they achieved. They want to learn about the candidate’s work ethic and whether you’re result-oriented. You should indicate these key things when reaching out to whom it may concern.

Importantly, it’s a great workplace culture for employers to be prepared to write a letter of recommendation for employees when they leave for another role.


— Personal Recommendation Letter

Sometimes, landlords will require new tenants to submit a recommendation letter as one of the requirements for their new home. The expectation here is to see their former landlord speak about their conduct as a tenant and whether they left their previous rental on a good note.

If you’re writing a letter of personal nature, it’s important to note the landlord’s concerns and mention things that allay those fears in your letter. Keep the letter positive and speak to the positive habits of the tenant.


Tips For Writing The Best Recommendation Letter

Some tips will help you write a great recommendation letter. Keeping these tips in mind will go a long way in helping you provide useful content that meets the candidate’s needs. We discuss some of these tips in this section.


— Do Your Research

Do your research before writing the letter. This doesn’t have to be intensive. Understandably, you have a busy schedule. However, you should still do some light research to understand the job description of the role or the scholars’ program the candidate is applying for. This gives you insight into how you should tailor your letter to reflect their needs.

A little research on LinkedIn or the institution’s website will provide you with all the required information. You should also speak with the candidate to understand precisely what they need the letter to achieve. Taking these steps will help you write a great recommendation letter.


— Keep The Letter Relevant

It’s important to keep your statements and references relevant. If a candidate is applying for a sales job, it’s immaterial mentioning their fun experience while on vacation with them. Instead, speak to their abilities in driving numbers up and convincing customers to purchase products.

A letter of recommendation should be precise and straightforward. The goal is to provide the reader with useful information to help the application process. Therefore, look at what they are applying for and itemize their skills that match the role. Discuss these skills and experiences carefully. Then, connect them to the role and how it will impact the candidate’s delivery.


— Use Anecdotes & Specific References

The recruiter doesn’t know about the candidate. But you do. You need to allude to actual stories and references to make your story believable. You can mention specific projects (with names inclusive if permissible) that the candidate worked on and how well they performed. Furthermore, discuss the impacts of the candidate’s contributions in numbers to help the recruiter get a clear picture.


— Maintain A Friendly Tone

You’re writing a recommendation letter about someone you know. You’ll want to maintain a friendly yet professional tone whether you’re accepting a job offer, conducting interviews, or writing a professional letter. In this case, this indicates that you indeed are familiar with the individual and are comfortable writing about them.


Don’t Write A Recommendation Letter If You Can’t

Sometimes, a candidate might reach out to you, and you might consider yourself the wrong person for the job. This can be for many reasons. You might not know enough about their work ethic, might not feel positive about their work, or might even have a grudge against them. The best approach in this scenario is to decline to write a letter.

A great way to decline is to mention to them you don’t have enough familiarity with their work to write an effective letter of recommendation. Understand that the point of a recommendation letter is its effectiveness in improving the candidate’s hiring chances. Where this is absent, the letter defeats its purpose.


Requesting A Letter Of Recommendation For Yourself

What do you do when you need a recommendation letter? How do you choose who to approach? How do you approach them? The first thing to note is the importance of maintaining a good relationship with people whose help you might still need. These include your supervisor, former employees, and former employers. This is why you need great communication skills generally.

When you’re looking to reach out for a recommendation letter, it’s advisable to contact someone you have a positive relationship with. This can be your supervisor back in school. It can be one of your lecturers. It’s important to reach out to a qualified person who can write about you in detail.

A recommendation letter from a lecturer that can speak about you adequately is more effective than an abstract letter from a supervisor. You don’t want a recommendation letter containing cliches on the internet. Being a crucial part of the application process, you need the best recommendation letter.

Once you’ve identified who to reach out to, send them an email. Since you need professional assistance, it’s important to keep things professional, even if you’re casual with the said person. In the email, be comprehensive about what you need. Discuss the role or program you’re applying for, what stage you’re in and what effect you need the letter to have. It’s important to provide the person with all the necessary information they need to write an effective letter.

Furthermore, send this notification way before the deadline. You need to understand people are busy and it might take some time before they get to writing your letter. Provide them with a convenient timeline. Additionally, send all relevant links that make their work easy to do. You should also ensure your email is structured in a way that they are easily enticed to complete the task.


Letter Of Recommendation Template

A recommendation letter is similar to a business letter format — introduction, body, and conclusion. This section provides you with a recommendation letter template that you can leverage to write yours. Having an effective template makes your work a lot easier. Here you go:



Your Address

Recipient’s Address


Dear (Title/Recipient’s name),

I write this letter concerning (candidate’s name) who has applied for the (job title) role in your company. I and (candidate’s name) have had a great relationship since we hired her in (year of hire) into our (job role at your company — say sales for the intent of this template) department. We hired her right after her graduation, and increased revenue for her team by 47% YoY, offering her the atmosphere to grow her skills.

She led our sales department from 2016 to 2019 and, within this period, grew our sales number by up 47% YoY, the second-highest spike we’ve witnessed in the past ten years. She has been a great addition to the team, especially given how fast she learns and how easily she comes up with innovative ideas. Her enthusiasm and worth ethic are two key factors I found appealing. We set some KPIs for her when she came on board, and within her first two years, she had surpassed these metrics and become a great asset to the company. She is competent, smart, and driven. During her time here, our customers grew fond of her even.

I believe that (mention candidate’s name here) has great potential and will always be a fantastic addition to any team. I am confident in her abilities and have no reservations. I’d hire again, in fact, if we had the opportunity.

Kindly reach out if you have any more questions or need any clarifications.


(Your Name)


Sample Letter Of Recommendation

Above, we provided you with a template you can use. In this section, we shall fill out the blank sections for you to get an idea of how an actual recommendation letter appears.


May 19, 2022

Luis Marrero

Sales Manager

(Company Name)

(Company Address)

(Telephone Number)

(Email Address)



Katie McCarthy

Sales Director

(Company Name)

(Company Address)

Dear Ms. McCarthy,

I understand that my former employee, Suzanne Lacrosse, is applying for a role in your company. I am writing this recommendation letter to give you great insights into her abilities and competence, especially as she surpassed her KPIs while working with us. Suzanne came on board in 2015 and worked in our sales department. Within two years of employment, she executed numerous projects, increasing our MRR target and devising new ideas to sell our products and services.

During the period in which she worked in our sales department, Suzanne increased our MRR by 21%. I speak in complete honesty when I say she was an unstoppable force for our company and one of the hires we remain grateful for. She learns with speed and executes even more thoroughly. Her incredible work ethic has earned her the respect of our clients and her co-workers, including myself.

She is competent, personable, and highly interactive. She developed great relationships with our clients, which significantly impacted how we retained existing customers. I believe Suzanne will always add value to any team, and you’ll be making a great choice to onboard her. Confidently, I will hire again if the opportunity presents itself.

You can reach out to me for additional questions or clarifications.


Luis Marrero


The Bottom Line

Writing letters of recommendation is a great way to help candidates boost their hiring chances. They might have ticked all the boxes set by the recruiters. But often, hiring managers or admissions officers want to learn about people’s previous experiences and the perception of their coworkers or supervisors.

Whether you want to write a professional letter of recommendation or write a letter of recommendation for academic purposes, this guide has provided a comprehensive answer. It also includes reference letter examples you can leverage to write an effective one. You should have no difficulty writing a great recommendation letter with the tips discussed.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I write a letter of recommendation for a coworker?

When a coworker reaches out to you for a recommendation letter, you should first inquire about the role requirements and perhaps ask them to send you a detailed description. A recommendation letter for work should focus on the candidate’s professional experience when you worked together.

Establish how well they performed while working at the previous company and then connect this to their new role. Recruiters or the admissions committee want to see whether they are making the right choice by bringing the candidate on board. Your job is to provide great insights that make it convenient to answer this question positively. Some of the things to discuss include skills, references, and anecdotes highlighting the candidate’s abilities.


How long should a letter of recommendation be?

A recommendation letter should be long enough. It shouldn’t be too long. Understand that precision is important. This is why you need to ensure all your sentences contribute meaningfully to the letter’s goal. 

The letter should contain three parts — the introduction, where you establish your relationship with the candidate; the body of the letter, where you go into details; and the conclusion, where you reassure the recruiter.


What are the dos and don’ts of writing a letter of recommendation?

Perhaps the most important thing about a recommendation letter is to make it fit for purpose. Again, this is why it’s important to understand the candidate’s needs. Do not write a recommendation letter about a vacation experience when the candidate is applying for a sales job. 

Furthermore, you should make your references factual. Even though the goal of a recommendation letter is to put the candidate in a good light, you should still ensure you maintain the truth. A great hack here is always to pronounce the candidate’s strengths instead of mentioning things that never happened.


How do you write a good letter of recommendation for a student?

The primary question to answer here is, “why does the student need the recommendation letter?” Study the scholars’ program the student is applying for and the requirements. Then leverage that knowledge to write a relevant and suitable recommendation letter that improves the student’s chances.

This letter should highlight the student’s academic performance and how well they approach projects. Your goal is to make the recruiter understand that the student is a great fit for the program. You should also mention notable values and habits of the student that can meaningfully impact their chances. Some adjectives to mention include confidence, intelligence, being result-oriented, being innovative, and more.