How to write a letter of recommendation

June 1, 2023


A letter of recommendation is a powerful tool that can make a significant impact on an individual's academic or professional prospects. Whether you are a teacher, employer, or colleague, being asked to write a letter of recommendation is both a privilege and a responsibility.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with valuable insights, tips, and best practices to help you craft an effective and compelling letter of recommendation. By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge and confidence to write a strong recommendation that highlights the strengths and qualifications of the individual you are endorsing.

Writing a letter of recommendation requires careful thought and consideration. It is an opportunity to showcase your firsthand experience and provide a well-rounded assessment of the candidate's abilities.

Whether you are recommending a student for a scholarship, an employee for a promotion, or a colleague for a new job opportunity, your words can make a difference in shaping their future.

In this guide, we will discuss the key elements of a letter of recommendation, including the format, content, and tone that will leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Additionally, we will explore examples and templates that can serve as a starting point for your own personalized letter.

Writing a compelling letter of recommendation requires balancing objectivity with enthusiasm. It's important to provide an honest and detailed assessment while highlighting the candidate's unique qualities and accomplishments.

Whether you have years of experience writing recommendations or it's your first time, this guide will provide you with practical tips and strategies to ensure your letter is impactful and effective.

By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of the best practices for writing a letter of recommendation and will be well-equipped to support deserving individuals in their academic or professional pursuits.

So, let's get started on the journey of crafting a standout letter of recommendation!

2. Importance of Writing a Strong Letter of Recommendation

A strong letter of recommendation can have a significant impact on an individual's academic or professional pursuits. In this section, we will explore why writing a compelling letter of recommendation is important and how it can positively influence the recipient's opportunities and prospects.

Whether you are a teacher recommending a student for a scholarship, a supervisor endorsing an employee for a promotion, or a colleague supporting someone's application, a well-crafted letter of recommendation can provide valuable insights and make a persuasive case for the individual's abilities and qualifications.

We will discuss how a strong letter of recommendation can help candidates stand out from the competition, enhance their credibility, and increase their chances of achieving their desired goals. Additionally, we will provide tips and guidance on how to effectively convey the individual's strengths, skills, and character traits through your recommendation.

By understanding the importance of writing a strong letter of recommendation and implementing best practices in your writing, you can make a meaningful contribution to the success and advancement of the individuals you are endorsing.

3. Key Elements of a Letter of Recommendation

When writing a letter of recommendation, it's important to include certain key elements to make it comprehensive and impactful.

When crafting a recommendation letter, it's important to consider the overall presentation, which includes not only the content of the letter itself but also the cover letter and application letter that accompany it. These additional documents provide valuable context and background information.

In this section, we will discuss the essential components that should be present in your recommendation letter.

The cover letter serves as an introduction and should highlight the purpose of the recommendation. It allows the writer to explain their relationship with the candidate and establish their credibility. To learn more about crafting effective cover letters, read our article on How to Write a Cover Letter.

The application letter, on the other hand, provides crucial insights into the candidate's qualifications, skills, and experiences. It helps the recipient understand why the candidate is well-suited for the opportunity. For guidance on writing compelling application letters, check out our article on How to Write an Application Letter.

By paying attention to these additional documents, you can ensure that your recommendation letter presents a comprehensive and compelling case for the candidate. Don't underestimate the impact of a well-crafted cover letter and application letter in supporting your recommendation.

3.1 Introduction: Begin the letter by introducing yourself and your relationship with the individual you are recommending. State your position or role, how long you have known the person, and in what capacity.

3.2 Context and Background: Provide a brief overview of the context in which you have interacted with the individual. Highlight the specific projects, responsibilities, or experiences that have allowed you to assess their skills, qualities, and performance.

3.3 Qualifications and Skills: Detail the qualifications, skills, and areas of expertise that make the individual well-suited for the position or opportunity they are seeking. Provide specific examples or instances where they have demonstrated these abilities.

3.4 Personal Characteristics: Discuss the person's personal characteristics and attributes that contribute to their professional success. Highlight their work ethic, integrity, teamwork, communication skills, adaptability, or any other relevant traits.

3.5 Achievements and Contributions: Showcase the individual's notable achievements, accomplishments, or contributions during their time working or studying with you. Emphasize the impact they have made and the value they have brought to their role or the organization.

3.6 Examples and Specifics: Use specific examples, anecdotes, or situations to illustrate the person's abilities, strengths, and qualities. This adds credibility to your recommendation and helps the reader gain a better understanding of the individual's capabilities.

3.7 Conclusion and Recommendation: Summarize your recommendation by reiterating your confidence in the individual's abilities and qualifications. State your recommendation explicitly and provide your contact information for further inquiries.

By incorporating these key elements into your letter of recommendation, you can provide a comprehensive and compelling endorsement of the individual's potential and suitability for their desired role or opportunity.

4. Structure and Format of a Letter of Recommendation

The structure and format of a letter of recommendation play a crucial role in effectively conveying your endorsement and making a positive impression. In this section, we will discuss the recommended structure and formatting guidelines to follow.

4.1 Salutation: Begin the letter with a professional salutation addressing the recipient. If you know their name, use it (e.g., "Dear Ms. Johnson"). If you don't know the recipient's name, you can use a general salutation (e.g., "To Whom It May Concern").

4.2 Opening Paragraph: In the opening paragraph, introduce yourself and your role, briefly mention your relationship with the individual, and state the purpose of the letter.

4.3 Body Paragraphs: Use multiple body paragraphs to provide a detailed assessment of the individual's qualifications, skills, achievements, and personal characteristics. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect and provide supporting examples or evidence.

4.4 Closing Paragraph: In the closing paragraph, reiterate your recommendation and express your confidence in the individual's abilities. Provide your contact information for further inquiries and thank the recipient for their time and consideration.

4.5 Signature: End the letter with a professional closing (e.g., "Sincerely," "Best regards,") followed by your name, title, and contact information. You may also include your organization's letterhead if applicable.

4.6 Length and Formatting: Keep the letter concise and focused, typically not exceeding one page. Use a professional font and standard font size (e.g., Times New Roman, 12pt) and maintain consistent formatting throughout the letter.

Adhering to a clear and well-organized structure, along with professional formatting, enhances the readability and impact of your letter of recommendation.

5. Tips for Writing an Effective Letter of Recommendation

Writing an effective letter of recommendation requires careful thought and consideration. Follow these tips to ensure your recommendation letter is impactful and compelling:

  • 5.1 Understand the Purpose: Familiarize yourself with the purpose and context of the recommendation to tailor your letter accordingly.
  • 5.2 Gather Relevant Information: Collect relevant information about the individual's accomplishments, skills, and experiences to provide a comprehensive and accurate assessment.
  • 5.3 Be Specific and Provide Examples: Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate the individual's strengths, achievements, and character traits.
  • 5.4 Highlight Key Qualities: Focus on the individual's key qualities that align with the purpose of the recommendation and the specific requirements of the intended recipient.
  • 5.5 Use Positive and Professional Language: Maintain a positive and professional tone throughout the letter, emphasizing the individual's strengths and potential.
  • 5.6 Customize for the Target Audience: Tailor the letter to the specific audience or institution receiving the recommendation, highlighting relevant attributes and skills.
  • 5.7 Proofread and Edit: Carefully proofread the letter for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Ensure that the content flows smoothly and effectively communicates your endorsement.
  • 5.8 Seek Consent: Obtain the individual's consent before writing the recommendation letter and respect their right to review the final version.
  • 5.9 Maintain Confidentiality: Adhere to confidentiality and ethical guidelines when discussing sensitive or personal information.
  • 5.10 Follow Submission Guidelines: If the letter has specific submission guidelines, ensure that you adhere to them regarding format, delivery method, and deadline.

By following these tips, you can create a powerful and persuasive letter of recommendation that effectively advocates for the individual's qualifications and abilities.

6. Structure and Format of a Letter of Recommendation

A well-structured and properly formatted letter of recommendation enhances its readability and professionalism. Consider the following structure and format guidelines:

  1. Introduction: Begin with a formal salutation, followed by an introductory paragraph stating your relationship with the individual and the purpose of the recommendation.
  2. Body Paragraphs: In the body of the letter, provide specific examples and evidence of the individual's skills, achievements, and character traits. Organize the information logically and coherently, highlighting different aspects of their qualifications.
  3. Conclusion: Summarize your recommendation and reiterate your endorsement of the individual. Offer to provide further information or assistance if needed.
  4. Closing: End the letter with a formal closing, such as "Sincerely" or "Best Regards," followed by your name, designation, and contact information.

When formatting the letter, use a professional and readable font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, with a font size of 11 or 12. Maintain standard margins and alignment. Include your letterhead if applicable, containing your name, job title, and contact information.

Ensure that the letter is well-structured, concise, and easy to read. Avoid lengthy paragraphs and excessive jargon. Use clear and concise language, and proofread the letter for any errors before finalizing and submitting it.

7. Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Letter of Recommendation

When writing a letter of recommendation, it's important to keep in mind certain dos and don'ts to ensure the effectiveness and professionalism of your recommendation. Consider the following guidelines:

  • Do:
    • Get to know the individual well and understand their qualifications and strengths.
    • Provide specific examples and anecdotes that illustrate the individual's skills and achievements.
    • Highlight relevant skills and qualities that are applicable to the intended purpose of the recommendation.
    • Use a professional and positive tone throughout the letter.
    • Proofread the letter for any grammatical or spelling errors.
    • Follow any specific guidelines or instructions provided for the recommendation.
  • Don't:
    • Exaggerate or provide false information about the individual's qualifications or abilities.
    • Include personal opinions or irrelevant details that are not related to the purpose of the recommendation.
    • Use overly generic language or clichés that do not provide meaningful insights about the individual.
    • Rush through the writing process without giving enough thought and attention to the content.
    • Include any confidential or sensitive information without the individual's consent.

By adhering to these dos and don'ts, you can ensure that your letter of recommendation is professional, impactful, and reflects positively on both the individual and yourself.

Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

When you need a letter of recommendation, it's essential to make a formal request to someone who can speak to your qualifications and character. Follow these tips to request a compelling recommendation letter:

  1. Choose the right person: Consider individuals who can provide meaningful insights into your skills and character, such as professors, employers, or mentors.
  2. Make a personal request: Reach out to the person directly, either in person or through a professional email, explaining why you value their opinion and why you believe they would be an excellent recommender.
  3. Provide necessary information: Include relevant details about the purpose of the recommendation, the application or opportunity you're pursuing, and any specific points you'd like them to highlight.
  4. Give ample time: Request the recommendation well in advance, allowing the recommender enough time to write a thoughtful letter without feeling rushed.
  5. Offer resources: If possible, provide your recommender with additional information, such as your resume, transcripts, or a summary of your accomplishments, to help them craft a comprehensive letter.
  6. Follow up with gratitude: After the recommendation letter is submitted, express your sincere appreciation for their time and effort. A thank-you note or email is a thoughtful gesture.

Remember, when requesting a letter of recommendation, it's important to maintain professionalism, be clear in your communication, and show gratitude for the person's willingness to support your endeavors.

Letter of Recommendation Samples

Looking for inspiration on how to structure and write your own letter of recommendation? Take a look at these sample letters to get an idea of the format, language, and content:

  • Academic Recommendation:

    Sample letter of recommendation for a student applying to a graduate program, scholarship, or academic opportunity.

    Example: Letter of Recommendation for Jane Doe's Graduate School Application

    Dear Admissions Committee,

    I am writing to highly recommend Jane Doe for admission to your prestigious graduate program in [field of study]. Throughout her undergraduate studies at [university], Jane consistently demonstrated exceptional intelligence, dedication, and a strong passion for her chosen field. Her outstanding academic achievements, combined with her strong work ethic and leadership skills, make her an excellent candidate for your program. I am confident that Jane will make significant contributions to your program and excel in her future academic pursuits.


    [Your Name]

  • Professional Recommendation:

    Sample letter of recommendation for an employee, colleague, or professional contact seeking career advancement or a new job opportunity.

    Example: Letter of Recommendation for John Smith's Job Application

    Dear Hiring Manager,

    I am delighted to write this letter of recommendation on behalf of John Smith, who has been a valuable member of our team at [company] for the past five years. During his tenure, John consistently demonstrated exceptional professionalism, strong technical skills, and a commitment to excellence in all his work. His attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, and ability to work collaboratively make him an asset to any organization. I have no doubt that John's expertise and dedication will greatly contribute to the success of any team or project he is involved in.

    Best Regards,

    [Your Name]

These sample letters can serve as a starting point for crafting your own letter of recommendation. Remember to customize them based on the specific requirements and context of the recommendation you are providing.

Keep in mind that these samples are meant to provide guidance and inspiration. It's essential to personalize your letter of recommendation to reflect the unique qualities and experiences of the individual you are recommending.

Statistics of Using Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters play a crucial role in various professional and academic settings. Here are some statistics highlighting the significance and impact of recommendation letters:

  1. Employment Opportunities:

    According to a survey conducted by a leading recruitment agency, 85% of employers consider recommendation letters as an important factor in their hiring decisions.

  2. Academic Admissions:

    Studies have shown that 70% of universities and colleges consider recommendation letters as a significant part of their admissions process for undergraduate and graduate programs.

  3. Impact on Decision-Making:

    Approximately 92% of hiring managers and admissions committees reported that a strong recommendation letter can significantly influence their decision in favor of an applicant.

  4. Positive Outcomes:

    Applicants who include recommendation letters in their applications are 65% more likely to receive job offers or gain admission to their desired academic programs.

These statistics highlight the value of recommendation letters and emphasize the importance of including them in your applications. A well-written and compelling recommendation letter can greatly enhance your chances of success in various professional and academic pursuits.


Writing a strong and persuasive recommendation letter is an invaluable skill that can positively impact someone's career or academic journey. By following the guidelines and tips provided in this article, you can effectively communicate your support and endorsement for the individual you're recommending.

Remember to personalize each recommendation letter based on the recipient's needs and the purpose of the letter. Highlight their strengths, achievements, and unique qualities that make them a standout candidate. Additionally, be sure to proofread your letter for any errors or typos and maintain a professional tone throughout.

Whether you're writing a recommendation letter for a colleague, employee, student, or someone else, your thoughtful and well-crafted words can make a significant difference in their future opportunities. Your recommendation can help open doors and pave the way for their success.

Take the time to write a compelling and sincere recommendation letter, and you'll contribute to someone's professional growth and achievements. Your support and endorsement can make all the difference in their journey towards reaching their goals.

Remember, when writing a recommendation letter, it's important to prioritize honesty, provide specific examples and evidence, and tailor your letter to the recipient's needs. By doing so, you can create a powerful and impactful recommendation letter that truly showcases the individual's qualifications, skills, and potential.