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Writing a recommendation letter for an employee or a coworker is no easy feat. While you’ve probably asked for recommendation letters in the past, you might not have much experience writing one.
And you want to write the best letter you can, as your letter could make or break someone’s job application. So how can you write an effective letter of recommendation that will impress a hiring manager?
This article will explain how to write a recommendation letter for a job, as well as provide five recommendation letter samples to guide you through the process.
Use the table of contents to jump straight to the samples, or keep reading for tips on how to write an excellent letter of recommendation.
- Recommendation letter sample 1
- Recommendation letter sample 2
- Recommendation letter sample 3
- Recommendation letter sample 4
- Recommendation letter sample 5
Why are recommendation letters important?
Before diving into the recommendation letter samples, let’s consider what role recommendation letters play in the job application process. Why do hiring managers ask for letters of recommendation? What purpose do reference letters serve?
Powerfully advocate for the job seeker
Well for one, you can powerfully advocate for a candidate in your letter. By throwing your support behind them, the hiring manager will see that this person has successfully worked with a boss or colleague in the past.
Add personality to a job application
Your letter can also help personalize someone’s application. A hiring manager might read through lots of resumes, but your letter will help the candidate come to life by shedding light on their personality and work style.
Point out past achievements
By discussing specific achievements a candidate has made, you can also help prove the job seeker will make similar accomplishments in the future. They say past behavior points to future behavior, so sharing anecdotes in your letter will help the hiring manager see what the job seeker would be like if they got hired.
Help the job seeker get hired
If you write a generic, vague letter, it might not do much to sway a hiring manager’s opinion. Or it could easily be outshined by someone else’s letter of recommendation, where the writer took the time to get personal and specific.
But if you take the time to craft a strong, thoughtful letter, it could help push the job seeker’s candidacy over the edge and land them the job — or at least a job interview!
6 ways to make your letter of recommendation effective
Assuming you want to help the job seeker as much as you can, how can you craft a letter that will help their application stand out? Here are a few ways to make your letter of recommendation powerful.
1. Customize your letter to the job at hand
Just as a job seeker should customize their cover letter to each job they apply to, so too should you customize your letter of recommendation to the job at hand. If you send off a general letter without mentioning what job the candidate is applying for, it will look weak compared to one that was written specifically for the role.
Let’s say you’re recommending an employee who worked in marketing and is now going after a director role. If you simply describe what it was like to work with that employee, your letter will fall flat.
Instead, you should talk about why you’re recommending them to become a director; discuss what makes them ready to move into a managerial role.
In your letter, name the new job and company to show that you understand what job the candidate is applying for and wholeheartedly recommend them for the specific position. Remember, the hiring manager is looking for someone who would be a good fit; your letter can go a long way toward persuading them this is the person they’ve been looking for.
2. Use 2-3 specific examples
While calling the candidate motivated, accountable, or creative is all well and good, you want to back up these descriptors with actual examples. Let’s say you’re talking about how the candidate is great at creative problem-solving.
Choose a specific time when a problem came along and talk about how the candidate solved it. By providing two to three specific anecdotes, you can prove the candidate really has the qualities you say they do.
Plus, your letter will come to life, rather than simply being a repeat of what’s already on the candidate’s resume. If it’s just a list of titles and certifications, it doesn’t add anything extra to the application.
Since you worked with the candidate in the past, you can shed light on their past achievements. By identifying a few specific accomplishments, your recommendation letter will become even more valuable and convincing.
Bonus points in the accomplishments you highlight match up to a core competency of the job description. For instance, if the new role wants someone who takes initiative, choose a story where the candidate took initiative in the past.
3. Speak to the candidate before you write
Writing a letter of recommendation is a tall order, and you don’t have to do it all on your own. Before you sit down to write, speak with the job seeker about their plans.
Let them tell you what the new role is and why they’re excited about it. They might even share their cover letter and application materials, so you can make sure your letter complements the story they’re presenting in their application.
You might even ask the candidate to provide two to three specific anecdotes they’d like you to include in your letter. If you worked closely with this person, you can probably come up with these on your own.
But sitting down to chat will help you get insight into their goals and craft an effective letter.
4. Explain why your opinion matters
Let’s face it, a recommendation letter from someone’s mom isn’t going to hold as much weight as one from their manager. A hiring manager wants to see the letter comes from a reputable source who has worked closely with the candidate in the past.
So somewhere in the beginning of your letter, explain who you are and what makes you qualified to recommend this person. That way, your reader will understand where you’re coming from and know to take your opinion seriously.
5. Start with enthusiasm
Another good way to grab your reader’s attention is to start your letter with a strong statement of support. Some strong openers include,
- As Juan’s former manager at XYZ Company, it’s my great honor to recommend him for the role of…
- It’s my great pleasure to recommend Laura for the position of…
Although it’s easy to start with “I’m writing to recommend…,” that opener will look lukewarm next to something more powerful. So try to hook your reader with enthusiasm right away.
6. Format your letter correctly
Although some companies are more formal than others, it’s still important to format your letter in an official manner. Use official letterhead if possible, making sure to include your name, position, workplace, and contact information.
At the top, include the contact information for the hiring manager (see samples below). Address your letter to a specific person, if possible.
Your letter will probably be three to five short paragraphs with spaces in between, and it doesn’t have to be longer than a page.
At the end, invite the reader to follow up with you via email or phone for any further information.
5 recommendation letter samples
Now that you have a sense of what makes a strong recommendation, check out these practices in action in these five recommendation letter samples. While your letter should be unique, these examples can act as recommendation letter templates and guide you as you write your own.
Ms. Lila Sullivan
Alpine High School
1 Swiss Road
Townton, Anywhere USA
Dear Ms. Sullivan,
It’s my great pleasure to recommend Stacy Nichols for the position of English teacher with Alpine High School. As the principal of Mountain High School, where Stacy has taught for the past five years, I’ve been extremely impressed with Stacy’s skills as an educator, commitment to her students, and creativity in the classroom. I have no doubt she will bring the same enthusiasm, rigor, and dedication to her new role in your school.
Along with her enthusiasm, positive energy, and attentiveness to students’ needs, Stacy brings a special talent to curriculum design. She led a committee last year to revamp the 11th and 12th grade curriculum, adding new books that better fulfilled our mission of inclusivity and diversity. She also helped revise our senior thesis project to bring in multimedia and make it more relevant to current events.
As a Google-certified educator, Stacy leads the way when it comes to bringing technology into the classroom. She’s also taken the time to train other teachers on how to incorporate technology as an effective vehicle for learning. This year, for instance, she led three trainings for the English department on how to incorporate the Google suite of tools into classroom lessons.
Finally, Stacy is special for her ability to connect with students and be sensitive to their needs. At the end of last year, I had several parents contact me directly about what a positive impact Stacy and her class had on their sons and daughters. This positive impact was obvious by the surprise party her students threw her on the last day of the semester!
While the team and I would love to keep Stacy here forever, we have to bid her farewell when she moves across the country next month. Although we’ll miss having her as part of the team, we’re 100% confident she’ll make an incredible addition to your English department at Alpine High School.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any more information at 617-716-7566 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mountain High School
Director of Marketing
55 Market St.
Dear Ms. Moor,
I’m writing to wholeheartedly recommend David Sanchez for the role of content writer with Facegramchat. As the director of marketing for Instabooksnap, I hired David when he was fresh out of college with his degree in English and communications.
David has grown tremendously over the years and has become one of the most valuable and prolific writers on our team. Although we’ll all be sad to see him go, I understand his to desire to work in a remote role, an arrangement our company unfortunately cannot offer him at this time.
David is a talented wordsmith, researcher, and editor who has a way with words. He’s extremely skilled at naturally incorporating keywords throughout his articles and has an intuitive sense of how to write SEO-optimized articles that rank well in organic search.
In fact, his article on XYZ is consistently the highest driver of traffic to our site with more than 5,000 unique visitors per day. Along with SEO-optimized articles, David is skilled at pitching original ideas, reporting on news, and interviewing sources to add original commentary to his pieces.
He’s also been a tremendous contributor to our team internally, crafting process documents to help our team run more smoothly and leading trainings in our weekly meetings. In the past month, David created a training document on best practices for competitor analysis for new writers, as well as led a training on the subject. These training documents will be an excellent addition to our onboarding guide for new team members.
David is extremely accountable to deadlines and skilled at working independently, while at the same time is proactive about contributing to the team and collaborating with his colleagues. Because he’s so accountable and communicative, I have no doubt that David will excel in a remote role with a distributed team.
As I’m sure you can tell from David’s portfolio, the quality of his writing speaks for itself. As his manager for four years, I can attest that David is an impressive, reliable, consistent, and creative employee who supports his colleagues, takes initiative, and is an absolute pleasure to work with.
Please feel free to contact me at 555-525-5252 or email@example.com for any more information.
Director of Marketing
We Sell Stuff Co.
5 Seller’s Lane
Dear Mr. Snow,
It’s my pleasure and honor to recommend Brian Danson for the account manager position with We Sell Stuff Co. Brian and I worked together for the past five years, where I was his manager at Sellers Gotta Sell, Inc.
Throughout his time with our sales team, Brian proved himself to be a hard-working, motivated, ambitious, charismatic, and reliable employee. His honesty, dependability, confidence, and excellent communication skills helped him become the top salesperson two years running, surpassing his quarterly goals by an incredibly impressive 22%.
Positive testimonials about working with Brian have poured in from our clients. Our team also holds Brian in the highest regard, not just because he’s a great person but also because he’s taken a proactive role in organizing office parties and celebrations.
While Brian’s next sales role will be remote, I have no doubt he’ll continue to make a positive impact on his teammates, wherever they’re located. He’s a talented salesperson and overall great person to be around. While we’ll miss having him on the team, I have no doubt he’ll exceed all expectations as a member of We Sell Stuff Co.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions at 677-776-6767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Sales
Sellers Gotta Sell, Inc.
5 London Lane
Los Angeles, CA
Director of Customer Support
Glossy Glasses Co.
1 Clients Way
Dear Ms. Rosenstein,
It’s my great pleasure to recommend Jill Harrison for the position of customer support representative with Glossy Glasses Co. Jill has worked as a customer support representative for our company for the past two years. As her direct supervisor, I’ve been incredibly impressed with her warmth, personability, and commitment to our customers.
Jill is a true people person who loves speaking with customers and resolving their questions and concerns. She truly embodies our mission to put the customer first and help solve issues in any way we can.
Positive reviews have flooded in from customers that have spoken with Jill about the customer service they received, with most recommending her for our top monthly incentive prize of an Amazon gift card (satisfied customers can also choose a free coffee or lunch).
Along with providing excellent support to our customers and helping build long-term relationships with our client base, Jill has been proactive about improving our team processes. She volunteered to outline our procedures and answers to common questions, creating documents that are a great help to our current team members and will be extremely useful when onboarding new hires.
Jill stands out for her kindness, commitment, and initiative, and I’m completely confident she will surpass all expectations when joining your customer service team.
Thanks for your time, and please feel free to contact me at 888-888-8888 or email@example.com.
Director of Customer Service
Director of Engineering
9 Computer Way
Dear Ms. Davos,
It’s my absolute pleasure to recommend Julie Brown for the role of web designer with Coding XX. Julie has worked with our company Outdoor Gear Inc. on a freelance basis for the past three years. From her work with us, as well as our Slack chats and video meetings, I’ve gotten to know her as a highly skilled and passionate web designer with a knack for visual design.
In her work with us, Julie redesigned our web page to our specifications while contributing great ideas herself on how to make our website user-friendly and beautiful for our users. Since her redesign, we’ve seen our time on page and conversion metrics increase by five times what they were with our old site.
Julie also ensured her new, elegant designs are consistent across all our branding platforms, including email newsletters, social media, and our outreach efforts with other sites. Her contributions have been absolutely invaluable, and it seems there’s no challenge too big for Julie to tackle.
Julie is especially passionate about your company’s mission to teach girls and young women to code, so I’m excited for her to have the opportunity to join your team. I’m completely confident her skills and experience as a web designer, combined with her commitment to your important cause, will make her an invaluable employee who will drive your organization forward.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions at 454-321-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outdoor Gear Inc.
Writing the best letter of recommendation you can
Now that you’ve read through the sample recommendation letters, you have a general recommendation letter template to guide your writing.
- Start with the name, job title, and company address of the hiring manager, and address your letter to a specific person.
- In your intro, explain why you’re writing and what your relationship to the job candidate is.
- In two to three short paragraphs, describe what’s so special about the candidate, and do your best to provide specific anecdotes to back up your assertions.
- Finally, conclude with a final message of support, and invite the hiring manager to contact you via phone or email with any questions.
Make your recommendation letter positive but accurate, and think of ways to make it stand out from others that might be in the pile.
And don’t forget to customize your letter to the specific job. Maybe the new company has a mission that the job seeker is especially passionate about, for instance, or perhaps you know the job seeker would excel in a remote role where they can have a flexible schedule.
By following these tips, you’ll be sure to write a strong letter of recommendation for your employee or colleague. Your letter might even be that special sauce that scores them the job!