It’s vital to know what to look out for in your letter of recommendation to make sure all the basics have been covered and that the reference is completed to an appropriate standard.
Whether you are the one in need of a reference or you have been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a coworker, we’re going to guide you through the basic structure and content of references to answer the question, ‘What do you write in a letter of recommendation?’
1. The greeting
You’ll need a solid start. The standard practice is ‘Dear (Miss, Mrs, Ms, Mr, etc) followed by the name of the person the letter is addressed to. If you are unsure of the name of the recipient, then ‘To whom it may concern’ will suffice nicely.
2. The intro
To ensure the intention of the letter is clear and that there is no confusion or mix-up as to whom the letter is referring, be sure to clearly state the name of the candidate, as well as the position they are applying for and what their position was at their previous place of employment. Here, you can also introduce yourself and perhaps note how you came to know the candidate.
3. The overview
The juicy part! Here is where you will outline the skills, attitude and achievements of the candidate during their time in previous employment. This is what will catch the eye of the recruiters, and so being clear and concise about the candidate (and their work) is the key here. It doesn’t have to be pages long; a short but engaging couple of sentences can be all it takes to do the trick.
4. Make it personal
Adding a personal anecdote about your experience working with the candidate is often a winner when it comes to recommendation letters. This is because the employer then has a first-hand account of someone’s workplace experience with said candidate. It is important to be specific when adding a personal touch to a reference, as verbatim examples add greater validity to the account.
5. Close it up
A short and sweet final testimonial about the candidate is the perfect way to finish a letter of recommendation – think of it as the conclusion that will make up the employer’s mind.
6. Sign off
All that is left to do is sign on the dotted line – ensure you have put your signature either written or electronically at the bottom of the letter and that your full name, position and details are printed underneath to validate the reference and in case the employers need to contact you further.
Our American neighbours at Grammarly go into further detail about what to include in a letter of recommendation, as well as offering examples of template sentences to help with the writing and structuring process.