In such a competitive job market, employers sometimes request recommendation letters. This can be a part of the application process to be included along with a resume and cover letter. As an employer or teaching professional, you might be asked from time to time to write one of these letters. It can seem daunting because someone else’s job acceptance is relying on what you have to say about them, but everyone can write a recommendation letter well following the simple steps below.
How to Write a Recommendation Letter: Simple Steps to Follow
Use Standard Format
A letter of recommendation is like any other formal letter and uses the same stylistic guidelines and conventions. Your address should be written under your name in the top right corner along with the date written out. Below on the left you should write the recipient’s name along with their address if known. Then use a formal business greeting to begin the letter.
Collect the Candidate’s Information
Always ask the person who wants you to write a recommendation letter for their resume or CV. This will make the process easier as you begin writing because you’ll have their achievements as well as how they are marketing themselves in front of you. Try to appeal to the same things they do as a way of backing up their resume.
Address Specific Requirements
If you’re writing a recommendation for a specific job, make sure to ask for details about the job position they are applying for. The best letters will be written with that job’s requirements in mind. Read the job description yourself so that you can be sure to include information about the person applying that is relevant to the position. Highlight the skills they possess that the employer is looking for!
Explain Your Relationship
Typically the first paragraph of your letter should explain how you and the person applying know each other (so this is something important you need to well address when it comes how to write a recommendation letter).Be sure to give your job title and the one they held when you knew each other, and provide what kind of professional relationship this involved. For instance, clarify whether you supervised that person or what specific responsibilities this relationship entailed. How long you’ve known the person is also usually expected.
Don’t Generalize Qualifications
When addressing the applicant’s qualifications, include specific instances and examples of how this person has exemplified these qualifications while working for you. It’s not enough to just say that they are responsible and good with time-management. Go into detail as to how they have proven to you that they have these skills and use them at work.
Share Contact Information
Either as a header or at the end of your letter, it’s helpful to provide a telephone number or email address that the employer can contact you at if they have any further questions. It looks even better if you add a note that you would be more than happy to share additional information about the potential employee. This reflects well on them because it shows they must have been a valuable worker for you to go out of your way to help them gain other employment.
Don’t Exaggerate or Lie
You want the person you’re promoting to look desirable, but don’t build them up so much that they can’t possibly live up to those expectations the new employer now has. It also doesn’t sound plausible, and you don’t want to lose your credibility by exaggerating too much. At the same time, everyone has flaws. You don’t have to hide these or lie about them though. Just phrase things in a way that explains how they’ve worked on their weaknesses to be a better employee.
Don’t Be Too Brief
Here’s another point that’s easy to miss about how to write a recommendation letter. If you’ve only written one or two short paragraphs, then it doesn’t look like you have much to say about that person. Which looks like you either don’t know them well (and aren’t a credible resource for a recommendation) or you don’t have much to say about them (and they weren’t that great of an employee). Do try to keep the letter to one page, but provide details and really map out your key points.
Give an Affirmative Closing
At the very end of your letter, say one more time that you recommend the applicant given the reasons you have just finished summing up. This is also where, if you feel comfortable enough, you should invite the reader to contact you if they have any other questions.
If you truly feel that you have nothing positive to say about the person coming to you to write a recommendation letter, don’t do it anyway. The employer will be able to tell if your recommendation doesn’t seem genuine, and it’s professionally unethical to promote someone that you don’t believe is qualified anyway. There’s nothing wrong with turning down a recommendation, and there are many ways to do this as peaceably as possible.