How to Write a Letter of Recommendation: A Comprehensive Guide

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A Message to Challenger

Hello Challenger! Thank you for choosing to read this article on how to write a letter of recommendation. Recommending someone can be a powerful tool; it can help people land their dream jobs, get into the school of their choice or even help them win that scholarship they’ve been hoping for. Writing a great recommendation letter takes time, effort, and attention to detail, and with this guide, we aim to provide you with all the necessary tips and techniques to help you write a fantastic letter of recommendation. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!


Writing a letter of recommendation might sound easy, but it requires skill, diplomacy, and some know-how on the dos and don’ts of recommendation writing. In this section, we will examine the importance of recommendation letters and the key elements that should be effectively included in every letter of recommendation.

Firstly, why are recommendation letters so important? Many academic institutions, scholarship juries, and hiring managers use recommendation letters to assess the applicant’s qualifications, skills, and character traits. Recommendations also provide additional insight and perspective on the applicant, which can be helpful in distinguishing candidates who may have similar qualifications. It can also provide insight into how well the applicant would perform in a new setting or environment.

When writing a recommendation letter, it is important to remember that the letter is not just about the person you are recommending; it is also about you. Your writing can influence the recipient’s view of the applicant, and it is essential to present yourself, the applicant, and the relationship between the two of you in the best possible manner. With that in mind, let’s look at the key elements that make up a successful recommendation letter.

The Key Elements of A Successful Letter of Recommendation

1. An introduction

The opening paragraph should include your name, your position, and your relationship with the applicant, as well as the reason why you are writing the letter.

2. An overview of the applicant’s position and his or her qualifications

Provide an overview of the applicant’s position, along with their job title or academic pursuits. Also, mention their qualifications, including their academic achievements, work experience, relevant skills, personal traits, and other credentials that are relevant to the position or program they are applying for.

3. The purpose of your recommendation

Explain why you are recommending the applicant, along with specific comments on their suitability for the position or program they are applying for.

4. Specific examples to support your recommendation

It’s one thing to recommend an applicant, but it’s another to provide tangible examples supporting the recommendation. Use specific examples to illustrate the applicant’s accomplishments, skills, or work ethic that you have personally observed. If applicable, mention any honors, awards, or recognitions the applicant has received. Be sure to steer clear of vague or clichéd statements, like ‘hardworking’ or ‘good team player.’ Instead, use concrete and measurable data to demonstrate the applicant’s abilities.

5. An assessment of the applicant’s character and personal qualities

Character is just as important as skills and qualifications, so include a section that assesses the applicant’s character and personal qualities and demonstrate how these traits will make them an asset to the position or program they are applying for. Consider personal qualities such as leadership, adaptability, creativity, motivation, discipline, and communication skill.

6. A conclusion that summarizes everything you have already covered

Reiterate your recommendation and summarize the points made about the applicant’s suitability for the position. Include your contact information and invitation to the recipient to contact you for further information or clarification.

7. Closing salutation

Finish your letter with a closing salutation and your written signature over your name.

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

Step 1: Get to Know the Applicant

The first step in writing a recommendation letter is getting to know the applicant. In order to do this effectively, you need to ask the applicant for relevant information concerning the position or program they are applying for. This may include their resume, transcript, career objectives, and anything else that can provide insight into their skills, experience, and personal qualities. If possible, schedule a meeting or phone call to ask the applicant more about their objectives and aspirations, and provide some pointers for the recommendation letter process.

Step 2: Gather Information About The Position or Program

Familiarization with the position or program the applicant is applying for is crucial; this will help you tailor your recommendation letter to that position. Research the organization or program you are writing the letter for, and take note of the specific qualifications and qualities required by the position or program. Identify the job description of the position or program and work to highlight the applicant’s experiences and qualifications that are consistent with it.

Step 3: Decide on the Format of the Letter

Recommendation letters come in many forms, each with its tone and structure. There are three different types of recommendation letters, and each one requires a different approach. Here’s a breakdown of the three types of recommendation letters:

1. Academic Recommendation Letter

Academic recommendation letters are used typically for students who are applying to graduate school or for scholarship applicants. Such letters should focus on the student’s academic abilities, including their coursework, research, and extracurricular activities, among other things.

2. Professional Recommendation Letter

Professional recommendation letters are more general than academic letters; they are related to a broader range of propositions associated with job applications. Professional letters should focus more on the applicant’s professional experience, work ethic, and specific accomplishments

3. Character Reference Letter

This type of letter focuses on an applicant’s personal qualities, rather than academic or professional experience. They are usually used for individuals applying for positions in a public agency, volunteering, or apprenticeships. Such letters should highlight personal qualities, integrity, work ethic, and positive character traits of the applicant

Step 4: Start with a Rough Draft

Before you begin writing, create a rough draft of your letter of recommendation. This rough draft should be a tool that you can use to organize your thoughts and guide the letter’s flow. Include all of the key elements we discussed earlier in the rough draft, and make sure that you organize the letter in a logical and cohesive way.

Step 5: Proofread, Edit, and Revise

Ensure that you proofread and edit your letter of recommendation. Look for any grammatical or spelling errors and make sure that the letter reads smoothly. Pay attention to sentence structure, punctuation, word choice, and voice. Ensure that you eliminate slang, jargon, or colloquialisms that could undermine the professionalism of your letter. Lastly, remember to revise your letter to ensure that it presents the applicant in the best light possible.

Table with Complete Information

No. Recommendation Letter Element Description
1 Introduction An opening greeting, writer’s name and relation to the applicant
2 Overview of Applicant’s Qualifications A brief summary of the applicant’s academic and professional work-experience
3 Purpose of Recommendation A statement about why the letter is being submitted
4 Specific Examples Relevant achievements of the applicant that highlights their strengths and abilities
5 Assessment of Character Assessment of the applicant’s personal qualities, leadership capabilities and communication skills
6 Conclusion Write a summary of your recommendation
7 Closing Salutation Use an appropriate closing and include your name and contact information

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I write a letter of recommendation for a friend?

Yes, you can! But it is best to be impartial and objective in your appraisal, as the goal of the letter is to present the applicant in the most positive light possible.

2. How long should my letter of recommendation be?

Typically, a recommendation letter should be between one to two pages, but there is no hard and fast rule on the length.

3. What if I do not know the applicant very well?

If you do not know the applicant well enough to give an informed appraisal, politely decline the request for the letter; your lack of knowledge may result in an erroneous or ineffective letter.

4. Should I give negative feedback in a recommendation letter?

No, you should not! In general, recommendation letters should present the applicant in a positive light, but if there are negative things that must be said, do it diplomatically.

5. What about letters of recommendation for graduate school?

Letters of recommendation for graduate school should include the applicant’s academic qualifications, research ability, writing skills and work ethic as they relate to the specific program they are applying to.

6. Who should I address my letter of recommendation to?

Addressee varies for each recommendation letter: academic recommendations should be addressed to the admissions committee or department head, while professional recommendations should be addressed to the hiring manager or potential supervisor.

7. How soon should I submit my recommendation letter?

If you are requested to submit a letter of recommendation, verify the submission deadline and do your best to submit your letter well in advance of the deadline.

8. Should I mention the applicant’s weaknesses in my letter?

It is best not to emphasize an applicant’s weaknesses in a letter of recommendation. Instead, focus on their strengths, accomplishments and capabilities

9. Can I submit my letter of recommendation via email?

It is always best to follow the specific submission instructions provided. If the instructions call for a hard copy, print and mail your recommendation.

10. Do I need to sign the letter of recommendation?

Yes. Hand-sign the letter of recommendation with a blue or black ink pen before transmitting it to the recipient.

11. How long does it take to write a letter of recommendation?

The amount of time needed to write a letter of recommendation varies. However, aim to give yourself ample time (at least a couple of weeks) to ensure that you can give the letter the attention it deserves.

12. Can I provide a template to the applicant to guide their recommendation request?

You can offer guidance to the applicant regarding the process of requesting a letter of recommendation. Still, you must keep in mind that tampering with the content of a letter could ruin the letter’s credibility.

13. Can I back up my recommendation with statistical evidence?

Backing up your recommendation with statistical evidence is a great technique to make your points more convincing and demonstrate how to make an asset to the program or position he is applying for


Writing a letter of recommendation might seem like such an easy task. However, it requires attention to detail, organization, and diplomacy. Hopefully, this guide has equipped you with all the tips and techniques needed to create a remarkable letter of recommendation. Remember that the letter of recommendation is not just about the person you are recommending; it is also a reflection of you. Make sure that your recommendation letter presents yourself and the applicant in the best light possible, and watch as your efforts help someone excel in their pursuits.


The information provided in this piece of writing is for general guidance only. The author assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. The reader uses the information herein at their discretion, and they are responsible for their own actions, activities, and consequences.