Write Recommendation Letters for Success

By Stacie Heaps
Professional Writer and Editor

Recommendation letters, also known as reference letters or referral letters, are used to give information about you to a prospective boss, recommend you to an undergraduate or graduate program, nominate you for an award, position, or promotion, and so forth. A letter of recommendation is an easy, effective way by which your abilities and positive personal traits can be shared with others and from which decision-makers can evaluate your potential.

When Requesting Recommendation Letters

The benefits of requesting recommendation letters are numerous. For one thing, a letter of recommendation generally highlights your positive characteristics. It may include such things as your accomplishments while at school or in the workplace, and your strengths and capabilities as a student, employee, or co-worker. It may even include details about your personality and your relevant interests. Moreover, a letter of recommendation eliminates the need for the potential employer, academic evaluator, or judge to secure your references (a task that can at times be tedious and time-consuming). You do not want to be taken out of the running merely because someone was not able to verify your qualifications for the position.

Perhaps the best thing about sending a letter of recommendation is that writing it can often be more appealing to people than simply being included in a list of references because then they do not have to be put on the spot with an unexpected phone call from your prospective employer. When writing a letter, the recommender has time to carefully consider what he or she wishes to say about you and the best way to say it—and that may mean the difference between whether or not you get the job you want, get accepted to the school that you apply for, or receive the award for which you were nominated.

8 Recommendation Letters Tips to Remember

Note: If you resign or have been laid off, but left the company on good terms, a referral letter from a previous boss can show prospective employers that your position was not terminated because of any lack of performance on your part. Such a letter can explain the circumstances of your leaving and can illustrate the positive qualities you had as an employee.

When Writing Recommendation Letters

As mentioned above, writing recommendation letters can have several benefits, not only for the recipient (of course), but for the writer as well. Writing recommendation letters allows you to be able to reflect on what you would like to say about a person, and it often takes the place of a hurried (and sometimes awkward) phone call where you try to remember the qualifications and merits of the person a caller has asked you about. With a letter of reference you can include details about how you know the person (whether on a personal or professional level), his or her accomplishments or positive characteristics, and his or her career or educational goals or other relevant interests. Whether you know the individual personally or professionally, you can offer your opinion about whether or not she or he is qualified for the position being sought.

2 tips to remember:

Before you start:

Writing the letter:

Typical Format for This Type of Letter

Although recommendation letters are written to a wide variety of people for a variety of reasons, most follow a standard format. When writing your referral letter, keep the following points in mind:





Recommendation letters can be the pivotal factor in getting the job or promotion that you want, being accepted to the school you hope to attend and/or program you wish to study, or even receiving the award you deserve. If you are the writer of a letter of recommendation, you can help someone else to move forward in their professional career. These letters can be very persuasive because they outline a person's capabilities, accomplishments, goals, and potential. For this reason, letters of referral are an essential part of any application process.

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