The Definitive Guide to Recommendation Letters in 2021

A man writing a recommendation letter.

A recommendation letter is a formal document that validates the academic performance or work skills of a person. You should know how to prepare a recommendation letter for a person who may be applying for an internship, job, or university. 

The primary purpose of a letter of recommendation is to explain to the reader what you know about the applicant. You need to provide details about their work ethic and performance of the candidate. 

Writing a recommendation letter allows you to appreciate the hard work of a former student or colleague. It allows you to help the candidate get ahead in their career or academic life. In this blog post, you will learn about some tips for writing a professional recommendation letter for a former student or employee. 

1. Ask for Information 

You need to ask for some information before you start working on the recommendation letter. Consider asking the candidate to send their resume and cover-letter that they sent to the firm. 

You should also ask the candidate to provide the goals of applying for a position. Also, you should ask what the candidate thinks is their most marketable skills for the job or degree. 

Getting the above information is important as it will help you write an effective recommendation letter. 

2. Know What to Include in the Letter

A recommendation letter gives the reader an insight into the person who was your student or worked with you or under you at a company. 

Header & Salutation

The letter should have a header just like any professional letter. You should type your name, title, physical address, phone, and email address at the top of the letter. Next, you should type the name, title, company name, and location of the recipient. In case you are sending an email to the recipient, you can leave out the header. 

After the header, you should write an appropriate salutation for the recipient. You can start the salutation with ‘Dear,’ and then write the name of the recipient or just type, “To whom it may concern,”.


You should get straight to the point from the start by stating the reason for writing the recommendation letter. Explain your relationship with the person about whom you are writing a recommendation letter for. You should mention the candidate and your job title when you interacted with the person. 


After you have explained the intent behind writing the recommendation letter, you talk about the strengths and skills of the applicant. Talk in detail about specific skills or work habits the candidate displayed during the time you interacted with the candidate. 

Tell the reader that you were impressed by their work ethic. You should mention the character of the person such as them being friendly or reserved and focused on the work at hand.

You should provide examples about the specific qualities of the candidate in the body of the letter. Think about one or two incidents where the applicant went above the call of duty to perform their duties. You should also mention how the candidate levered one or more skills in carrying out a task. 

Hiring managers like to know about the contributions made by the person in question at the company. If possible, try to quantify the impact of the worker on the bottom line of the company. 


You should conclude the recommendation letter by reiterating the qualities of the candidate. Tell the recipient why you back the person. You should tell the recipient that you fully recommend the person for the position without any reservations.

End the letter of recommendation by writing ‘Sincerely’, and then your name and signature if you are writing it by hand. In case of an email, you should write your name and contact information at the end. 

3. Customize the Recommendation Letter

You should customize a letter of recommendation for each applicant. Sending a general recommendation letter without customizing it according to the job or firm the person is applying for will make the content less impactful. 

Suppose that a candidate worked as a supervisor and is now applying for a managerial position in a firm. Your letter will not be impactful if you simply describe the general qualities of the candidate. 

Instead, you must talk about why the person is the best candidate for the managerial role. Discuss the specific skills and experience that makes the person ready to move up the career ladder. 

You should also give two to three examples in the recommendation letter. Instead of simply saying that the candidate was creative, motivated, and hardworking, you should provide specific examples where the candidate had shown these traits. 

Providing examples will let the person reading the application know that the candidate really has the skills mentioned in the letter. Moreover, it will make the letter more convincing to the reader.

4. Edit and Proofread the Letter

You must not send the letter to the recipient after writing the letter. It is important to edit and proofread the letter carefully before sending it. 

You should remember the difference between editing vs. proofreading. Proofreading involves correcting typos and grammar in the content. In contrast, editing is more than correcting the content. It is about reviewing the entire letter to ensure that the content is cohesive, coherent, and specific. 

Parting Words

An effective recommendation letter provides a detailed and honest account of the candidate. The letter will inform the recipient of the letter of the expertise and experiences of the candidate. 

You can write the letter or recommendation yourself or hire an experienced recommendation letter writer. But before writing the letter you should have some knowledge about the position the applicant is applying for. This will allow you to customize the letter so that it becomes more convincing and valuable for the reader. 

Guest article written by: Dave Brown is an experienced content writer who is proficient in reference letter service, blog writing, and web copywriting. The author has been writing on different topics ranging from auto, academic, jewelry, HVAC, and other types. 

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