Recommendation Letter : Definition, Types and Format

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One fine day at work, as you’re sifting through some important notifications, you notice an email sent to you from one of your old students, asking you to write a recommendation letter for him. You might be both overwhelmed and intimidated by the request. You are overwhelmed because he elected you to write a letter for him. But you are also intimidated because if you get this wrong, then your student may end up not getting the job he is applying for. Besides, a recommendation letter needs to be written with caution and you are dreading that you may not be able to fit the task in your busy schedule. But you do not want to disappoint your student either. So you’re stuck in a dilemma while deciding whether to accept the responsibility.

This is where this article might be helpful. We provide some easy steps and guidelines for writing an effective and convincing recommendation letter. But first, we answer the question:

What is a Recommendation Letter?

A recommendation letter is written for the purpose of recommending a person for a new job, university admission and other roles he or she may have applied for.

The person writing the letter should be a former employer, professor or an acquaintance who is highly familiar with the candidate’s work and can recommend him to other hiring managers and interviewers.

Types of Recommendation Letters:

There are many types of business recommendation letters:

  1. Academic Recommendation Letter
  2. Sales Recommendation Letter
  3. Job Recommendation Letter
  4. Landlord Recommendation Letter
  5. Scholarship Recommendation Letter
  6. Nursing Letter of Recommendation
  7. Decline to Write Recommendation Letter

 In this article, however, we only demonstrate how to write a basic recommendation letter.

Steps in Writing a Recommendation Letter:

  1. As recommendation letters are formal documents, they are written in the standard business letter format; which means at the top of the letter, the contact information of both the writer and the recipient are provided. This information is very crucial because the interviewer might want to phone call the writer or send an email to get to know more about the candidate. The information is arranged in the following format:

[Name of the recommender]

[Recommender’s designation]

[Recommender’s company]

[Company address]

[Recommender’s email address]

Date:

[Name of the recipient]

[Recipient’s designation]

[Recipient’s company]

[Company address]

  1. This letter does not usually include a subject line. But starting with proper salutation or greeting is a must.
  1. In the opening paragraph,
  • State and clarify that you recommend the candidate for the job in the very first sentence. This gives the reader a heads up and he or she would know what to expect further down the document. Do not exaggerate while praising your candidate in this initial recommendation statement.
  • Provide some context to your recommendation by describing how you know the person or how long he has worked under you.
  • You may also highlight your designation here to show that you are qualified to make the recommendation and the reader feels that he can count on your impression.
  1. In the second paragraph,
  • Describe why you feel so highly about the candidate. Instead of listing down all the qualities, focus on one or two strong suits of the employee. That way, you keep it short, specific and to the point.
  • Tell the employer why he is fit for that particular job. For that purpose, go through the job description properly and explain how your candidate fits into all the requirements.
  • Bring up relevant examples of your candidate reaching the benchmark of acceptable job performance to show that he or she has actual qualifications and experience needed in a dynamic workplace.
  1. In the final paragraph, provide a conclusion by summarizing. Say for the last time that you recommend the candidate and stress that he or she will be an asset to any organization s/he works for.
  1. In case of an email format recommendation, provide your contact information at the bottom, after closing the letter.

So, writing a recommendation letter can be fairly simple, if you know the employee or student well enough and if you are aware of the performance standards of the job. But it is still a huge responsibility, as your recommendation can make all the difference in the employee getting or not getting the job. So if you feel that you are not up to the task, be honest and let them know that you should not be the one to recommend. But if you feel positive that you can ace it, then you better pick up the pen and get to work.

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