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Practical Advice on How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

If you are a teacher, employer, or mentor, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation. For you, this is an indicator of the trust and respect of an applicant. You have the opportunity to help a person in his professional life or admission to a university. A letter of recommendation is a common tool that can make a powerful influence on the decision of an employer or admissions officer.

Writing an effective letter of recommendation should be performed responsibly. To characterize your mentee as a perfect candidate, you need not only to list his or her best qualities but also to take into account a certain job position or grad program. This article written by our LoR writing service will tell you how to write an impeccable letter of recommendation, give tips on structure and content, and warn against the most common faults.

What Is a Letter of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation is a testimonial that proves a person’s suitability for a certain role in an academic or commercial institution. The purpose of this letter is to characterize an applicant, highlight the best traits, and mention specific facts. You vouch for the professional or educational achievements of the candidate and provide essential information to the future employer or member of the selection committee.

A recommendation letter is a strong supplement to the application. It contains honest and unbiased information about the personal and professional qualities of the candidate. Your thoughts and conclusions about an applicant are valuable and credible information for decision-makers. Ultimately, they can be the decisive factors for admission or professional employment.

The content of a recommendation letter may slightly differ, depending on its purposes. Still, the paper always has a similar structure: self-presentation, candidate description, and conclusion. If a person is looking for a job, then the letter should include his or her professional experience, and soft and hard skills that may be useful in a new position. For students, it is more important to write about their scholarly achievements and the skills necessary for successful learning.

How Long Should a Letter of Recommendation Be

A letter of recommendation length should be about one page of typewritten text. In rare cases – up to two, but not more. Usually, it should be written according to a template and consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. The first and last parts are short, with no more than one paragraph. The size of the main part depends on the institution the applicant wants to be a part of and his future role. The letter should be concise, but at the same time informative, and give a clear image of the candidate. Dedicate a few lines at the end of the letter to your contact details. This gives the recipient the opportunity to contact you and clarify any details.

What to Include in Letter of Recommendation

In most cases, letters of recommendation are written according to a template and contain specific blocks of information. Let’s take, for example, a letter written by a high school teacher for a candidate who is applying to college. Below are things to include in a letter of recommendation:

  • Introduce yourself and indicate what relationship you have with the student. Indicate the specific dates of study, the name of the course, and the school. If you were a private tutor or mentor, please also indicate this in the letter. How well do you know the applicant, in what situations did you interact with him?
  • Describe in detail the candidate’s abilities. What were his grades? What skills does he have? How does he interact with the group? There are two important things to keep in mind at this point. First, information about the candidate must be relevant to the college which he gets into. If he chose an IT specialty, then it is not necessary to include his sports success. Also, if a student wants to become a historian, then there is no need to talk about his logic or creativity. Better tell about his brilliant memory and ability to find cause-and-effect relationships. Second: be specific. For example, say how many points he scored on the last exam or in which project he showed the most interest and results.
  • As an experienced teacher, you certainly understand well that personal qualities are no less important than good grades. Take the time to write down a few candidate’s strong suits that will be appreciated by your college colleagues. Include in the text his soft skills or organizational skills. Say that he has a great capacity for work or excellent public speaking skills. Be sure to support your conclusions with definite examples and bright details. A candidate is a personality, and the selection committee will be grateful to you for a detailed description of the candidate’s identity.
  • You can express your opinion about the professional and academic future of the candidate. If you have great authority in the academic environment, then your recommendation may weigh more than the candidate’s rating and the results of his exams. Write your vision honestly but positively, as if you were predicting the best possible scenario.
  • Summarize the information and provide your contact details. Readiness for contact increases the credibility of you and, accordingly, of your letter.

The structure of recommendation letter should highlight the best aspects of the candidate while being as honest and specific as possible. Nobody expects from you phrases: “the best”, “the smartest”, or “the most talented”. These exaggerations, on the contrary, can do a disservice. Tell the truth, share your own opinion, and wish your mentee success!

How to Start a Letter of Recommendation

The beginning of any document always attracts attention. If you missed the “Dear Mr.” or “Dear All”, then this will be noticed by readers. Also, they will see if you forget to include your name and your relationship with the candidate. Any formal inaccuracies at the beginning can devalue even the best letter.

Before writing a letter of recommendation, ask the student for the name of the chairman of the admissions committee. The best way to start a letter of recommendation is to demonstrate your respect and seriousness from the beginning. If it is impossible to find out the name, then you can use the standard form of business correspondence “To all concerned”. Being formal, courteous, and professional at the beginning of the letter will help create a good first impression and thereby raise the candidate’s chances.

How to Write a Good Letter of Recommendation

If you mechanically and emotionlessly repeat all the letter of recommendation writing tips from this article, then you are unlikely to be able to write a really good letter of recommendation. Let’s think about what kind of attitude you need to have in order to make an impeccable document that will become a significant contribution to the future of the applicant.

Of course, you must have the desire to write such a letter. Do it with enthusiasm and with the understanding that a good letter can help make your mentee’s dream come true. Even if your student is not a top grader or a genius, believe in him/her and fill the text with your confidence. Your optimism will help you find the right words and remember relevant facts that will play a role in the decision of admissions officers.

Recommendation Letter Format

Since an effective letter of recommendation should be no more than 1-2 pages (preferably one), each structural part should be given special attention. The letter should be concise, but at the same time meaningful. It is also undesirable to exclude any important part.

The tone of the letter should be formal, but at the same time friendly. Do not try to abound in complex terms and diplomatic turns, but at the same time refrain from formal expressions. The tone should express respect for the addressee and your personal enthusiasm. Pay attention to this, as the overall impression of the letter will be formed based on both what is written and how the letter is formatted.

The structure of recommendation letter includes the following parts:

  • Greetings. Address the recipient by name (Dear Mr….). Or “To all concerned.” Being creative in greeting is not the best idea.
  • Self-presentation. Write 1-2 sentences about yourself (your name, position, academic degree) and about your relationship with the candidate. Were you his teacher or mentor? What course did you teach and for how long?
  • Description of the candidate. It may contain several paragraphs. Write about the candidate’s strengths, which will help him excel in learning a new program. Include his skills and professional qualities. The point of this part is to make the reader think: “Oh, here he is, the perfect candidate!” Therefore, when writing this paragraph, be sure to keep in mind who you are writing to and what the members of the selection committee expect. In the second paragraph, you can indicate a personal anecdote, a case that reveals the described qualities of the candidate. This should not be a long story: in a few sentences, tell facts and draw a conclusion. For example, mention a project that the candidate completed on his own initiative or a public speech that he gave in front of the class. If the candidate has more notable achievements, talk about them.
  • Conclusion. End the letter with one affirmative sentence stating that you are recommending this candidate for this course because … (give a reason).
  • Signature and contact details. Enter a phone number and email address where the recipient can contact you. Here you can also include your name, position, and academic rank again.

Remember that different organizations may have their own specific requirements for the format for a letter of recommendation. In this case, it is better to ask the applicant if there is any template according to which the document needs to be drawn up. Also, if he has any personal requests, find out about them. He may have more information about the college and its requirements and can clarify important details that will make the letter of recommendation stronger.

Various Types of Letters of Recommendation

If a person asked you for a letter of recommendation, then most likely he wants to take a step towards improving and developing his life. Most often, he intends to get a higher education or be appointed to a position in a good company. These two reasons cover over 99% of all recommendation letters. We will discuss them and all the other types below.

Academic letters of recommendation. Such letters are intended to characterize the student as a perfect candidate for a college or university program. They include his academic performance, grades, and qualities necessary for learning. Sometimes, a student asks for a letter of recommendation in order to receive a scholarship or grant. They also have their own minor features. In addition, academic letters of recommendation differ depending on the program the candidate is applying to. For example, law schools and medical schools have completely different requirements and, accordingly, letters should also be different.

Professional letters of recommendation. When a young person applies for a job, the chance of being accepted is much higher if they have letters of recommendation. Suppose you taught a candidate for several years and know him well. You understand his talents and weaknesses. And you have an opinion as to whether this young man will become a good employee in this position. Your professional opinion is valuable for an employer.

In professional recommendation letters, it is not as important to include grades as to indicate how mature and responsible the candidate is. How does he approach problem-solving? Does he have critical and creative thinking? Does he have professional intuition? Such writing should be focused on a specific position, and not be a set of general phrases. A strong letter of recommendation plays the role of an optical sight that focuses the attention of a future employer.

Letters of recommendation for rental housing. This is a completely different type of recommendation letter. If you rent out your house or apartment, tenants may ask you for a recommendation to provide to future landlords. Of course, it must be relevant to the situation and characterize the applicant as a responsible, accurate, and respectable tenant who takes care of the property and makes payments on time.

You may have been asked for a letter of recommendation in some other situation. In this case, you should apply all the rules described in this article, but adapt them to the situation. The letter should characterize the recommendee on the positive side and include those professional qualities that will be appreciated by specific recipients of the letter. Be honest and optimistic, and then you will surely succeed in writing a good letter of recommendation.

Writing Letters of Recommendation: Do’s and Don’ts

It is not so easy to write a bright recommendation letter that will become a ticket to a university or company. However, it is easy enough to spoil this document with one ridiculous mistake. There are things that should definitely be avoided when writing letters of recommendation:

  • Use superlatives too often. If in each sentence you indicate that your student is “the very best”, then the reader may form the idea that this is not true. The impression should be created by specific facts and achievements, not your value judgments.
  • Be dishonest. You should not question your honesty and trust. Do not include non-existent achievements or virtues: it is better to focus on real facts, but be sure to explain why you consider them important in the academic or professional life of the applicant.
  • Generalization of facts. You should not express yourself in general phrases like “talented guy” or “always gets A-grades for essays” It is better to give specific statistics and indicate in what situations the candidate showed certain qualities.
  • Describe negative traits. To a minimal extent, this is acceptable, especially if you indicate the candidate’s growth areas and say how he works on them. However, the abundance of negative aspects can lead to undesirable effects. Better focus on the positive.

At the same time, it is mandatory to keep in mind obvious “Do’s” while writing:

  • Stay positive and confident. Your state of mind directly influences the text quality.
  • Take time to recall really inspiring moments. If you know a candidate for a long time, you need to choose facts appropriate for the letter.
  • Trust in a positive result and be ready to get contacted by an admissions board. If officers are in doubt they may call or mail you to clarify specific points.
  • Take it seriously. Your opinion really matters.
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Letter of Recommendation Tips

If you are writing a recommendation letter for the first time, then we recommend that you heed the advice in this chapter. Remember that your text can greatly help in the professional life of a talented student who turned to you for help. See the letter of recommendation tips below:

  • Write only the facts that relate to the future specialty of the candidate. Even if you admire this young man and want to tell as much good about him as possible, it is better to refrain from this.
  • Follow the size and format rules. Find really strong arguments in favor of the applicant. Be selective and write less but better.
  • When writing about character traits, please include a few words about why you think these traits are useful for a future program or job.
  • Be optimistic and show your enthusiasm. Readers should see that the teacher or mentor of the candidate believes in him and is convinced of his brilliant future.
  • Use figures, facts, and statistics. Present them in such a way that they look as convincing as possible.
  • Use a professional and respectful tone, but not too formal.
  • If you are not sure that you can write a letter of recommendation or for some reason do not want to do it, it is better to refuse.

Writing letters of recommendation is an indicator of your professionalism and the trust of your students. You have the opportunity to directly influence their future. Take advantage of this opportunity and make a responsible contribution to the careers and education of talented young people!