How to Write a Letter of Recommendation + Examples

A short, detailed letter of recommendation can help a friend or colleague clinch a coveted role. Here, you’ll discover how to write a recommendation letter, a free copy/paste template and examples.

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Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)
by Eric Ciechanowski  Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) 
Last Updated: March 05, 2024  
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What is a letter of recommendation?

A recommendation letter is a formal document written on behalf of someone else attesting to their qualifications and skills for a potential job or internship. Usually, former employees, colleagues or students request letters of recommendation.

It’s like serving as a resume reference, except that you communicate in letter form and not over the telephone.

A letter of recommendation is similar in structure to a cover letter. It should fit onto one page and include your contact info, the recipient’s address, a greeting, three paragraphs and a sign-off.

If someone asks for a letter of recommendation, the person probably expects you to say positive things about them. If you feel uncomfortable recommending this person or lack the time to help, politely decline the request.

Reference Resume

Letter of recommendation template

You can copy and paste this recommendation letter template and personalize it with information about the person you’re recommending.

Recommendation letter template:

[Your Name]
[Optional: Company name]
[Street Address]
[City, State ZIP code]
[Phone number]
[Email address]

[Date]

[Receiver’s Name]
[Receiver’s Title]
[Receiver’s Organization]
[Receiver’s Street Address]
[City, State ZIP Code]

Dear [Receiver’s Name] /[Hiring Manager/To Whom It May Concern],

With great enthusiasm, I am writing to recommend [Applicant Name] for [Role] at [Organization]. My name is [Your Name], and I serve as a [Your Role] at [Your Organization]. For [length of time], I had the pleasure of working with [Applicant’s First Name] while [explain how you worked together]. What stands out about [Applicant First Name] is [two or three top qualities about applicant].

During our time together, [Applicant First Name] showed [list one or two skills] that led to [specific achievement]. [Insert story explaining your shared goals and how you reached them.] Given [his/her/their] excellent work ethic and passion for [specific Organization focus], I feel confident [Applicant Name] would be an ideal fit for [Your Organization].

Thank you for your time in reading this. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to discuss [Applicant Name]’s talents or abilities.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Title]

Here’s an example of how you can personalize the template above into a convincing letter:

Loquita Mend
Head Nurse
Evergreen Hospital
Bellingham, WA 98225
(555) 555-555
L.Mend@————-.com

Feb. 26, 2024

Kathy Jackson
Head Nurse
STR Healthcare
1121 Chatts Street
Simi Valley, CA 93062

Dear Kathy Johnson,

With great enthusiasm, I am writing to recommend Janice Robinson for the registered nurse position at STR Healthcare. My name is Loquita Mend, and I am the head nurse at Evergreen Hospital. For two and a half years, I had the pleasure of working with Janice as her direct supervisor. Janice stands out as one of the most dedicated, compassionate and detail-oriented nurses I’ve ever had on staff.

During our time together, Janice showed immense warmth and gentleness, becoming the resident favorite nurse in the oncology ward. Her true passion for health care shows in her adherence to protocol and safety standards. Janice was the compliance expert when the hospital had to implement emergency procedural updates to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. She went above and beyond to ensure that our staff and patients followed the same rules. Given her excellent work ethic and passion for patient care and healing, Janice would be an ideal fit for STR Healthcare.

Thank you for your time in reading this. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to discuss Janice’s talents and abilities further.

Sincerely,

Loquita Mend
Head Nurse, Evergreen Hospital

Find this letter of recommendation sample helpful? Skip forward to our collection of 99 recommendation letter examples organized by job title.

How to write a recommendation letter

Before you start writing a letter of recommendation, you’ll need to understand the position, role or academic opportunity for which this letter hinges! The better you know the expectations for the role, the better you can explain why this candidate is a good fit.

Ask the person who has requested your letter to share the job post or application details so you can identify the topics and keywords your letter should pinpoint.

Then, brainstorm these questions:

  • How did you interact or work with this person?
  • What relevant skills and strengths do you remember most?
  • What stands out to you most about the applicant?
  • Did you oversee or work with them on large projects or goals?
  • Can you recall specific examples of the person’s accomplishments, attitude or work ethic?
  • How did you see them grow, adapt or succeed?
  • Is there a story showing their devotion or hard work?

Then, just apply these recommendation letter writing tips to nail each section.

1. Your contact information: At the top of your letter, add your name, phone number, email address, street address and city-state location.

Contact information example:

Whitney Boston
w.d.boston@————-.com
555 Sample Street
New York, NY 11004

2. The address and greeting of the person making the decision: Make sure you have the person’s name, department or organization deciding who earns the slot on your letter.

Doing so confirms the purpose and intention of your letter and that the right person receives it.

Recommendation letter address and greeting example:

Jackie Kim
Human Resources Manager
Boheme and Partners
555 Example Blvd.
New York, NY 10022

Dear Jackie Kim,

3. Introduction paragraph: Start by explaining on whose behalf you are writing and for what reason.

Here are some strong introduction phrase examples you can use to customize the first sentence:

  • This letter is to convey my wholehearted endorsement of [Candidate’s name] for the [role name] with [Company name].
  • With immense delight, I write on behalf of [Candidate’s name]’s application for [role title] with [Company name].
  • It’s an honor and pleasure to recommend [Candidate’s name] for the position of [role name] with [Company name].

Then, outline your relationship with the applicant and why you feel they’re qualified or an excellent fit for the opportunity. This paragraph can be three to five sentences long.

Introduction paragraph example:

“I wholeheartedly recommend Anna Castilla for the summer internship position at your esteemed firm, Boheme and Partners. I have had the privilege of being Anna’s professor and academic adviser during her second year at Hastings Law School. She exhibits a razor-sharp intellect and exceptional analytical and research skills and would be a valuable asset to your internship program.”

4. Main body paragraph(s): This is the part of the letter where you want to convince the reader of the applicant’s skills in one to two short paragraphs.

You want to use flattering language that puts the candidate in a professional light.

To help you, here’s a cheat sheet with some of the most valuable traits employers seek in employees. You can use the ones that describe your applicant:

  • Adaptable
  • Ambitious
  • Considerate
  • Creative
  • Constructive
  • Determined
  • Disciplined
  • Eager
  • Enthusiastic
  • Fastidious
  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Friendly
  • Growth-oriented
  • Hard-working
  • Helpful
  • High energy
  • Innovative
  • Impassioned
  • Invested
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Motivated
  • Open minded
  • Quick learning
  • Resourceful
  • Socially skilled
  • Team player
  • Trustworthy
  • Visionary

Now, weave some of these traits into a story that paints a picture of the applicant’s fitness for the role. Give details that make a strong impression and mention the results the candidate achieved.

Main body paragraphs example:

“Her clear dedication to bankruptcy law and financial reform sets Anna apart. She actively participates in class discussions, engages peers in debate, and submits extremely polished legal case studies. Anna’s dedication to social justice and intense research and communication skills make her an incredible internship candidate.

Her passion for advocating tenant rights extends beyond the classroom, as evidenced by her community involvement in fundraisers and volunteer work at the Mission Women’s Center. We worked together as part of a coalition that raised enough money to keep six-family homes from being foreclosed. She is an incredible asset to any group she is a part of.”

5. Closing paragraph: You should end the letter by summarizing why you feel the applicant is a strong fit for the position.

Before wrapping your letter, you must make one last strong and persuasive statement about the candidate’s suitability for the role.

Here are examples of sentences reaffirming the applicant’s fit:

  • You will undoubtedly find Michelle a tremendous asset to your organization.
  • If you meet Gwynn, you will understand what a bright visionary she is and what she brings to your business.
  • Without hesitation, Lewis would make helpful contributions as one of your interns.

Then, thank the reader for their time and offer to be contacted if any questions arise about the candidate. Many institutions may reach out to verify your identity and statements.

Final paragraph example:

“Anna is deserving and ready for any challenge your law firm hands her. Please contact me if you require additional information or want to discuss Anna’s qualifications further. Thank you for your time in reading this.”

6. Your signature: After the final paragraph, use a standard business letter closing like “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or “Respectfully,” and then your name. You can also include your professional title below your name to add authority.

Sign-off example:

Sincerely,

Whitney Boston
Professor of Law

Letter of recommendation formatting

While the message of your letter is the most crucial part, the page’s appearance also matters.

So, follow these standard guidelines for business letter formatting:

  1. Length: Keep your letter under one page. Going longer may cause your letter to get skipped over as it’s not considerate of your reader’s time.
  2. Font: Choose a font for your letter that is easy to read. Safe font options include Arial, Helvetica, Roboto, Rubik or Times New Roman. Keep the font size between 11-13.
  3. Margins: One inch is the standard width for margins. This ensures the text on your page looks balanced.
  4. Alignment: The main body of your letter should be left-aligned. Your letter’s header containing your contact information may be center-aligned if you’re trying to save space.

The best file format for a recommendation letter

In our modern age, most letters of recommendation are sent via email or submitted to an online platform.

The standard file format for a recommendation letter is to send it as a PDF. To be safe, you may also paste your letter as the body text of an email.

Ensure you’ve included the name of the applicant in your email subject. That way, it’s clear for the administrators to organize all the applicants’ documents.

The other option is to send your letter of recommendation as a hard copy (mailed) letter. This may be acceptable, but only pursue this option if requested. There is a chance the document may not be received in time or collated with the applicant’s other hiring materials.

Avoid these letter of recommendation mistakes

Since you’re taking the time and effort to recommend someone, you want your letter to benefit the applicant! There are easy-to-make mistakes that could hurt the applicant’s chances for a role.

So, make sure your recommendation letter is as helpful as possible by avoiding these common mishaps:

  1. Not saying “no”: If you can’t write a glowing review of someone’s work performance or character, it’s best not to write them a letter of recommendation. You may politely explain why or simply say you can’t do it.

    Even if you believe in the applicant but are busy with other projects and responsibilities, say no. The applicant should find someone willing and able to provide a strong recommendation rather than a half-hearted effort.

  2. Using excessive flattery: Too much praise can make it seem like you’re exaggerating or being insincere. While you want to be flattering, skip phrases like “they’re the best I’ve ever seen” or anything that sounds hard to believe.

  3. Spelling and grammar errors: Sending out a letter of recommendation with spelling and grammatical errors suggests you didn’t put much effort into your letter or have questionable judgment.

    In either case, it doesn’t reflect well on the applicant!

Key takeaways

When writing a letter of recommendation, it’s important to remember to:

  • Agree to write a recommendation letter only if you feel confident about the person and can deliver on time.
  • Limit your letter of recommendation to one page of three to four paragraphs.
  • Ask the applicant for the job post or application details so you can target your letter’s message.
  • If appropriate, include your contact information and list your job title and organization.
  • Start the letter by explaining who you’re recommending and mentioning the position to which they’re applying.
  • Mention your reasons for believing they’d be a good fit for the role.
  • Tell a little story or anecdote that shows the applicant’s passion, value or work ethic.
  • Proofread your document for errors.
  • Submit your document as a .PDF, email or mailed letter.
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PRO TIP

Since a recommendation letter follows the same format, you can use a cover letter template to ensure your letter looks professional. A template is just a preformatted document that covers your design elements.

That way, you can cut straight to writing a recommendation letter!

About the Author

Eric Ciechanowski

Eric Ciechanowski Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

Eric Ciechanowski is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), certified by the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARWCC). He graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a B.A. double major in Creative Writing and Philosophy. His career background includes fields as diverse as education, hospitality, journalism, copywriting, tech and trivia hosting.

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