Leslie W. Price
star-svg
10
Theatre director, writer, and arts educator.

Writing a letter of recommendation can seem like a real challenge. Chances are, the person who has asked you to write a letter for them is working toward a major goal, and your recommendation can potentially tip the scales in their favor. Thinking about such high stakes can give anyone writer’s block, but there’s no need to stress. We have some tips, tricks and templates to help you!

What is a personal letter of recommendation?

A personal letter of recommendation or reference letter is exactly what it sounds like. The writer shares information about and insight into someone who is applying for a job, degree program, loan or other opportunity. This kind of letter assists people in making decisions about whether or not the person is a good fit. Typically, the person asking you to write such a letter will be someone you know relatively well, so it will complement whatever other application materials your friend, colleague or student has already submitted.

What should be written in a letter of recommendation?

Contact info.

Include your name and contact information somewhere on the letter. It’s acceptable to put this at the top or at the bottom, but make sure it’s very clear in case someone wants to follow up with an email or phone call.

Salutation.

If you know the exact person who’ll receive the letter, include their name. If not, you should try to tailor your salutation to the situation, such as “Dear Hiring Manager” for a letter of recommendation for a job or “Dear Admissions Counselor” for a letter on behalf of someone who is applying to a school. If all else fails, it’s still perfectly fine to go for the old reliable “To Whom It May Concern.” Just avoid gender-specific greetings unless you’re absolutely certain whom you’re addressing. 

Introduction.

In the first paragraph of your letter explain who you are and whom you’re writing on behalf of. It’s not unusual for people to skim these letters, so you want to make sure you get to the point. If you’re enthusiastic about the person you’re writing for, say so right away. 

Qualifications or special traits.

Talk about skills or traits you admire in the applicant. These can be very specific skills that are relevant to the situation, or you can speak to personality traits that will be of benefit. Stick to the things that you know about the person firsthand. 

Concrete examples.

Share some anecdotes that are relevant to the situation. You don’t need to go into great detail, but it’s helpful for someone to read about positive experiences with an applicant. 

Closing.

Most letters are about a page long, but feel free to extend it to two if that seems appropriate. Finish up by reiterating whether you endorse the person you’re writing about. Again, people often skim these letters, and they’ll pay the closest attention to the first and last paragraphs. Make those count.

The most important thing to remember when you’re writing a letter of recommendation is that you should be truthful. Your reputation is on the line, so don’t lie about someone’s qualifications “to be nice.” It’s also okay to tell someone that you aren’t the best person to write a letter for them. 

4 Templates.

Template 1: Letter of recommendation for school

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2020” as opposed to “1/1/20”)

(include extra space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient school or college name

Recipient address 

(include extra space here)

To Whom It May Concern: (Change this if you know the recipient’s name to make it more personal. The person asking you for this recommendation should provide that if they know it.)

I am writing on behalf of (candidate’s name) who is applying for admission to (insert the name of the program or degree here). I have been her (teacher, tutor, mentor—explain how you know the candidate) since 20XX, and in that time, I have found her to be a strong and thoughtful student. I am confident she’ll be an asset to your program.

(In your first paragraph, be clear about how you know the student, how long you’ve known them, what exactly this person is applying for and why you’re qualified to recommend them.)

In the years that I’ve known her, (candidate’s name) has repeatedly demonstrated her passion for knowledge and her curiosity about the world. She takes an active role in her education by (share some examples). (Candidate’s name) is ready to take her education to the next level, and she’s excited about the possibility of being part of your program.

(Paragraph two should explain why you’re recommending this person.)

In addition to (candidate’s name)’s passion for (field of study), she's also a strong collaborator and leader. Her curiosity and verve are contagious and are every bit as valuable as her academic skills.

(A third paragraph describing a candidate’s soft skills is a great option if you’re able to speak to those. Increasingly, schools are looking for students with both academic and leadership skills.)

I have no doubt (candidate’s name) will do well if you accept her into your program, and I know you’ll enjoy working with her as much as I have. Feel free to contact me if you need additional information.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your title)

Template 2: Letter of recommendation for job

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2020” as opposed to “1/1/20”)

(include extra space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra space here)

To Whom It May Concern: (Change this if you know the recipient’s name. You can also use “Dear Hiring Manager” if you prefer.)

I am writing on behalf of (candidate’s name) who is applying for (job title) at your company. I have been (candidate’s name)’s (supervisor, co-worker, teammate, colleaguesince 20XX, and I have found her to be hard-working, knowledgeable and dedicated. I have no doubt she’ll bring those traits to your organization, too.

(Explain whom you’re recommending, your professional relationship with this person and why you’re qualified to recommend them.)

In the time that I’ve known (candidate’s name), I have found her to be skilled at (insert specific skills). She approaches each challenge with enthusiasm and positivity, and her leadership skills help foster a collaborative working environment.

(Explain a bit about the candidate’s relevant skills and qualifications in paragraph two. Elaborate with specific examples if you have them.)

I feel certain that (candidate’s name) will help your team meet their goals thanks to (insert skills or qualifications). I recommend her without reservation. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information or insight.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your title)

Template 3: Letter of recommendation for an apartment

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2020” as opposed to “1/1/20”)

(include extra space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra space here)

To Whom It May Concern: (There’s a strong possibility that you won’t know the person’s name who will be reading this letter, but don’t assume that to be true. Ask the candidate so you have as much info as possible.)

I am writing on behalf of (candidate’s name), who is applying to be a tenant in your building. I have known her for X years, and I recommend her without reservation.

(Get to the point in paragraph one. The building manager or owner is just looking to make sure the person renting the apartment is going to be a good tenant and neighbor.)

(Candidate’s name) and I know each other through (work/hobbies/kids), and I have found her to be honest and kind. She’s a thoughtful and compassionate person, and I am confident she’ll be a good neighbor and tenant.

(Again, keep it short. Just share some of the qualities that would be appealing.)

Please feel free to reach out if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Template 4: Letter of recommendation for a person or couple adopting a child

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2020” as opposed to “1/1/20”)

(include extra space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name (if applicable) 

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra space here)

To Whom It May Concern: (Double and triple-check with your friend or colleague about the salutation in this sensitive situation before sending this letter.)

I have known (candidates’ names) for XX years. I first met them through (college/work/hobbies), and we’ve been close ever since. (Candidates’ names) are kind, generous, compassionate people, and they are ready to share their time, love and home with a child. 

I have observed (candidates’ names) with my own children, and they’re gentle and understanding. They happily spend time reading books or playing outside with my kids when we have them over for backyard barbecues. (Candidates’ names) are always delighted with my children’s tales of school and friends and make a point to listen and respond thoughtfully when they ask questions.

(If you’ve had a chance to watch the candidates with children, speak to that in paragraph two. Be specific. If there’s a funny or sweet story to share, include it. If you haven't observed them with kids, don't worry. Talk about other situations in which you've seen them demonstrate kindness, patience or understanding.)

(Candidate’s name) is very active volunteering with (insert organization here). Being a part of the community is important to her, and she loves helping others.

(Other candidate’s name) is hard-working and always ready to lend a hand. She loves (insert hobby here) and is happy to help others learn more about it.

(Add a paragraph or two sharing some details about the candidates’ personalities or day-to-day lives. These details don’t need to be long, but they should be thoughtful.)

I’m confident that (candidates’ names) will be excellent adoptive parents. I am delighted to recommend them with all my heart. 

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up! 

Share