How to Write a Letter of Recommendation

You will invariably be asked sometime in your life to write a letter of recommendation for someone seeking a job. If someone asks you in advance whether she can use you as a reference or have you write a referral letter, and you cannot in good conscience recommend her, say so. People who ask you to be references or write referral letters assume you will say positive things; after all, they are trying to get a job. Intending to write a less-than-glowing letter and not informing the person who asked you of your intention is like an ambush. If you cannot write a good letter of recommendation, decline.

There are two specific types of letters of recommendation. In the first type, a friend or colleague asks you to write a “generic” letter of recommendation. It is not for a specific job or employer, but meant to be a general reference she can show to interviewers if asked for such a letter. In the second type, the employer asks the candidate for references, and the candidate gives your name. The employer then asks you whether you recommend the person, and why.

Generic Letters of Recommendation

If you have agreed to serve as a reference for a friend or acquaintance seeking a job, you may not want to write a separate letter for each position your friend is applying for. You can solve this problem by writing a blanket recommendation that the job seeker can show all potential employers.

Sample Letters

Sample Generic Letter of Recommendation

Prospective Employer:

I am the Partner-In-Charge of Zephyr Industries, and am writing to recommend Tracy Graduate. I have known Tracy Graduate through her work experience with our firm during the past summer, when she served as an Auditor Intern in our New York office.

Tracy became immediately involved in the annual audit of Zephyr Industries, conducting much of the historical accounting research required for the audit. In addition to gathering the financial information, Tracy was instrumental in the development of the final certification report. Tracy also participated in several other smaller audits, including her instrumental role in the quarterly audit of ABC Bank, where she developed several Excel macros to audit the inputs at the PC level. She later further developed these macros for use in future audits, which we have integrated into our Auditors Toolkit.

Tracy has shown the kind of initiative that is necessary to be successful over the long term in the public accounting field. She has excellent forensic skills, yet remains focused on the overall needs of the client. I believe she will be a strong Auditor and has an excellent future in the public accounting field. She is a conscientious worker and has an excellent work ethic.We would gladly have hired Tracy upon graduation if she were open to the New York City area.

I recommend Tracy to you without reservation. If you have any further questions with regard to her background or qualifications, please do not hesitate to call me.

Terry Thompson

Sample Generic Letter of Recommendation

Dear Mr. Villas:

This is in response to your recent request for a letter of recommendation for Maria Ramírez who worked for me up until two years ago.

Maria Ramírez worked under my direct supervision at Extension Technologies for a period of six years ending in October 2000. During that period, I had the great pleasure of seeing her blossom from a junior marketing trainee at the beginning, into a fully functioning Marketing Program Co-Coordinator in her final two years with the company. That was the last position she held before moving on to a better career opportunity elsewhere.

Ms. Ramírez is a hard-working self-starter who invariably understands exactly what a project is all about from the outset, and how to get it done quickly and effectively. During her two years in the Marketing Co-Coordinator position, I cannot remember an instance in which she missed a major deadline. She often brought projects in below budget, and a few were even completed ahead of schedule.

Ms. Ramírez is a resourceful, creative, and solution-oriented person who was frequently able to come up with new and innovative approaches to her assigned projects. She functioned well as a team leader when required, and she also worked effectively as a team member under the direction of other team leaders.

On the interpersonal side, Ms. Ramírez has superior written and verbal communication skills. She gets along extremely well with staff under her supervision, as well as colleagues at her own level. She is highly respected, as both a person and a professional, by colleagues, employees, suppliers, and customers alike.

In closing, as detailed above, based on my experience working with her, I can unreservedly recommend Maria Ramírez to you for any intermediate or senior marketing position. If you would like further elaboration, feel free to call me at (555) 555-4293.

Georgette Christenson
Director, Marketing and Sales

Say how you know the person. Are you a former boss, colleague, or employee?
Base your letter on first-hand knowledge and personal observation (e.g., the employer already knows from the résumé that the candidate can use Word, but you can say how fast he got your correspondence done).
Cover both technical skills and people skills. The potential employer wants to know: Is she good at her job? Will she get along with the people I already have?