What Is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a letter written by someone who can recommend an individual’s work or academic performance. It’s typically sent to a hiring manager or admissions officer who is deciding whether to employ or admit a candidate.

What Is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation describes a person’s qualifications and skills as they relate to employment or education. These letters typically come from previous employers, professors, colleagues, clients, or teachers. They discuss the qualities and capabilities that make the candidate a good fit for a given position, college, or graduate school program.

How a Letter of Recommendation Works

Applicants for a job or program typically request letters of recommendation from qualified individuals, who then send them directly to the employer, other hiring personnel, admissions committee, or department. Recommenders may offer you the opportunity to review the letter before they send it, but they aren’t obligated or expected to.

Requesting a Recommendation Letter

The letter writer should be someone who can speak directly to the quality of your work. Choosing the best people to write your letter of recommendation can be tricky.

The ideal recommendation would come from someone who:

  • Is in a position of authority or otherwise has a reputation that will mean something to the employer or admissions officer.
  • Has the time to write a letter that will truly impress a hiring manager.
  • Is familiar with your work and feels positive about it.

Proofread your emails to the people who are writing your letters and the final letters themselves if the recommenders share them. Pay close attention to the spellings of company names and other branded entities.

You might say something like, “I know the hiring manager is particularly interested in candidates with marketing skills, so if you feel positive about my contribution to ABC project, that might be something to mention.”

If you know letters may be required for a job or program you’re applying for, talk to potential recommenders before you start the application process so they’re not caught by surprise. Some jobs and programs directly request letters of recommendation via email.

Writing a Letter of Recommendation

They should be able to tell you which skills and qualifications are most important for the job or academic program. If you’re asked to write a letter of recommendation, ask the requester for guidelines on what to include.

Use them to inform your writing, but be sure to customize your letter for the specific requirements. Some organizations will provide a format for these letters; if they don’t, review letter of recommendation samples.

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