How to Write a Positive Recommendation Letter – Tips and Template
How would you respond if a former employee or professional colleague asked you to write a letter of recommendation for a job she is applying for?
It may be an immediate ‘yes’. You’ve had ample opportunity to observe and interact with the individual in a work context and feel strongly about supporting her next career step. It may be an outright ‘no’, which is totally acceptable. Your professional reputation is at stake when you endorse an individual for a new position, even if it isn’t within your organisation. If your interactions with the applicant have not been positive, there is no way you should be writing a letter of recommendation for her! In this instance, you should politely decline her request.
If you are hesitating for any reason, we suggest that you err on the side of caution. Also bear in mind that many employers expressly forbid their employees from writing recommendation letters due to potential liability issues, so do check company policy before you respond to a request.
So, imagine you’ve said ‘yes’. What next? Crafting a positive recommendation letter takes time and effort – another good reason to be selective about accepting requests! Here are some tips to consider before you sit down to write:
- Ask for information about the role the individual is applying for, ideally a job description or an overview of what is expected. Also request an up-to-date resume and cover letter so you can see how she is marketing herself for the role.
- Write a brief list of the applicant’s main skills and abilities and single out one or two instances where she has actively displayed these in a professional context.
- Praise the applicant but don’t overdo it! Honesty and positivity are key to a credible letter of recommendation – and to your reputation as an astute professional.
- Keep the recommendation letter to one page, use a readable font and ensure you spell check it on completion.
For additional inspiration, here is a recommendation letter template/sample we have put together for you. It is not a one-size-fits-all letter, unfortunately, but should provide you with ideas on format and content.
Sample Recommendation Letter
Your job title
Recipient’s job title
Dear [Recipient name],
Letter of recommendation for Cait Moran
I am delighted to recommend Cait Moran for the role of project lead at [Organisation name].
Cait has worked in my department in the capacity of administration officer for the last 2.5 years. She is a dedicated, highly organised member of the team, who displays professionalism in every aspect of her role. She has been responsible for a range of projects, including the implementation of a car leasing scheme for our network of Australian offices. Cait dealt effectively with multiple stakeholders and worked closely with colleagues to successfully research and roll-out this major initiative. She also has a strong grasp on the day-to-day operations of the department, which has ensured a high level of service delivery across the organisation.
I have no hesitation in recommending Cait Morgan for the project lead role at [Organisation name] and wish her every success in her future endeavours. If you have any questions, please contact me at [email address] or on [telephone number].