Are you in a dilemma, a confusion because an acquaintance of yours has asked you to write a letter of recommendation for him/her? A perplexing situation, isn’t it?
Writing this sort of letter is not something that you do on a day to day basis. But then you have got to help a person in need. What do you do then? Feeling clueless? Of course, you must be. Stop fretting. It’s completely alright to feel this way.
We are here to help you write a terrific Letter of Recommendation that is definitely going to serve its purpose for you as well as the person who requested you for it.
What is a Letter of Recommendation?
The first question you ask yourself when such a situation comes is what essentially is a letter of recommendation.
A letter of recommendation also called a letter of reference is a write up in which you analyse the person on the basis of his characteristics, traits, performance and conduct and give your carefully weighted opinion. It is generally written in such a way that it helps the other person in securing a job or some scholarship or admission.
If you go back in time a little you would recall writing a testimonial for your English examinations. Letter of Recommendation is similar to that just a bit higher on its approach.
Basically, you are vouching for that person and giving your verification that the person deserves the place he is looking for. You are giving your word on the person’s credibility and dependability. You need to be thorough with their qualities and weaknesses.
Types of Letters of Recommendation
After familiarising ourselves with what this Letter of Recommendation is let us now move on to the types of these. Letter of Recommendation can be broadly classified into three categories:
For employment- These letters are those that either your colleague or your ex-employee has requested you to write. These are required for an important job that the person is seeking in some reputed company and the company wants somebody to justify the person’s candidature.
These focus mainly on the professional life of that person and their qualities inside the office rather than, outside. In short, you are telling through your letter as to why the person is the best for the job.
For university admissions – A student of yours can ask to write a Letter of Recommendation for them so that they can gain admission in some university or the other. This letter will comprise of the academic achievements of the person and how he/she was as a student.
The university always looks for a unique student who can be an asset to their institution. The letters can also be meant for acquiring some scholarship within the university. This requires a high-grade recommendation from you as the student’s monetary benefits will depend on your letter.
Character References – Any of your friends or colleagues can ask you for this kind of a reference when they are on the lookout for some promotion in their job or are wanting to buy some property somewhere.
This one is a bit tricky as you have to substantiate the entire character of a person. You need to know the person really well if you are writing this kind of a letter.
How to begin writing the Letter of Recommendation
So now you must have gotten at least some insight about a letter of recommendation.
Let us, therefore, involve ourselves in beginning to write a great letter of recommendation.
Since a letter of recommendation is written to a higher authority make sure that you follow the format. The format is not very stringent as such.
Just stick to the conventional layout of a formal letter. Let me remind you as to how it used to be. We wrote quite a long back and it is a little hazy in our memory, right?
So, your complete address comes on the top right-hand side of the paper followed by the date and then you write the receiver’s name and address on the left-hand side after the date.
In some letters after this you write “TO WHOMSOEVER IT MAY CONCERN” but that totally depends upon you.
Since it is a formal letter, your salutation is very important. Make it respectable, polite and dignified. A Dear before the name of the person would be the safest bet. For example Dear Mr Sharma.
If you are typing it in a Word document a standard size of 12-14 is the best. You can use a fundamental font such as “Calibri”, “Times New Roman” or “Arial”. Also, you should use the left alignment and the space of the margin on each side can be 1-1.5 inches.
The Composition and the length
The letter should not be long and complicated. It should be a praise for that person but it should be short, crisp and to the point.
The maximum length that you can write is around 1.5 pages but try to complete it within a page because nobody has the time to read lengths and volumes of written material.
The paragraphs should be concise and distinct. Don’t elaborate too much. Just go with the particular details.
Don’t worry as to whether the letter should be computer typed or handwritten. While a handwritten letter goes on to say about your diligence and dedication, a typed letter brings forth your professionalism.
Things to know before writing
Now we get down to the essential components of the letter.
First of all, you should know the person really well before you begin writing a recommendation letter. If you do not know the person that good you can research about the applicant and gather enough material about him so that you can write.
Always try to know the person better but if you can’t you can ask the applicant to provide you with all conducive information about himself which is real and truthful.
You should also know about the position for which the person has asked you to write a Letter of Recommendation for. The more you know about the position, the better off you are and you will be able to write an effective Letter of Recommendation.
The Letter of Recommendation that you write should be in accordance with the job profile of the candidate.
Also, know about the type of recommendation letter you are writing. The types have been mentioned earlier. Gather all the information that you can about the person, the job, the company and the recipient that can help write an impactful Letter of Recommendation.
See the thing is that your letter can make or mar a person’s career. Having a good Letter of Recommendation gives an extra edge to the applicant. So why not make it the best.
Here are some things that you should necessarily include in your Letter of Recommendation.
You should mention all about the person’s qualifications academic as well as professional. You should cite all examples of successful endeavours taken up by the candidate and how they integral to the job profile held by them. Also, mention the various projects they have been a part of and how they helped in its successful completion.
Compare the candidate with others of the same position to portray their victories in a better but this comparison should not be negative. It should be of assistance to the candidate but not harm the other person’s reputation.
Agreed that you have to most significantly praise the person but do not get so overindulged in it that it starts to lose its genuineness. Be subtly honest. Don’t be brutal and start grilling them for their weaknesses but mention about the little things they have the scope to improve upon.
Talk about the applicant’s personality and the qualities that they possess.
Offer yourself some credibility meaning thereby that the receiver should believe that the information is coming from a reliable source who has completely considered all the aspects of that candidate.
The Letter of Recommendation should be supportive and more on the positive side. Make the receiver understand that you had really wanted to recommend that person and are not doing it out of sheer compulsion.
You should also state in your letter as to how you came to know this person; whether they were a colleague at an office or some friend or an employee working under you.
Don’t start telling the entire story as to how you met and how your journey unfolded because then it would take a million years to complete it. Just talk about the key features of your relationship and how the person helped in the larger good of the institution.
Your letter should involve constant movement as in you should use present tense verbs as they help in highlighting the good things about that person.
If you are writing your own letter of recommendation where the other person will only sign, make sure that you do an honest assessment of yourself and not just engage in praising yourself highly.
What you can do in such a case that you can get feedback from your colleagues and ask them for suggestions to improve your own Letter of Recommendation.
Another important thing to pay attention to is that it is very necessary that you are being credited to the person while being earnest. You need to maintain a balance between the two otherwise you might end up writing either an overly applaudable Letter of Recommendation which will seem fake or an extremely harsh one which will serve no purpose.
If you feel that you cannot write something positive about the person just say no. Tell them that you do not know enough about them to compile a good Letter of Recommendation. There is no point in writing something that would not do them any good.
The conclusion of a Letter of Recommendation is last but not at all the least.
If a person has left your institution you can include that as long as it is neutral or positive and does not put the name of anybody at stake.
The conclusion should be constructive. In the end, you should stimulate the recipient to accept the candidate as they have all the qualities in them. Be polite and professional at the end and conclude it with your signature and name.
Also, mention your contact details so that they can coordinate with you if they need any re-affirmation.
Ensure that you cross check the letter before sending it so that there is no discrepancy on your part.