A recommendation letter is perhaps one of the most important 'letters' a person will be asked to write. A successful one will be indispensible to the person you are recommending. Recommendation letters are considered 'formal documents' that are written for various situations, yet they have only one purpose. These letters serve as a personal reference or recommendation about a specific person's character and qualities, as well as their capabilities pertaining to a specific task, function or pursuit. This person can either be a student who is applying for acceptance to a college or a student pursuing funding/tuition for a college. These letters can also be required when a person/candidate is applying for a job. Although many teachers, instructors, professors, friends, colleagues, and former employers are asked to write letters of recommendation, many have a limited knowledge on what exactly needs to be included, as well as how to go about writing one which will be effective in achieving the desired results.
If you have been asked to write a letter of recommendation it is not only considered an honor, but a responsibility as well. You will want to do the best job possible for the person that has asked you to write a letter of recommendation because what you write, as well as the manner in which you write, will be significant to the admissions office's selection or a person's pursuit of employment.
The following are helpful guidelines for anyone who is asked to create a letter of recommendation:
- The beginning of the letter should explain in detail your relationship with the person- how you came to know them, how long you have known them, how close you are. It should be an overall summary of why you are recommending them. It will also be relevant to expound on your own qualifications in the introduction to let the reader know who you are and the caliber of your own credibility
- Be precise- give specific information about the person- while communicating your praise of this person, use situations, specific instances, or stories about what this person did to leave you with a lasting impression.
- Differentiate- explain why this person is unique, what you feel sets them apart from others. Highlight specific strengths and qualities of that person.
- Be realistic- try not to make the person you are writing about seem perfect, because the truth is... nobody is. Everyone has shortcomings and although you don't need to elaborate, casually admitting them or noting ways they have improved gives your letter more credibility.
- Validate your recommendations- be specific in explaining why this person should be accepted to the program (or chosen for the position) and what you feel they can contribute.
- Make certain your letter is not too brief- A short letter will show the reader that you don't know the person well enough to write more than a few paragraphs about them. Try to remember the person doing the reading will undoubtedly have a great deal of letters to read, therefore you will need to use vivid and descriptive language through-out the content so your letter is interesting and captures the reader's attention from beginning to end.
Considering the importance of a recommendation letter, it should always be typed and formatted in the same manner as a business letter. Additionally, because of the serious nature of this type of letter, the writer should always never lie or exaggerate the truth when recommending a person to a potential employer or adimission office of an educational institution.