How to Write Letters of Recommendation

Introduction

  • Identify the individual for whom you are writing the recommendation.
  • State the length of time you have known the individual.
  • State the capacity in which you know the individual. Briefly include any information necessary to explain this relationship, or its depth, to the reader.
  • State your overall opinion of this individual, ideally in as short as one sentence. Examples might be "I hold in the highest regard", "This student is very promising," "I am pleased to recommend."

Body

  • Describe your detailed interaction with the individual. Examples are specific projects, papers, events, or other experiences through which you came to know the individual.
  • Express your evaluation of the individual based on those experiences.
  • Include specific likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, energy level and motivation, areas of talent and challenge, and any unusual contributing factors.
  • If appropriate, describe how academic skills would relate to business skills. This section is generally both detailed and descriptive, and often will be several paragraphs in length.

Conclusion

  • Overall, do you recommend this individual? If so, to what extent?
  • If interested, offer to be contacted in case additional questions arise as to the qualifications of the candidate. (In this case, be sure to include your contact information in the letter.)

When Asked for a Letter of Recommendation…

  • Ask for a copy of the individual's resume.
  • Request a list of information that is not typically on a resume - activities outside school, relevant classes, specific paper topics or projects.
  • Inquire as to why the letter of recommendation is necessary? The more detailed reasoning, the better - for example, a specific graduate school program or a college-level teaching position.
  • Ask for a detailed list of the different ways in which you have interacted, starting with the first time you met - class, office hours, organizations, personal interaction.
  • Ask for specific information that would set the individual apart from others in his/her field – awards, relevant travels, studying abroad, volunteering, and any other distinguishing factors.
  • Do not hesitate in asking for any information that would make the process easier for you.

Recommendation Letter - High

Robert S. Smith
38 New Jersey Avenue
Washington, DC 20007
202.555.6301

May 1, 2000

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of recommendation for Timothy Jones. I first met Timothy two years ago, at which time he was a student in my Calculus III class during his Junior year at Georgetown University. I hold him in the highest regard both personally and academically.

Timothy demonstrates the exceptional intellectual ability required to understand and apply the various mathematical concepts presented in Calculus. He unquestionably derives considerable pleasure and satisfaction from the challenge of solving complex Calculus problems. This fact is certainly supported by his involvement in a variety of inter-school math competitions, where he notably achieved a high score among his classmates. Timothy visited my office frequently for further explanation of topics discussed in class in an effort to truly understand the material. He was very eager to volunteer during class, and was always open to correction of his mistakes. Outside of the classroom, Timothy was president of the Math Club on campus, and then spent two evenings a week tutoring inner-city children with their math homework.

In the two years that I have interacted with Timothy, both inside and outside the classroom, I have found him to be a polite, responsible, sincere, and an all-around respectable young man. Timothy's self-motivation and keen desire to learn are to be commended in this day and age when, to many, a good grade is the only matter of importance.

It was my great pleasure to have Timothy as a student. Overall, he is a very motivated and bright student, and I certainly believe that he has talent and drive to achieve success in future scholastic endeavors. I strongly recommend Timothy into your institution of higher learning.

Very truly yours,

Robert S. Smith
Professor of Mathematics

Recommendation Letter - Medium

June S. Johnson
38 New York Avenue
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 555-8049

November 1, 1999

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter of recommendation for Kim Sanders, a Senior at Missoula University, Missoula, MT. Kim was a student in my Introduction to Literature class during her Freshmen year, and is presently a student in my Shakespearean literature class. It is with pleasure that I offer you this letter of recommendation on her behalf.

In both classes, Kim's comprehension of a broad range of authors' writing styles has been evident. Her eager participation in class reveals her passion for literature. Her most recent paper involved a detailed analysis of Romeo and Juliet, into which she obviously put great effort. In general, her writing assignments have reflected a truly creative and imaginative mind, and they reflect her unique talents.

Kim is a very exuberant student who can produce great work when her energy is focused. She is always very eager to volunteer during class, and to share her views. Kim works well in group situations, where she is able to use her verbal talent to convince others of the correctness of her vision. In the four years I have interacted with Kim, I have found her to be an energetic and all-around respectable young woman.

It has been my pleasure to have Kim as a student in both classes. I recommend Kim Sanders into your institution of higher learning.

Sincerely,

June S. Johnson
Professor of Literature

Recommendation Letter - Low

Smith Computers, Inc.
142 Dakota Avenue
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 555-7109

July 1, 1999

To Whom It May Concern:

Sandy Jameson was employed by Smith Computers as a Technical Assistant from January 4, 1998 to July 15, 1999. Her responsibilities included the upkeep and maintenance of the company's servers, troubleshooting mainframes, and upgrading office computers. During her employment, Sandy was of little asset to this company.

Sandy completed many projects during her employment with us. While the majority of her assignments were completed on time, she tended to procrastinate her work until completion was absolutely necessary. She was very rigid in her methods, and proved to be closed-minded when listening to supervisors’ suggestions. Sandy's work resonates her lack of desire to be successful at Smith Computers, Inc., and her close-mindedness prevents her from becoming a better employee with our company.

Sandy's intelligence could gain her great success in the computer industry, however, her close-minded approach to fellow employees' and supervisors' suggestions prevents her from gaining increased responsibilities at Smith Computers. While her intelligence is attractive, her work ethic is sub-par. Therefore, I am hesitant to recommend Sandy into any position where her reliability is necessary, and where teamwork is integral.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Smith
Technical Supervisor