When to Use

  • You are recommending a candidate to be accepted for a job, school, internship, scholarship, volunteer program, or any other position or opportunity.
  • You want a letter that is both professional and helpful for the candidate.
  • You need a letter of recommendation fast.
  • You are creating a letter of recommendation for someone else to sign on their behalf.

Other Names for This Document

  • Reference letter
  • Hiring recommendation letter
  • Employee recommendation letter
  • Student recommendation letter
  • College recommendation letter

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Help Guide

What is a letter of recommendation?

Use a letter of recommendation anytime you need to recommend a person for a job or other position or program. The letter highlights the candidate’s skills, attributes, or character so that whoever reads it can evaluate the candidate for acceptance into the position or program.

What is included in the letter?

You have flexibility in what you wish to include. Naturally, you will want to discuss the candidate’s best attributes. These can be relevant skills, character traits, or both. You can also add any other information you think might be helpful for the candidate’s evaluation. Our questionnaire guides you through this process and takes away the guesswork.

How do I make my letter convincing?

Instead of simply listing off a bunch of skills or traits, it is best to also provide real-world examples of how the candidate has effectively displayed these attributes. This shows that you believe in the candidate’s abilities because you are willing to go through this effort of supporting them. For example, instead of simply saying that the candidate is “hard-working and professional,” you could add “she enthusiastically worked long days and effectively managed over 10 new projects a year with little supervision.”

Who do I address my letter to?

If the candidate provided you with the recipient’s information, you will add their information near the top of the letter below the date. If you do not know who will be reading the letter, you can omit the recipient’s information. This has the added benefit of allowing the candidate to reuse the letter for multiple applications.

Can my letter discuss the candidate’s weaknesses?

Yes. This gives the letter additional credibility, since you are providing a more balanced assessment of the candidate than if you only discussed their strengths. Everyone has weaknesses, and the person reading the letter will appreciate your candid response.

Will the candidate read the letter?

This is up to you. Some people who provide recommendations prefer to send them directly to the recipient (usually by mail or email) or give them to the candidate in a sealed envelope. Others have no problem letting the candidate read the letter before it is sent.

Can the candidate write their own letter of recommendation that someone else will sign?

Yes. This is actually much more common than you might think. Employers, professors, and others who regularly receive requests for letters of recommendation are often very busy individuals. They are usually more than happy to simply review and sign a letter of recommendation that the candidate has written for them. This can speed up the process and has the added benefit that the candidate can ensure that the skills and abilities discussed in the letter mirror the qualities needed for the position or program they are applying for.

Ready To Get Started? Create Your Letter of Recommendation

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Step 1: Gather Any Necessary Information

You should not need to do much preparation as long as you know the candidate and can speak to their skills or character. The candidate may wish to inform you of the nature of the position or program for which they are applying so that you can better discuss relevant attributes. Collect the recipient’s name and address if you plan on sending the letter to them directly. Otherwise, you are free to leave this out. In this case, the letter will be addressed “Dear Sir or Madam,” instead of with the recipient’s name. In addition, it is important to familiarize yourself with the recipient's requirements in order to ensure that the contents of your letter align with the terms of reference or the subject of your recommendation.

Step 2: Discuss the Candidate’s Skills or Character

Take a minute to think about what impresses you most about the candidate. Are they knowledgeable and hard-working? Do they always show up on time with a positive attitude? Do you trust them to work with little supervision, or do they perform better in a team environment? Make your letter more convincing by including a few examples of times that you have seen the candidate display their strengths. Consider also discussing the candidate’s weaknesses if you think it is necessary to provide a more balanced assessment.

Lastly, add any additional information you think will be helpful or relevant in evaluating the candidate.

Step 3: Review and Sign

Review your letter to ensure that it is free of errors and will meet your needs. After you complete our questionnaire, you may download it in .pdf format if you are ready to sign or send it. You can also download it in .docx format and edit it as needed in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor.

If the candidate needs a physical copy, then print and sign the letter. Note that signing it is not usually required but will help show its authenticity.

Step 4: Send the Letter

If requested to do so, you are ready to send the letter directly to the recipient. However, you may need to give the letter to the candidate to include with their application.

Ready To Get Started? Create Your Letter of Recommendation