Download and modify our free, pre-prepared letter of recommendation template to give a positive reference for a trusted friend, colleague, or student.
Last Update September 29th, 2021
What is a Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation is a written and signed document that provides information and feedback about someone’s personal character or professional performance.
These letters are most often used by applicants for jobs and college courses.
The letter is usually prepared by a person who knows the applicant well and in many cases may have had some level of authority over them. For example, a teacher, professor, or manager.
This can be seen in the simplified example below:
Dear, [Sir/Madam/To whom it may concern]
I am writing to recommend [recommended person’s full name] for [position or course of recommendation].
Having known [recommended person] for [months/years known] as their [friend/colleague/ teacher] I am certain that they will thrive in the [position/course] due to their [main positive qualities].
During their time [working/studying] with me, they have always impressed me with their [1-2 examples of other relevant strengths] and I am therefore confidently able to recommend [recommended person] based on this experience.
I would also be more than happy to provide further details about [recommended person] if needed. I can be contacted directly via [phone number] or my personal email address: [email address].
In most situations, the letter may be requested as evidence of the applicant’s suitability before they sign an employment contract. It can also be used in other situations when a character reference is needed.
Key Elements of a Recommendation Letter
There are several key elements that should be used in a recommendation letter. These help to provide the information required with the correct formality required in the situation.
The main parts of a letter of recommendation include:
The introduction: Establishing the reason for contact.
The reasons for the recommendation: Explaining why you are recommending the person requesting the letter.
Personal stories and evidence: Providing more background information on the person’s strengths.
Closing statement and contact details: A short conclusion and details on how you may be contacted.
Signature: Including your full name and professional title
Types of Recommendation Letter
Recommendation letters can come in many forms. Depending on their purpose, they may be known by different names and can be adjusted to include specific information.
The most common types of recommendation letters are:
College recommendation letters
Employee recommendation letters
Graduate school recommendation letters
Law school recommendation letters
Personal recommendation letters
Scholarship recommendation letters
Teacher recommendation letters
Tenant/landlord recommendation letters
There are, however, many more types of letters that can be used to provide a personal reference. These might be used for situations such as court cases or entering the military amongst others.
How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter
It’s important to talk directly to the person who will be writing your reference when you request a letter of recommendation. This could either be in-person or by phone or by email.
You ideally should request the letter a few weeks before you think you’ll need it. This helps to take into account your referee’s schedule and how busy they are likely to be when you do this.
Writing a Letter of Recommendation
Before starting your own, it’s important to plan how to write your recommendation letter.
It’s a good idea to have a clear sense of the purpose of the letter. This will ultimately depend on who you’re recommending and what you’ve worked on with them.
Considering these elements carefully will help you identify the key details or examples that you should include to give the best picture of the candidate in question.
Using a pre-written template can help you get started with this. With our expertly prepared sample document, you’ll be able to see the factors that will help create a comprehensive and effective letter.
This can also be downloaded and specially personalized to fit key details of the person you are writing about.
FAQs About Letters of Recommendation
Learn more about how letters of recommendation are used and how they should be written using our FAQs below.
How Long Should a Letter of Recommendation Be?
Normally a letter of recommendation is 1-2 pages in length. It shouldn’t go beyond 2 pages in total, although it could be as short as a couple of paragraphs.
Ultimately, the quality of the letter matters more than the number of pages it covers. However, it’s important to strike the balance between those 1-2 pages right to ensure there’s not too much text or too little.
How to Get a Letter of Recommendation?
Usually, people ask their referees directly for a letter of recommendation. This might happen when leaving a company or college depending on your situation.
It is worth creating a list of possible names you would like to target to ensure you’ll get at least one “yes”. You will then need to contact your chosen person by either phone or email.
Make sure to do this with plenty of time to spare before you might need the letter so your chosen person has enough time to draft the letter comprehensively.
How Long in Advance to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
It's generally advised to ask for a letter of recommendation about 2-3 months before it is needed. This gives the writer time to properly draft and complete the document.
You may be able to ask for a recommendation letter closer to when it is needed, perhaps 2 weeks prior to its submission. However, this isn’t advised if you want to get the most complete and properly prepared response.