March 2, 2024
Learn how to write an outstanding letter of recommendation in this step-by-step guide that covers brainstorming, drafting, revising, and proofreading. Discover key elements of a strong letter, tips and tricks for making your recommendation stand out, and common pitfalls to avoid. Get an understanding of what the letter recipient looks for and see multiple examples of successful letters. This article will be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to boost someone's chances of achieving their goals.

I. Introduction

If you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation, you may feel a sense of responsibility to help the person you’re writing for achieve their goals. Whether it’s for a scholarship, job application, or college admission, a letter of recommendation can make all the difference. In this article, we will discuss a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective letter of recommendation.

II. Step-by-step guide

Before you start writing, ask your intended recipient what they need you to focus on. Additionally, it’s helpful to brainstorm and make notes about the person’s unique qualities that would make them a desirable candidate for the position they’re seeking.
When you start writing, follow these steps:

  • Begin with a personal introduction
  • Provide details about why the person is a good fit for the position they’re seeking
  • Include specific examples of their achievements
  • End with a call to action

Once you have these pieces down, it’s time to start piecing together the letter. Make sure to focus on the person’s qualifications, work ethic, and overall personality. Don’t forget to also use strong, powerful language throughout the letter.

III. Key elements of a letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation should be about one page long and contain three key elements:


The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the letter. It’s where you explain how you know the applicant and why you’re qualified to speak on their behalf. Additionally, it’s a good idea to provide a brief overview of the applicant’s career goals and why they’re seeking the position they’re applying for.


The body of the letter is where you will most likely spend the majority of your time. It should contain specific examples of the person’s achievements, whether that’s in their personal life, academics, or work history. Include anything that might make them stand out, such as leadership abilities, strong communication skills, or innovative thinking. Make sure to also emphasize their positive qualities along with any areas they may need to improve.


The conclusion should wrap up the letter in a positive way. It should also state that you would be happy to provide further clarification if needed.

IV. Tips and tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to help make your letter stand out:

  • Be specific when describing the person’s accomplishments.
  • Use strong, powerful language throughout the letter.
  • Avoid using vague phrases like “hard worker” or “team player”.
  • Include information about the person’s character, such as their values, ethics and personality.
  • Use anecdotes or examples to illustrate the impact the person has had in the past and how that will translate to future goals.

V. Common pitfalls

Here are common mistakes people make when writing letters of recommendation:

  • Not being specific enough about the person’s achievements
  • Using generic phrases that do not show qualities that make the person stand out
  • Being overly critical and not emphasizing the person’s positive qualities
  • Not proofreading the letter for errors

To avoid these pitfalls, make sure to proofread your letter multiple times and ask someone else to review it to ensure that it’s free of errors. Make sure to feature unique examples to emphasize why the person is deserving of the position they’re seeking.

VI. From the perspective of the letter recipient

When writing a letter of recommendation, keep in mind what the recipient will find most valuable. They will be interested in knowing why the applicant is qualified for the position, and what makes them stand out from other candidates.

Additionally, it’s crucial to tailor your letter based on the recipient. If the person you’re writing for is applying for a job, highlight specific abilities and accomplishments related to the job duties. If it’s for a scholarship or college application, talk more about their academic performance or external achievements.

Lastly, make sure to communicate your recommendations to the intended recipient. This will involve taking time to discuss the letter with them and sharing your thoughts on what they could improve upon. This will give the person a better idea of how close they are to meeting the qualification criteria.

VII. Examples-Based Approach

Here are some examples of strong letters of recommendation:

Example 1:

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sara for over two years. Her creativity and problem-solving skills have made a significant impact on our business. One project in particular, where she used her analytical thinking to discover new areas for growth, led to a 10% profit increase. I highly recommend her for the position she is seeking.”

Example 2:

“I have known John for over 10 years, and during that time he has consistently shown a passion for social justice and equality. He is an excellent communicator and has great teamwork skills. One particular project where he led a team of volunteers to fight for a local park’s conservation made the city rethink the housing project idea they had. John would make an excellent fit anywhere he goes.”

VIII. Conclusion

Writing a letter of recommendation can seem daunting, but it’s a great way to help someone you think highly of achieve their goals. By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to craft an effective letter that can give the person a much-needed advantage in the job market, obtaining scholarships, or gaining admissions to college or graduate school.

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