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The Best Way to Write a Letter of Recommendation? Let the Person Asking Do It

The Best Way to Write a Letter of Recommendation? Let the Person Asking Do It

Whether you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student or colleague, or you need a letter of recommendation yourself, deciding exactly what to include can be tricky.

Maybe you’re busy, and don’t have much time to spend on the letter. Perhaps you’re not that close to the person asking you for the letter – what does she work on again? Fear not. This article will help you to write an amazing letter of recommendation with very little effort.

Before you start, first consider letting the person asking to write it himself

Not all letters of recommendation were actually written by the person who signed them. In fact, it’s actually pretty common for employees to write their own letter of recommendation, simply giving it to their boss to read through and sign off.

There are a few key reasons why writing your own letter of recommendation is a good idea:

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  • You know your own work better than anyone.
  • You can tailor the letter to include points you know will be relevant to your future career.
  • Your boss/teacher might not have time to write a thorough letter – you do.

So, if someone’s asked you for a letter, why not propose letting them write it themselves? At the very least, ask them for a few points on what they’d like you to include, as well as some details on what they plan to use the letter for. This makes the whole process much quicker and easier.

One teacher said this about the experience of asking her students to write their own recommendation letters [1]:

They can write a much stronger letter than I ever could about their performance.

The beautifully constructed and thoughtful letters that they produce on their own behalf are always mind-blowing.

If you really need to write it, read on…

If having the person who needs the letter write it themselves isn’t an option, don’t worry. We’ve summarized the key points that should be included in an employer recommendation letter and a character recommendation letter below.

Key points for an employer recommendation letter

For employer recommendation letter, specific details that can highlight the person’s key strengths are always favoured. Check these things

  • Your employee’s job title
  • Length of employment
  • Key achievements while working for you
  • Skills, experience and personal attributes that make the person a strong employee
  • The reason you agreed to write the letter
  • Details on how to get in touch with you for questions

Here’s an example of a great letter of recommendation. [2]

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    This letter gives details on exactly what the employee did, what her key strengths were, and why she’d be a valuable asset to another employer. It mentions her personality as well as her professional experience, creating a well-rounded picture.

    Key points for a character reference letter

    A character reference letter focuses on personality and will look a little different to an employer reference letter. Check out the list of key points to include below.

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    • How you know the person (friend, co-worker, family member, business partner, etc).
    • Positive personality traits the person possesses, with examples if possible. For example, ‘Kate is very organized and caring – she runs a charity fundraiser every year.’
    • Key skills. For example, ‘Joe is great with animals and often cares for my pets while I’m away.’
    • The reason you agreed to write the letter.
    • Details on how to get in touch with you for questions.

    Check out this example for further inspiration. [3]

      This letter is great because it gives lots of details om Jane’s strength, clearly explains the author’s relationship to Jane, and gives examples to back up the points made.

      Don’t despair next time you’re asked for a letter of recommendation. Either ask the person to help out by writing it themselves, or follow the simple formula above to easily write an excellent letter.

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      Reference

      More by this author

      Eloise Best

      Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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      Published on September 16, 2020

      12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

      12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

      Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

      Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

      Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

      Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

      Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

      Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

      1. Organization

      When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

      When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

      Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

      To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

      To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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      2. Flexibility

      You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

      Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

      For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

      To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

      To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

      3. Collaboration

      As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

      Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

      To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

      To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

      4. Poise

      Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

      When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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      What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

      To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

      To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

      5. Communication

      Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

      When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

      To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

      To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

      6. Good Computer Hygiene

      Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

      Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

      To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

      To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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      7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

      Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

      Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

      To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

      To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

      8. Respecting Feedback

      In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

      Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

      To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

      To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

      9. Project Management

      Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

      To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

      To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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      10. Staying up to Speed

      Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

      To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

      To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

      11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

      “Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

      To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

      To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

      12. Teamwork

      Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

      Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

      To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

      To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

      Final Thoughts

      Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

      More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

      Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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