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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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      Last Updated on March 29, 2021

      5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

      5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

      When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

      What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

      The Dream Type Of Manager

      My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

      I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

      My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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      “Okay…”

      That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

      I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

      The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

      The Bully

      My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

      However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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      The Invisible Boss

      This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

      It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

      The Micro Manager

      The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

      Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

      The Over Promoted Boss

      The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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      You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

      The Credit Stealer

      The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

      Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

      3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

      Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

      1. Keep evidence

      Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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      Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

      Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

      2. Hold regular meetings

      Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

      3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

      Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

      However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

      Good luck!

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