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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Templates)

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Templates)

“Hey, I have a favor to ask,” sounds like the start of a request. Sometimes, you may receive a request through email. But the day will come when someone will ask you to write them a letter of recommendation. This is when a letter of recommendation template will be useful.

Before you say yes or no, know the letter’s purpose first. A letter of recommendation is intended to describe someone’s character, work ethic, and experience from a first-hand source.

There are many types of recommendation letters. There are letters for employment, college acceptance, scholarships, corporate or nonprofit board membership, and even community volunteerism.

Writing a glowing letter of recommendation takes time, thought, and planning. Do not agree to write one unless you can give it the detailed attention it requires. This is especially true for writing letters of recommendation for college and graduate school candidates. That’s why it is better to have a letter of recommendation template that you can follow to help you in writing one.

Quick Diagnostic

Ask yourself first if you are the right person to write the letter. Before saying yes, ask yourself:

  1. Am I a champion of that person’s work?
  2. Do I believe in their work ethic?

If you answered no to any of these questions, politely decline. The last thing you want to do is to damn the candidate with faint praise.

Don’t forget to ask for the time you need. Writing a good letter of recommendation takes a substantial amount of time. If the applicant asks you with less than a few days’ notice, it’s better to decline.

Employee Letter of Recommendation

You’ve decided to write a letter of recommendation. Now, be sure to make it compelling. You may have to review your files to see how much the employee contributed during their time at the company. Be sure to follow all legal obligations about what employers can and cannot say about an employee.

Write the letter of recommendation in a way that paints a picture of the employee in specific terms. If, for example, this employee is a people person who thrives in a team setting or more of a star who can take a project from start to finish with little direction, be sure to highlight that in your letter.

Format to Follow

Use this template when writing an employee letter of recommendation:

  • First paragraph – Who you are recommending and for what position, along with how you know the job candidate
  • Second paragraph – What your relationship is to the candidate, and what difference the candidate has made to the company, educational institution, or community organization
  • Third paragraph – A specific highlight of the candidate’s work and/or character
  • Closing paragraph – Your recommendation for the candidate for the position

Sample Letter of Recommendation

Below is a sample letter of recommendation to supplement an employee’s job application.

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January 3, 2021

Timothy Clemens, Head Groundskeeper
Oklahoma State University
1 University Way
Stillwater, OK 74074
tclemens@email.edu

Dear Mr. Clemens,

I am writing to highly recommend Seth Littlefield for the position of Assistant Groundskeeper at Oklahoma State University. I have worked with Seth for the past four years at my gardening center, Everything Gardening and More. I can honestly say that I have learned more from him than he has from me.

Seth came to work for me as a sales associate after just completing his horticulture degree at Wichita State University. He immediately proved to be a knowledgeable and dependable employee who always listened attentively and satisfied customers’ needs. But he became most valuable to the gardening center for his knowledge of xeriscape and drought-tolerant native plants.

Under Seth’s direction, we began to stock several water-conserving varieties for our customers. They have proven to be highly popular with our customers and helped set our garden center apart from the others. Seth provided workshops for the staff on the different varieties and he also took the initiative to plant a demonstration garden to show what an attractive landscape these plants make.

I believe Seth will be a valued addition to your groundskeeping crew and will bring a wealth of knowledge to the position. Please feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.

Sincerely,

Candace Meyers

Use company letterhead for your letter of recommendation, then scan and upload it as an email attachment if possible. Sending it by snail mail can slow the process.

Recommendation for College Admission

Strong letters of recommendation can help give a student’s college application a big boost but only if you know the student well. If not, then you are not the right person to write a letter, even if the student asked you directly.

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Many parents of high school students do not understand how an Admissions Director reads letters. The main criterion the Admissions Director looks for is how well you know the candidate. Admissions Directors can tell instantly if the writer has first-hand knowledge about the student. If you don’t, you are doing the family a disservice by agreeing to write the letter!

Before sitting down to craft the recommendation letter, request all the materials you need about the applicant. Ask for their transcript, a separate list of extracurricular or community activities, and which area of study the student intends to pursue. Above all, make sure you know why they are applying to that particular school or program. Make a date to sit down and interview the applicant (even if you know them very well already) to clarify and expand on the information provided.

In the letter, avoid general terms like “brilliant” and “studious.” Give a specific example of a time you know about first-hand when the candidate displayed their brilliance or studiousness. Also, avoid exaggeration. They may play the piano, but chances are that the applicant is not the next Mozart or Bach.

Realize that your letter cannot tell the whole story about an applicant. Use your letter to shine a light on one aspect of that student’s suitability for that college or university. Your letter should offer fresh insights into the candidate’s personality, especially their suitability for the program.

Finally, never agree to show your letter of recommendation to the student or their parents. If they demand to see it, decline to write it.

Sample Letter of Recommendation

Below is a sample letter of recommendation for a student’s application to a college.

October 30, 2020

Dear Emory University Dean of Admissions,

I highly recommend Alonso Dominguez for your freshman class of 2021. He is a top science and math student and an integral part of our school community. I currently teach him AP Chemistry at Northfield High School. Alonso is an A+ Chemistry student. Beyond that, I consider him an amazing intellect and a motivated problem-solver whose thoughtful questions elevate the learning of the entire class.

Alonso excels in science because he pays attention to details and patterns. He is comfortable applying strong mathematical skills to chemistry problems to arrive at solutions to complex problems. While many students try to memorize when to use a specific equation, Alonso intuits when to apply equations and understands what the given values actually mean. I am often pleasantly surprised to find that Alonso has solved a problem using a viable method that is different from the one I introduced. His grasp of the reasons behind the patterns and equations is a valuable skill that will benefit Alonso in his future mathematical and scientific pursuits.

As both a natural and unassuming scholar, other students gravitate toward Alonso when forming lab groups. He is a good coach and has a vivacious and magnetic personality. I regularly use Alonso’s work as a model for students who are struggling.

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I could not be more confident that Alonso Dominguez will excel at Emory just as he has here at Northfield High because of his impressive intellect and motivation to achieve at a high level. I know that Emory University is among his top school choices because of its strong Chemistry program, and I believe Emory will benefit greatly with Alonso as part of its student community.

Sincerely,

Evelyn Sloan
Chemistry Teacher
Northfield High School

Always try to find out the name of the Dean of Admissions and his or her specific title. Ideally, the candidate should provide that to you along with the Dean’s contact information.

Recommendation for Community Board Membership

Similar to academic and job-related letters of recommendation, writing to recommend a friend or colleague for community volunteerism or board membership is a deft combination of extolling the candidate’s particular expertise and character traits. This requires a slightly different letter of recommendation template compared to other types.

Ask the candidate to provide you with background material and explanations regarding job and volunteer history, including any experience with the issue that the organization addresses. Focus on why the person is interested in serving in the position and what they can bring to the organization. Also, know to whom you should address the letter.

Sample Letter of Recommendation

Here’s a sample letter of recommendation for membership to a board of directors.

December 1, 2020

Karen Waters
Wilderness Pursuits
7654 County Road 88
Prescott, AZ 86301

Dear Ms. Waters,

I am honored to write this letter on behalf of Letisha Davis, an outstanding leader and champion of disenfranchised youth, for membership on your board of directors. I’ve known Letisha for 10 years, first in our professional capacities and not long after, as a personal friend who I look up to for her inspiring and dynamic personality.

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I met Letisha through my work as a physician’s assistant at the Mesa County Health Clinic. I discovered that she offered some pro bono therapy for young people and met with her to arrange treatment for one of our patients. After witnessing the transformation of this young person, I often refer patients to Letisha.

After her own experience in an Outward Bound program as a young person, Letisha is passionate about introducing troubled young people to the outdoors. She has applied her degree in counseling and family therapy to work with nonprofit organizations that offer an outdoor component. This includes work with Nature’s Way Youth Program and Inner Warrior’s Way in Mesa County as a trip counselor and with Outward Bound’s Wilderness Drug Rehab Program as an advisor.

Letisha can offer perspectives as both a clinician and a program designer to the board of Wilderness Pursuits. Her kind-hearted and friendly demeanor makes her a delight to work with, and in every encounter with Letisha, I have been impressed by her sound ideas, open mind, and positive attitude.

I am certain that Wilderness Pursuits will benefit significantly with a person of Letisha’s professional caliber and outstanding character on its board. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about Letisha’s qualifications.

Sincerely,

Theodore Soto
Physician’s Assistant, Mesa County Public Health

Stay on Point

As with all letters of recommendation, it’s not about the length—it’s the strength. These letter of recommendation templates can help you start writing one. Four to five paragraphs, with a few telling examples, will be sufficient to make your case for a deserving candidate.

Finally, know that what goes around comes around. Today, you’re the one being asked to sacrifice your time to write a great letter of recommendation. Put care into it, for tomorrow you may be the one asking someone else to write a letter recommending you. Good letter-recommendation karma begets good karma.

More Tips for Writing a Letter of Recommendation

Featured photo credit: Scott Graham via unsplash.com

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

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