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Last Updated on November 5, 2020

How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (With Templates)

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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

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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 August 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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