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The Perfect Letter of Recommendation: Sincere, Positive & Affirming

The Perfect Letter of Recommendation: Sincere, Positive & Affirming

Writing a perfect letter of recommendation can seem intimidating, especially if you have never written one. The struggle between staying honest to yourself while trying not to destroy one’s future is always challenging. You don’t want to make things up, but you are even more unwilling to write a template-like vague, dull and unconvincing letter.

Letter of recommendation can really decide one’s future. If carefully written, the letter can help someone to stand out from the crowds of talents. Otherwise, it is more like a killing letter rather than a killer letter. Here is a complete guide to help you writer a killer recommendation letter (plus useful letter of recommendation template!)

1. Apply the standard letter format to your letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation follows the same general rules as any other professional letters.

  • Your address should be on the top right, followed by the date
  • Below your address, on the left, have the recipient’s name and address
  • Start with a formal business greeting. For example, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’

2. Start by express your passionate praise in brief

Let the potential employer of the person you are writing for know that you believed in this person right from the start. Try not to sound overzealous; you do not want them to think it is insincere.

“Any corporation should count themselves fortunate to have an employee as determined, sharp and friendly as Mark.”

3. Show how well you know the person you are writing for

Give some concrete contexts and examples for your recommendation. Inform the reader how you met them, how long you have worked together, your experience working with them and summarise your basic qualifications.

“As MD of Media Central, I was Mark’s direct supervisor from 2007 to 2011. We worked together on several key projects together as I got to know him well, as a hardworking man.”

4. Highlight the candidate’s qualifications and past achievements

Give a clear and concise description of what the person has done, in your company. Cite their greatest achievements in their assigned departments as well as team projects. Use examples, give evidence or summarise a story of their work.

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“Mark’s enthusiasm for solving problems through media combined with his grasp of media technology, polished editorial skills and team spirit, has improved our company’s productivity in the visual and print media departments.

5. Illustrate their success and what makes them stand out through comparisons

Comparisons help the recipient to have some basis to fathom why you are recommending the candidate.

“Mark’s ability to get the job done even before the deadline, keep up with technological trends and serve diversified markets has surpassed the combined efforts of other media efforts I have witnessed during my five years at XXX LTD.”

6. Cite where and how the candidate is improving without any exaggeration

Do not set expectations for the candidates that may be almost impossible to meet. Praise them without looking plausible.

“Mark is always active in seminars, summits and complementary courses as he works hard to improve technical skills in field work.”

7. Mention their good qualities outside of work

Give a basis of their participation whether it is in the company’s sports team or voluntary work.

“Mark is also an active member of the company’s football team where he performs outstandingly.”

8. Maintain action-oriented writing

Start every paragraph with an active affirmation of the candidate’s character traits or qualities.

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Replace “I have been pleased with his ongoing work” with “Mark’s skills have drastically improved in the last couple months. His selfless attitude is inspiring.”

9. Close the letter with an affirmative tone

In few words, restate your recommendation of the candidate and invite the recipient to contact you.

“For all the above reasons, I know Mark will be of great value to your company as an addition to the team. Should you have any enquiries, I invite you to contact me at the phone number and address, above.”

10. Don’t forget to sign your name!

The most important thing it to still sound professional, at the end of it all. If the recommendation letter you are writing is to be sent to a physical address, print and sign it by hand. Otherwise, type your name and sign off.

Remember, make this person look good without putting them on the pedestal. You are putting your reputation on the line for this person, make it perfect. If you aren’t completely confident that you have covered everything in your letter, ask for feedback from an associate who may also know the candidate.

And more tips from professionals to help you write an all-rounded letter of recommendation.

It’s not ending here. We still have some wise words from some professionals in the field for you. Their expertise and experience are the perfect proof of their credibility. And it is highly advisable to listen to them before starting your letter or you may accidentally step on some traps which can be avoided.

Keep the letter of recommendation brief and concise

One-page MAX. This may seem like common sense, but can be hard if you are trying to get across a lot of accomplishments or the person has an extended CV. If you can get to the heart of the matter in one page, highlighting the person, as opposed to waxing poetic about how great they are will keep it authentic. — Brandyce Stephenson, Corporate Culture Consultant[1]

Don’t be vague, list examples to demonstrate the candidate’s qualities instead

My best advice for writing an effective letter of recommendation is to focus the writing and praise on a specific project or area of work that the person completed. Rather than the vague cliches of saying that candidate X is “hard-working, attentive, and detail-oriented”, it helps to say exactly what the person did when you were working for them and what astounded you about that particular practice. Anyone can be a “conscientious worker”, but few may have the fortitude to work long hours and late nights to achieve a goal, or the ability to instantly pick up a new program online, for example. — Jake Tully, Editor In Chief TruckDrivingJobs[2]

Mention the lasting impression

Finish your letter with a statement about how you would be “happy to hire X person again”. This firmly indicates to the hirer that you parted ways on good terms. — Jamie Stone, Human Resources Consultant, Mature Dates Online[3]

Introduce yourself in the letter as well

It may not be very obvious to the reviewer who you are and why you have the standing to recommend this person. State in the letter why you have the experience to make this judgement. So, for example, I would say: “I am a professor of medicine with 25 years of experience. I have mentored hundreds of postdoctoral fellows in a top 20 medical research center. Therefore, I have extensive experience assessing the skills of applicants at this level.” — Dr. Luz Claudio, director of training programs and author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide[4]

Tailor the letter to the job sought

Familiarise yourself with the position so that you can tailor your letter to the specific requirements of the job. If the job heavily entails people management, make sure you mention a time when this person did a great job at that, even if it wasn’t their main responsibility. — Freda Francis, Human Resources Expert, Mums That Work[5]

Get personal and trigger emotions

People like to get their hearts tugged at a bit and if some one can stand someone enough to hire someone or have someone as a student and actually want to recommend them after the experience, they probably think they’re pretty good people. Opt for sincerity versus perfection. People dig it. — Joan Barrett, Freelance Writer, Joan Barrett Media[6]

Emphasise the great attitude of the person you are writing for

A great recommendation letter speaks to the candidate’s stellar attitude. I don’t always expect candidates to meet every requirement of the job as long as they have the basics down. But I do expect them to come with a great attitude and positive energy regarding tackling new challenges. You can train people on skills, but you can almost never train attitude. — Jeff Kear, Founder, Planning Pod[7]

With all these tips and suggestion, you are now capable to write a sound, convincing yet neat killer letter of recommendation. No worries for the possibility of killing now. And be prepared to be a favourite to write more in the coming future!

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

[1] Brandyce Stephenson, Corporate Culture Consultant
[2] Jake Tully, Editor In Chief TruckDrivingJobs.com
[3] Jamie Stone, Human Resources Consultant, Mature Dates Online
[4] Dr. Luz Claudio, director of training programs and author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide
[5] Freda Francis, Human Resources Expert, Mums That Work
[6] Joan Barrett, Freelance Writer, Joan Barrett Media
[7] Jeff Kear, Founder, Planning Pod

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Last Updated on November 18, 2019

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

How do we manage that?

I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

    One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

    At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

    After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

    • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
    • She could publish all her articles on time
    • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

    Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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    1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

    When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

    My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

    Use this time to:

    • Look at the big picture.
    • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
    • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

    2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

    This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

    It works like this:

    Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

    By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

      To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

      Low Cost + High Benefit

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      Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

      Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

      High Cost + High Benefit

      Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

      Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

      Low Cost + Low Benefit

      This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

      These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

      High Cost + Low Benefit

      Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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      For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

      Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

        After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

          And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

          Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

          Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

          What to do in these cases?

          Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

          For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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          Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

            Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

            The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

            By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

            And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

            Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

            Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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            Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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