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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 September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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