The best way of
Writing a
Letter of Recommendation

What is a letter of recommendation?

This is a letter written for the purpose of recommending an individual as suitable for a job, service, or position she has applied for. These letters are also known as letters of reference.

Some companies require that an applicant names at least two referees.  These are then called upon to write recommendation letters.  

It is very important that you learn how to write effective recommendation letters, because one day, you may be called upon to write such a letter for a friend. Depending on how you write it, you may break or make your friend, so to speak.

A recommendation letter is applicable in the following situations:

  • To recommend a person for a certain job.
  • To recommend a person for a scholarship or study program.
  • To recommend a person for a certain service.

So how do you go about writing a letter of reference?

To write an effective letter of reference, you must be aware of the following:

  • Your friend’s qualifications
  • Aspects of your friends personality that will give him the edge
  • Experience in the specified field
  • What the employer or institution is looking for


Usually, the first step is that the company or institution that your friend applied to will send you a letter, requiring that you provide a recommendation. Before you set out writing your letter, you must pay particular attention to the requirements specified by the prospective employer, and then tailor your letter accordingly.

Sometimes, you may not receive a letter, but rather, you may be informed by phone or other means. But even then, do not write the letter blindly, without knowing what is needed.

In short, you must be aware of what the employer or institution wants and then set about to give reasons why your friend is qualified for the position.

I will best illustrate how to write a recommendation letter with example. Though the letter must be tailored according to each individual and situation, the basic format remains the same. I reckon that two examples will be enough for you to learn how to write a good letter of reference.


We will start with the event that a student applies for a scholarship at a certain university. Let us put you in the shoes of the student’s former Lecturer. You are called upon to write a letter of recommendation. Here is the letter that is sent to you:


sample recommendation letter



Now, here is how you should go about writing this letter.

  1. Read the letter carefully and ascertain what it is that you are required to provide.

    After reading this letter, it is obvious that you are required to provide ample evidence that Natasha is genuinely qualified. You should provide evidence that she is a high quality student.

  2. Make a draft. List down what you should include in your letter:

    • I have known Natasha for two years, having been her mathematic lecturer.
    • She was very hard working, and her high grades were as a result of her hard work.
    • She is honest—No record of cheating in tests, examinations or assignment.
    • Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.


  4. Prepare your introductory paragraph. Therein, you should mention that you received the request and that the letter you are writing is a response to the request. You should also state the duration that you have known the person you are recommending, and the relationship that existed between you:

    With reference to your request (30th March, 2009), I would like to humour you with a character reference for Natasha Lewis and recommend her for your undergraduate programme. I have known Natasha for two years, having been her Mathematics lecturer. Because of her dutiful attitude towards school, she was one of my favourite students.



    Pay particular attention to how you draft your opening sentences. They almost immediately reveal how you feel about the person you are writing about. The very first sentence should convey your deep confidence in the individual and your pleasure at recommending her.


    To show how highly you think of the person, you could re-write the opening sentence in this manner:

    With reference to your request (30th March 2009), it is with the utmost pleasure and honour that I recommend Natasha Lewis for your undergraduate programme.  



  5. In the body, expand your points into paragraphs.

    Move to general to specific, and if possible, mention particular experiences that remove any doubts as to the individual’s credentials.


    Natasha is a very hard working girl. Her high grades are definitely a result of her own hard work. She is honest and she had no record of cheating in assignments, tests or examinations. Furthermore, she is able to work under tremendous pressure and meet deadlines.

    Natasha does not believe in taking the easy way out. At one time, all her classmates walked out on a test, claiming it was too difficult. However, Natasha remained, completed the test, and managed to pass it. .

  6. Write your concluding paragraph. Therein you should welcome further questions or clarifications. Reaffirm your positive recommendation.


     Admitting Natasha will not be a mistake. I am confident that she will work extra hard and earn her degree in the required time. She is indeed more than qualified for the scholarship. For further information or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. 


Now let put our letter together and see how it appears:


sample recommendation letter


For the second example, imagine that you are an employer, and one of your employees resigns, seeking a position elsewhere. However, he insists that you write him a letter of recommendation.

You will follow similar guidelines to the ones mentioned above, so I will try not to repeat myself. However, you must take note of the following:

  • Present a fair, rounded, balanced assessment of the individual. You should not be influenced by prejudice or other negative emotions.
  • Don’t refrain from stating weaknesses if they will negatively affect the position that the individual is applying for. However, if these are not serious flaws, try to present them in a positive manner. For instance, you could say:

    Although George easily gets offended, he willingly apologises when shown to be in the wrong.

  • If you believe that the person is not suitable for the job, state very clearly why you believe so, bringing to light truthful evidence.
  • As you are his former employer, it is good to mention why the person left.


Here is the complete letter:


recommendation sample letter

I sure hope that these guidelines have helped you to polish up your skill at writing letters of recommendation. To keep up to date with all my latest articles on letter writing, please subscribe to Writer Digest:

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