What Should Be Included in a Letter of Recommendation?

Letter of RecommendaitonAt some point in your career, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation. Either an individual will personally request a letter or a school or job supervisor may come to you directly and request one. The paragraphs that follow discuss what recommendation letters are used for, how you go about writing a recommendation letter and specific information that should be included in a letter of recommendation.

What Are Letters of Recommendation Used For?

Recommendation letters are necessary for three main purposes: as part of the application package for college, for job applications and for some volunteer positions. Although the same information about a candidate would be included in all three types, the focus would be a bit different. The main thing for you to remember when writing recommendation letters is that they are a very important and serious document that can significantly affect an applicant’s future.

How Do You Begin To Write a Letter of Recommendation?

One of the first things you can do is to ask the candidate who has requested the letter to provide you with what they would like to see if they were writing about themselves. This is a good way to get detailed information you might not have if you only knew the person in a classroom setting. With their letter in hand, you then have a starting point to delve into more detail about some specific information about the candidate. You also need to have a comprehensive understanding of what the candidate is applying for and details about the position.

What Should Be Included In a Letter of Recommendation?

Like many types of documents, a letter of recommendation needs to have a beginning, or introduction, a middle, or body, and a conclusion. The beginning is where you explain how you know the person and for how long you have known them. This should take a sentence or two. The middle is where you talk about their special skills and specific achievements. If you can think of any examples, it would be good to include those as well. Finally, in the conclusion you summarize what you have said and give your recommendation.

What Details Should You Include?

Within the general structure of a recommendation letter, the things you need to address include the individual’s capabilities, whether they are reliable and responsible, their strengths and talents, any special contributions to the community and volunteer work and their overall character as a person. Some organizations or businesses may require you to discuss specific things and even provide you with a worksheet to complete. Such a worksheet may or may not give you a space to write a paragraph or two. No matter what the form, the most helpful tool in determining what should be included in a letter of recommendation is to take a look at sample letters, such as those on the Penn State website.

Being asked to write one of these letters is a true honor, and once you know what should be included in a letter of recommendation, you’ll be able to provide substantive information that will have an impact on an individual’s life and career.

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