Writing a professional letter of recommendation

Employers, professors, teachers, colleagues or clients may be asked to write a professional letter of recommendation to assist someone they’ve worked with in some capacity. These letters are vital because they could play a big part in helping decide if a person gets into a school, a job, or even a meaningful volunteer position.

The bottom of a page is stamped with the word "Recommended".
Giving the stamp of approval can advance careers.

If you’ve been asked to write a letter of recommendation on someone else’s behalf and you’ve never done it before, there are a few things to know before you get started. With the following instructions, you’ll be able to craft a letter that will convince the recipient that the subject is worthy of their consideration.

The basics of a letter of recommendation

Before you start, you’ll want to gather information and review what you know about the recipient and the person you’re recommending.

  1. Think about who you are addressing. The content of the letter of recommendation will depend on who the requester plans on presenting the letter to. Are you addressing the acceptance board at a university, a potential employer, etc.?
  2. Consider how you know the requester. Were they a student, did they work for you, were they a colleague at some point? Also, take note of when and where this occurred.
  3. Do you feel good about writing a positive recommendation? You need to ask yourself if you can write a good recommendation for this person. While it may seem obvious, you likely shouldn’t write a recommendation letter for an individual who did something unethical or dishonest, or if you feel they are unqualified for the position or placement they’re trying to attain.
  4. List their skills and positive traits. Jot down the positive things you recall about this person. How did they stand out to you? What made them a great colleague, student, etc.?

Armed with this information, you’re now ready to dive into writing the letter of recommendation.

How to write a positive letter of recommendation

There’s no exact science to writing a letter of recommendation, but here’s a basic format to follow:

  1. Introduction
  2. Recommendation
  3. List Skills and Attributes
  4. Conclusion


Tell the reader who you are, why you’re writing this letter, and who you are writing it for. You should also include how long and in what capacity you’ve known the person.

Provide recommendation

In this section, you can simply state that you recommend this person for the position.

List skills and attributes

Discuss why you are recommending the person. Provide at least three to five reasons why you feel this person is worthy of the position and give examples and statistics if possible.

For students, you can comment on their academic strengths, abilities, and achievements, highlighting any areas that may connect to the job or educational opportunity for which they’re applying.

If the person was your employee, you could talk about the skills and qualifications they demonstrated on the job. If there are specific skills that fit the job position in question, mention those.

Look for positive attributes that pertain to the environment they’re looking to enter:

  • State their accomplishments and how they improved your workplace or classroom
  • Talk about work ethic and how they get along with others
  • Mention their leadership qualities and willingness to learn
  • Describe how they can be an asset to the recipient and their
  • organization


End your letter with a conclusion, offering to be of additional assistance if needed. Let the recipient know how they can contact you for more information.

A blackboard has the word "Recommendations" at the top and a list of numbers from one to five below. A hand holding chalk hovers near it.
Success comes with structure – and it’s often not complex.

Formatting and editing a letter of recommendation

Keep your letter brief and to the point. One page is sufficient for a letter of recommendation, but you could write a half-page if you don’t have a lot to say. It’s better to be succinct than to say things you don’t mean.

Use a plain font that is easy on the eyes, like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Use a size 11 or 12 font and single space your text, adding an extra line between paragraphs.

At the top left margin, type your letter heading as follows:

Your first name, last name
Your address
Your phone number
Your email address


The person you’re addressing, first name, last name
Person’s address

Dear [name] or To Whom It May Concern:

Example of a positive letter of recommendation

Here is a sample of a positive letter of recommendation:

Jack Jones
Marketing Director
P & Q Media Inc.
123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 12345
[email protected]

November 11, 2021

Sarah Rivera
Human Resources Coordinator
S & R Marketing Company
111 Marketing Lane
Business Town, CT 54321

Dear Ms. Rivera:

I am thrilled to recommend Melissa Branson for the Marketing Manager position at S & R Marketing Company. Melissa worked at P & Q Media for five years, moving from a marketing coordinator to a digital marketing manager in one year. As the marketing director at P & Q Media Inc., I had the opportunity to work closely with Melissa in a supervisory capacity.

Melissa demonstrated the ability to analyze data and extract insights, which led to her helping convert leads. With her at the helm as manager, we increased our social media engagement by 25%. Additionally, her organizational and management skills came in handy as she operated several digital campaigns simultaneously, increasing our ROI on digital campaigns by 12%.

Melissa brings to the table many other skills that would deliver value to a marketing company. She is dedicated to staying on top of the newest trends in the industry, and she was always reliable, meeting her deadlines.

With Melissa’s professionalism, expertise in the field, and personable demeanor, I believe she would be an asset to S & R Marketing Company. She would be a real team player that would bring optimism and skill to the office.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss Melissa’s performance in more depth. You can reach me by email at [email protected] or call me at 222-222-2345.


Jack Jones
Marketing Director
P & Q Media Inc.

Why writing a great letter of recommendation is important

Look at it this way. The person who asked you for the letter of recommendation is looking to you as a trusted verification in their quest to land their next job. Your input and insight in the letter can either help or hinder their application process. As such, it is crucial that your letter of recommendation includes all the important information and elements that effectively convey to the recipient how valuable a colleague the applicant in question would be.

A smiling man at a computer gives the thumbs up sign to the viewer.
Bottom line: It’s a thumbs up from somebody who matters. You.