Interested to Improve Employee Experience?

Speak to the team

The 2023 HR Guide to Writing A Letter of Recommendation: Tips and Templates

Friday, June 9, 2023

The 2023 HR Guide to Writing A Letter of Recommendation: Tips and Templates

Some hiring committees ask for a letter of recommendation up front, while others may wait until the final stages of the hiring process. In any case, the recommendation of a former boss, colleague, or client can give candidates greater credibility and give employers a better sense of what to expect from a potential hire. After all, our former colleagues are some of our greatest assets when making a career move. This guide will explain how to write an effective letter of recommendation as well as some tips and sample templates to help you get started.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a formal letter detailing an individual’s strengths and suitability for a particular opportunity. Letters of recommendation are often requested as part of applications for college, graduate or professional school, or a job opportunity. In other cases, letters of recommendation might be requested as part of an application for an award or grant. Recommendation letters provide a third-party perspective on an applicant’s strengths and attributes and offer insights into the ways in which an individual might contribute to their future team. Recommendations for a potential hire usually come from a former supervisor, manager, or colleague with more experience than the person they are recommending.

What to include in a letter of recommendation?

Each letter of recommendation is unique, but there are certain elements you should be sure to include.

In the first part of your letter, state who you are and your relationship with the candidate, including how long you have known them.

Describe in what capacity the candidate worked for you or with you. This will not only provide context for your recommendation, but will also establish that you are qualified to speak knowledgeably about the candidate.

Your letter should include commentary on the candidates skills that are relevant to the position for which they are applying. Include specific examples or anecdotes that speak to their experience and skill level.

The letter should also include commentary on the candidate’s character and soft skills. If possible, include a personal anecdote that illustrates who the candidate is as a person, not just an employee or colleague.

Finally, include your contact information in case the recruiter needs to follow up for additional details or clarification.

Letter of recommendation dos and don’ts

  • Do be specific. A recommendation letter should be unique to the person you are recommending. Don’t recycle boilerplate language for multiple letters; take some time to write something particular to the individual. And, be sure to include specific examples of the candidate’s skills and character. Where possible, use numbers and quantifiable evidence to describe their qualifications.
  • Do review the applicant’s latest resume.  It’s not only a good way to refresh your memory about this person’s skills, experience, and accomplishments, but it’s also important to keep you up to date, they may have relevant achievements or career moves since leaving your organization that you’re not aware of. If a colleague asks you to write a recommendation letter, ask them for a copy of their resume so you have all the relevant information in front of you when you start to compose your letter.
  • Do tailor your recommendation to the job application. The other piece of information you should have is a copy of the job description or posting for the role to which the candidate is applying. Review the job description and highlight the person’s strengths and characteristics that are most relevant to the job.
  • Don’t write a letter of recommendation for someone you don’t know. It should go without saying that it’s not a good idea to agree to write a recommendation letter for someone you haven't worked closely with. Still, you may find yourself on the receiving end of just such a request, especially if you hold a senior position at your company. The problem with agreeing to recommend someone you don’t know well is that the letter will inevitably be vague, disingenuous, and ultimately unhelpful to the applicant. What’s worse, you could risk tarnishing your own reputation if you recommend someone who turns out to be a bad apple.
  • Don’t embellish or exaggerate. No matter how much you like the individual you are recommending,
  • Don’t vouch for someone you wouldn’t truly recommend. This one should go without saying as well, but you might find yourself being asked to vouch for someone you cannot honestly recommend. If the position requires a letter of recommendation, it is likely a high-level position or a role requiring a high amount of trust and responsibility. Recommending a poor former employee will only hurt your reputation in your industry. Politely declining to write the letter is better than penning a half-hearted or disingenuous recommendation.

Letter of recommendation sample templates

The right recommendation letter format and style will depend on the nature and purpose of the letter. See some sample templates below for inspiration:



Dear __________:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend __________ for [position with Company Name]

I am [Your Name], a [your position] at [Institution or Company]. I have [number] years of experience working in [your industry or academic focus] and have seen many young professionals come and go. [Applicant Name] is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

I had the pleasure of working with ________ for ___ years at [company name].

[Describe the skills your former colleague demonstrated on the job, and the positive attributes that set them apart.]

[Insert personal story elaborating on key skills, traits or experiences].

I am confident that [Applicant Name] would be a valuable addition to your team. If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at [contact information]. As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of [Pronoun] talents and achievements, I would be happy to elaborate further on my time working with [Pronoun].


[Your Name, Company, and Title]

See also:

This example of an academic letter of recommendation[1] courtesy of

These templates for a job applicant letter of recommendation[2] from

Explore More Posts