A letter of recommendation is a formal assessment of an individual's character and talents as they relate to your interactions with the person. This may be tailored to a particular requester such as an employer or academic institution. Alternatively, it is common to offer an unaddressed recommendation that can be used in any future situation. The following are illustrative examples of a letter of recommendation.
MinimumSome employers are hesitant to provide detailed recommendation letters due to perceived legal risk. This practice is so common that some countries, such as Germany, have legislation that requires employers to include certain details of performance in a letter of recommendation. Employers that seek to minimize their letters of recommendation stick to the facts of employment.
Manager For EmployeeIt is common for organizations to encourage managers to provide detailed letters of recommendation for former employees. These letters typically have a glowingly positive tone such that a more reserved letter may imply there was a problem with the employee's performance.
Coworker For CoworkerIt is common to ask for letters of recommendation from coworkers such as a friend at work or a peer who you have worked with closely. For example, a project manager who gives a recommendation to a senior software developer who contributed to a project.
Coordinator For VolunteerA reference letter is often specifically tailored to its audience. For example, a coordinator at a non-profit who recommends a volunteer for admission into a university program may specifically address the admissions committee.
Principle For TeacherWhere a letter is crafted for a particular purpose, it may focus on the talents of an individual that are applicable. For example, a principle who focuses on a teacher's leadership skills in a recommendation for a vice principle role.
Professor For StudentIt is common for professors to be asked to recommend students for academic programs, internships and jobs. It is a reasonable practice to comply with this where possible, particularly if the student was highly visible in class or if you played a role in advising the student.
Character ReferenceA character reference, or personal reference, is a reference from someone who knows you in any non-professional capacity such as a friend or a neighbor.
NotesA reference letter typically includes the following:- introduce yourself - provide background on your relationship with the person- directly state that you recommend them- explain the person's positive traits- give a concrete example- directly state the recommendation again- offer to be contacted for a follow up
DisclaimerThe letters above are fictional and are designed to illustrate techniques and conventions of formal communication. Any similarity to real people or organizations is coincidental and unintended.
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