April 25, 2009

Recommendation letter writing tips

Any recommendation letter has a clear objective which is to persuade the reader that the recommended candidate possesses the qualifications and experiences required for the job. To be effective, a recommendation letter should include the following:

  • candidate’s full name
  • name of the position, that a candidate wants to get
  • whether a recommendation letter is written upon request or by initiative
  • the nature of relationship between the writer and a candidate
  • facts that directly relate to the position
  • a writer’s general opinion on whether the candidate fits this particular position

Mostly, recommendation letters are confidential, that is, they are sent directly to a person or department who requested them, and are not shown to the candidate. Thus, the writer whose confidentiality is guaranteed tends to be more open and frank, expressing the important negative features along with the positive ones.

A recommendation letter writer should be aware that the presented information should be true and just. Any reader would hesitate relying upon continuous praise for someone’s achievements and strong points. Therefore, a good writer often provides a specific example in arecommendation letter to any general statement to support the candidate’s abilities.

Weaknesses in a recommendation letter

Sooner or later a recommendation letter writer has to deal with a delicate issue, namely, how to present candidate’s weaknesses. A writer may not include candidate’s weak points if they are not related to job requirements. However the writer should realize that providing a recommendation, he/she becomes responsible to some extent for the candidate. Covering serious candidate’s weaknesses may lead to very unpleasant consequences (a candidate may reveal not enough qualifications, or a better-qualified candidate may get a refusal due to a false recommendation of a rival).

Some managers consider it unethical to omit the information that is not in favor of a candidate in a recommendation letter, especially if it is relevant and true. But at the same time, there is a danger of making false judgments that harm candidate’s reputation. The best way to present possible weaknesses is to balance criticism with favorable points and to present only relevant information.

A good recommendation letter usually ends with a supportive personal summery of the writer’s evaluation. Be sure to leave your contact information (telephone, e-mail, etc.) to provide more credibility.

To sum up, a good recommendation letter should provide frank and personal information related to the job and avoid overstating candidate’s abilities or mislead the reader in any other way.