Best Practices for Writing a Recommendation Letter

A former employee or colleague asks you to write a recommendation letter. Here are some tips for writing a helpful recommendation.

It can be an honour to receive a request for a recommendation from a former employee or colleague that you've mentored in the past. It shows that they respect you and trust you to help them take this next step in their career. Here are some best practices to follow to write a beneficial letter of recommendation.

Before you agree to write it, consider whether you can honestly recommend the person. If you have any serious reservations about the person's ability to do the job they're applying for, it's better to politely decline.

Once you've agreed to write the letter, be prompt in sending it off. Ask about any deadlines and make sure to send it before that. If the company receives a letter of recommendation late, that may harm the candidate's chances of getting the position.

The most important points to include in a recommendation are how you know the person and for how long, why you're recommending the person, the person's qualifications and character traits that make them suitable for the position, and how you can be contacted for further information. If you have personal examples to illustrate the person's character and ability, it's helpful to include some of these briefly.

Keep the tone and any examples positive, emphasising how highly you recommend the person. Even a challenge that has been faced on the job could be turned into a positive example. In some countries, saying anything negative about the candidate could even lead to legal action, so be careful about this.

Finally, follow any formatting instructions the company has before you send the letter off. For example, some might request that you sign over the seal of the envelope to make sure it's genuine and hasn't been opened. Note length requirements or any specific questions to make sure the candidate has the best chance you can provide.


Consider carefully before agreeing
Be prompt
Include these relevant points
Accentuate the positives
Follow any formatting instructions