20+ Free Letter of Recommendation Templates and Samples

A letter of recommendation is a document written by someone known to the subject of the letter in various capacities. It can be a teacher, friend, colleague, boss, etc. It seeks to share the writer’s opinions on their performance, character, abilities, etc. It’s not valid until the writer has signed it and is also known as a reference letter. 

What should be included in a recommendation letter?

Beyond the recommendation itself, there are a few elements that need to be added to any recommendation letter that’s going to be sent out. These include:

  • Date

  • The name of the person that is being recommended in the letter 

  • The nature of the relationship 

  • The actual recommendation with specific areas where the person excels or even anecdotes

  • Information where the writer can be reached for follow up (if applicable)

  • Signature, date, and title of the person

How to successfully request a letter of reference

Asking for a recommendation letter is a bit more complex than many people realize. The person who’s writing it should have a decent relationship with the person being recommended. Also, the requester should make it as straightforward as possible. 

Remove stress inducers 

Not everyone knows how to properly structure and write a letter of recommendation so if you’re going to ask someone to assist you, the best thing to do is give them a template they can model. 

Go through our recommendation letter generator above and fill out all the necessary fields. Include qualities about yourself that you’d like highlighted to give the person you’re asking clear guidelines. Of course, it’s up to them if they want to include those things but it helps them get it done more quickly. 

Once you’ve downloaded your complete letter of recommendation, send it to the person writing the letter. They may use most of what you’ve written or only a bit but it makes things easier for everyone involved and you can get a signed copy of the letter back sooner. 

Ask at the right time

A recommendation letter is a big deal. It can shape your ability to progress down a certain path so it’s not something to be taken lightly. Instead of interrupting them when they’re doing something else or not in the mood to talk, broach the subject when you think they’re receptive to requests. 

The exact time will depend on the personality of the person you’re requesting a letter from and it’s different for everyone. Typically speaking, sending an email is a simple and effective way to ask for a recommendation letter. The person will open their email at their convenience and see the request. 

Give them time

Everyone moves at their own pace. After they’ve acknowledged and accepted your request, give them the letter of reference you drafted in step one and then give them enough time to write a letter for you. 

At a minimum, you should give someone a week. If, after two weeks you’ve not heard back from then it’s alright to follow up to know if they need more time or to remind them of any deadlines you might have. 

When following up, try to avoid being pushy. The writer is doing a big favor for the recipient so it makes sense that they’ll spend time trying to get it right. If you need it in a rush, tell them before they agree to it so they’ll be aware of your expectations. 

Send a thank-you note

A recommendation letter is an important undertaking. It puts the writer on the line for the things they’re saying about you and it can help you advance in your professional or personal life. Be sure to send a heartfelt thank you letter after getting it. To add an even better touch, handwrite the recommendation letter thank you note.

How to write a standard letter of recommendation

When on the receiving end of a request to write a letter of recommendation, it’s important to understand how to structure and craft it. There are multiple sections contained in a recommendation letter: 

  1. Contact information 

  2. Introduction area 

  3. The body where you recommend the person 

  4. A conclusion 

  5. Signature and name 

Most recommendation letters follow the above format and should be written in a tone that’s professional. Try to be as detailed as possible. Instead of writing that they’re diligent, try to include specific examples to lend credence to what is being said. It’s ok to add short personal anecdotes that back up your points. Keep in mind that a letter of recommendation cannot be too long so don’t worry about how much space you use to craft it. 

Section one - introduction

The goal of the introduction is to share who the recommendation letter is written for, who the writer is, and the type of relationship between them. It may also include how long the relationship has lasted and the purpose of the recommendation letter. For example, if it’s for a job, then you can include the position they’re applying for and if it’s for a scholarship then you can write that ‘this recommendation letter is to support John’s application to the Rhodes Scholarship.’ 

If the writer knows the exact person that will be receiving the reference letter it’s fine to address them directly in the letter. If you don’t know the exact person or the position of the person then a general salutation is acceptable. 

Example Introduction

Dear scholarship administrator, 

It is with deep honor and excitement that I recommend James Doe to the Rhodes Scholarship for continued consideration. I’ve known James for seven years and he’s been an active member of our community organization for four years. As the CEO of a small business with $9,000,000 in annual revenue, I pride myself on being able to spot the true character and talent an individual has. I would rate James at the very top. 

In the example above, the writer is a part of the same community organization as James and a successful business person. Since the scholarship is based on academics and personal character, the writer touches on the character aspect.

Section 2 - the content of the recommendation

The second section is where the writer will divulge more details about the person they’re recommending. The areas the writer decides to focus on will depend on the nature of the recommendation letter. If it’s for a job then it’ll focus on specific skills related to the position they’re applying for. If it’s for immigration, then speak about the character traits that make them good citizens of the country. When it’s about medical school, highlight the qualities that would make them a good doctor and an asset to the school. 

Sometimes, a recommendation letter doesn’t have a specific goal and is requested so that the person receiving it will have a letter on hand for any situation. In cases like that, the writer can list many qualities that will be applicable in a wide range of pursuits in the future. 

Section 3 - wrapping it up

The final section should be finished in a single paragraph. It concludes what the letter has said thus far, adds in any final thoughts such as “I believe James will be an asset” and continue to show support for the subject of the letter. 

In most cases, the writer will add contact information just in case the reader of the recommendation letter has any further questions. This information can go at the top of the letter, after the signature, or even within the final paragraph. 

After the conclusion, sign off with something like “warm regards” “kindly” “thank you” etc. sign the letter, print the name under the signature, and date it. 

That’s all there is to the process of writing a recommendation letter. Be sure to use our letter of recommendation document creator to speed up and streamline the process for yourself.