When writing a letter of recommendation, begin by introducing yourself, detailing your professional relationship with the individual, and specifying the role they’re seeking.

Dive into their standout skills and qualifications, especially those aligned with their desired position.

Personal anecdotes are invaluable; they offer a glimpse into the individual’s character.

As you conclude, emphasize their suitability for the role and provide your contact details for any follow-up, wrapping up with a warm and professional sign-off.

This is just a brief explanation of how you should approach writing a recommendation letter. For detailed guidelines, templates, and specific examples firsthand, read on!

Key takeaways

  • A recommendation letter is a formal document where one person or business proves the suitability of another person for a specific role.
  • As the person who writes a recommendation letter, focus on offering a compelling, personalized recommendation based on your direct experience with the individual. Decline requests gracefully if you lack sufficient firsthand experience with the person or company you’ve been asked to recommend.
  • The body of your letter of recommendation should contain a salutation, introduction, summary, personal story, closing statement, and signature. The letter must be on-page, with single-spaced lines, in classic 10—12 pt font, and with 1-inch margins.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a formal endorsement of an individual’s or company’s qualifications, skills, or experience, by a person or company familiar with their background.

Recommendation letters should be crafted to address the specific circumstances of the individual’s role or application and the unique requirements set by the receiving organization.

These letters can validate credentials and provide credible references for various sectors: academia, employment, regulated fields like law and finance, partnerships across businesses, immigration, adoptions, and many others.

Letter of Recommendation Template

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What is the objective of a recommendation letter?

In writing a recommendation letter, you confirm that certain information about the person or business you’re recommending is proven to be true.

As the person who writes a recommendation letter, your objective is to offer a credible, personalized endorsement based on direct experience with the individual or company.

Before accepting a request, determine if you can provide a compelling letter:

  • Did you manage or work closely with the person or did you work directly with the company?
  • Can you cite relevant qualifications and concrete examples of their abilities?
  • Do you have sufficient positive experiences to draw from?

If you lack firsthand knowledge, don’t have glowing feedback, or lack experience collaborating with them, politely decline the request upfront to allow time to find an alternate person.

How many types of recommendation letters are there?

There are three different types of recommendation letters. Let’s take a closer look at each type and set some typical situations where these letter types are applied.

1. Letters of academic recommendation

It is customary for students to submit academic recommendation letters throughout the admissions process for graduate and undergraduate schools.

In general, each prospective student is asked to submit up to three strong letters of recommendation, which can be prepared by any educator familiar with the candidate’s academic background. These letter types include:

1. Letters of recommendation for undergraduate or graduate school admissions

In such recommendation letters, professors highlight an applicant’s academic performance, motivation, and potential. College admissions boards use these letters to help evaluate candidates.

2. Letters for graduate school applications

In these letters, references from advisors or research supervisors underscore an applicant’s skills, intelligence, and readiness for advanced study.

3. Fellowship program applications

These letters are usually addressed to the fellowship program committee to attest to candidates’ qualifications, skills, and experience, highlighting their strengths and accomplishments.

All types of academic recommendation letters aim to provide admission boards with valuable insights into a student’s qualifications, achievements, and promise for future academic success.

The personalized perspectives and relevant examples provided by professors, advisors, and research supervisors in these letters play a key role in the competitive admissions processes.

2. Professional or employment recommendation letters

The most common purpose for recommendation letters are verification for employment or for other professional purposes.

As part of the application process, companies may require a candidate to submit up to three recommendation letters after reviewing their resumes.

There are two types of professional and employment recommendation letters:

1. A letter of recommendation for an employee

It is typically written by former or current colleagues, employers, or bosses, preferably those with higher rank, as their word carries greater weight.

The letter serves various purposes like job applications, to validate qualifications and fit, which hiring managers rely heavily on references from former supervisors.

2. A professional recommendation letter

This letter serves a different purpose, vouching for business partnerships, to establish trust and credibility between collaborating organizations.

Additionally, this letter may be a part of industry certification and licensing, with peers vouching for an individual’s ethics, competencies, and professional standing.

3. Character reference letters

Also known as personal references, character reference letters are written by someone who knows an individual well, such as close friends, coworkers, employers, or business partners, to speak to their personality.

While character reference letters are less common than academic or employment references, they are still applicable in various scenarios:

1. Personal character reference letters are used for court trials involving criminal matters like drunk driving, general character validation, club memberships, etc.

Such letters are usually written by friends who know the person well enough, as they provide critical personalized insights into an individual’s reputation, values, and ethics.

2. Professional character reference letters are somewhat similar to professional recommendation letters but less specific.

Providing a general endorsement of a person’s character, knowledge, and skills, these letters may not be addressed to a specific individual and can be submitted to multiple applications.

3. Landlords, immigration officials, and child adoption officers may request community or civic character reference letters.

These letters of support from employers, colleagues, or prominent community members can, for example, serve immigration needs like work visas or helping attain citizenship, or attest to an aspirant parent’s suitability.

What should a letter of recommendation include?

Regardless of type, writing a recommendation letter must follow the right format and layout.

The sections are as follows.


If you’re sending a personal recommendation letter or addressing someone whose name you know, the salutation might be directed to “Dear Mr./Mrs./Dr. [Last name].”

If not, you can use the generic “to whom it may concern” instead.


The first paragraph includes your statement of recommendation (e.g., “it is my pleasure to recommend…”).

It is customary to explain who you are and describe your area of expertise briefly:


An overview or a summary is the part that communicates the applicant’s most important abilities, traits, and strengths that are in line with the aim of the letter.

Personal story

Here, describe the applicant’s talents and qualifications in greater detail:

Closing statement

The closing remark, also known as the final call to action, is when you tell the person receiving a recommendation letter that if further information is desired or needed they should contact you:


The final part of the letter includes your contact information and your name, followed by a signature.

Letters of recommendation format

You only need to follow a few basic formatting standards when it comes to the layout of the recommendation letter. Here are the most important.

One-page length

This criterion is especially important for recommendation letters. Recruiters read hundreds of letters each day, so make sure you don’t waste their time and send a short, to-the-point letter.

A strong recommendation letter doesn’t have to be an essay to pique the recruiter’s interest — rather, it should be directly related to the given circumstances (the requirements and expectations of the receiving end).

Single-spaced lines

Lines should be single-spaced, with space between paragraphs. You may keep your reference letter under the limit by shortening the text.

Use a classic font

Don’t opt for something too unique; instead, Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, Ubuntu, Roboto, or Overpass are the tried-and-true classics we recommend.

Use 1-inch margins on all sides

This gives the letter plenty of white space around the margins and makes it easy to read. The text should also be positioned to the left, the typical orientation for most papers.

Don’t go over 10—12pt font size

This is the range of font sizes that makes the document readable. Another way to keep your recommendation letter under the length restriction is to change the font size.

Recommendation letter template

Despite there being three different types of recommendation letters, they all have a similar structure and differ only in nuance.

Use this universal recommendation letter template, keeping the overall document structure the same and modifying existing statements based on sense.

Recommendation letter example

Use this template as an example: Letter of recommendation for a student template. You don’t have to stick to exactly what is presented; instead, modify the template as needed to suit your specific situation.


If you are writing a letter of recommendation, use the advice above to get started and go through the entire process smoothly.

Also, if you need additional help writing a sample letter of reprimand or a technical or project proposal, check out the PandaDoc website and browse through our tutorials, 1000+ template library, our e-signature capabilities, and everything else we’ve got prepared for you.

And, if you’ve got any questions, just connect with us via live chat or any other way you prefer — we’ll do our best to help you out!

Frequently asked questions

  • Recommendation letters are often prepared by individuals who have interacted closely with the applicant and focus on their professional or academic abilities and achievements. And the recommender gives a personal guarantee, in a way, that the candidate is trustworthy.

    Reference letters, in turn, are of a broader scope and are more about soft skills and personal traits.

  • A personal reference (or a character reference) is a brief assessment of the candidate as an individual provided by someone familiar with them outside of work. Rather than focusing on professional skills and abilities, personal reference describes the candidate’s personality, character, behavior, and ethics.

  • When hiring new employees, most companies are looking for someone who has the required skills and experience, fits in well with the team, and can have a positive impact on the organization.

    A personal reference might provide information about personality, communication skills, emotional intelligence (including soft skills), and basically how well the candidate fits in at the organization.

  • Personal references are usually required within the scope of the application process. This could be for a job, professional membership, or certification. Employers frequently ask for references during or after the initial round of interviews to confirm information they received from the candidate at the interview.

  • High school teachers, lecturers, group or club leaders, neighbors, friends, and family members are all typical sources for personal reference letters.

    Those offering the reference should know you well and support this through examples.

    It’s preferable to choose someone besides your close friends or family members to write a reference letter; after all, you want to avoid someone viewing the reference as biased.


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Originally published February 15, 2022, updated February 22, 2024