The savvy job-seekers guide to the letter of recommendation

Posted December 02, 2020

Applying for a job requires that you bring a lot of different pieces together. Your resume, your cover letter, your well-rehearsed answers to common interview questions, your well-planned interview wardrobe. But what many people often overlook is the letter of recommendation. 

While you may already be familiar with providing references with your application, a letter of recommendation is a whole other level of preparedness and job search savviness. In fact, if you have taken the time to work with an employer or professor to prepare a letter of recommendation to your next potential employer, it speaks volumes about you.

Why you need a letter of recommendation

Now, you may be wondering why you should even care about or have a letter of recommendation prepared long before you head over to interview for your dream job. Well, it turns out that would-be employers want to know as much about you as possible before they spend time interviewing you. 

If you can provide them insights from someone who oversaw your work and who has first-hand experience of the good work you do, then the would-be employer will be more excited than ever to speak with you and see how you fit in with the culture of the company.

While many employers may contact your previous employer to find out what type of an employee you were, a letter of recommendation is a great way to showcase your work ethic and abilities when applying for a new job. 

A letter of recommendation will make you stand out from the pack of job seekers, and easily push you to the front of the employment line ahead of those who didn’t think or care to provide one. Not only does it make you look super good at what you do, but it makes the job of your would-be interview that much easier because they don’t have to call each reference or wonder from your resume if you’d actually be good at the job.

No need to feel overwhelmed about adding another piece to your job search toolbox. At CareerBliss, we specialize in matching hard workers with their happiest jobs and their career bliss. We’ve got your back. Keep reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the letter of recommendation is, how to ask for one, and how to write one yourself.

What Is A Letter Of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a letter that details and vouches for your character qualities, capabilities, and skills from the firsthand experience of the recommender. These may be written by a manager, a professor, coworkers or friends. After all, employers are interested in not only your professional skills, but what kind of person you are and how you’ll fit into the company.

Still, most employers do want at least one of your recommendation letters to come from a former employer. Not only can it provide a good overview of your suitability to the job, but it also shows that you are or were on good terms with the company when you left--something that is important for any employer. But if you don’t have any prior work history, don’t worry about it. Ask your professor to provide his/her insights into your work ethic, and what they see you capable of. The would-be employer will appreciate the effort and additional insights.

Ensuring that your recommendation letter is written professionally and is straight to the point is key in making your letter make a great first impression.

How To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation is an important piece in the job search and hiring process. And knowing how to ask for one is a skill in itself. Most people’s initial thoughts are to go to the highest person in the company for a letter of recommendation as they feel that their title will help make their recommendation stand out more. However, if you do not work with this person enough, your letter of recommendation may come across as generic, which may have the opposite effect of what you are wanting.

Instead, look for someone in your immediate ladder such as a manager or supervisor that you have worked closely with. Someone who has managed you for your time at that company will know exactly how you work and what your best characteristics are. These are going to be the things that will make your recommendation letter stand out.

We’ve all been there, and it can definitely be intimidating approaching someone about writing a letter of recommendation for you. After all, you’re asking for them to recommend you to a new employer. While it may be intimidating, anyone you feel comfortable enough to ask for a recommendation letter should want you to succeed and should be happy to write you a letter.

When asking someone for a letter of recommendation, make sure you allow them enough time to get it done. Don’t throw it at them the day before you submit your application, or the day you are going in for an interview. Treat them with respect just as you have every step of the way during your employment. 

Sending an email request for a letter of recommendation

In a professional setting, your best bet would be to email them rather than bring it up in casual conversation so that they will have a physical reminder to write your letter. This will also give them a reference point in case they need to come back to remember anything you may have asked. It also gives them time to ponder for a moment whether or not they can assist you, without you standing over them at their desk waiting for an answer. 

Break the ice in your email, but don’t beat around the bush. Be bold and confident about what you are asking. After all, if you are a good employee, your boss will be sad to see you go, but happy to help you succeed in your next endeavor. So let them know why you need a letter of recommendation.

In the course of your email, be sure to let them know very clearly how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and the company over the duration of your employment.

Acknowledge how busy you know them to be, and offer to provide topics if needed to ease the writing process. Alternately, you may also ask if they would like you to draft it for their review and signature. But honestly, we love the old-fashioned way of just asking for their recommendation, and reading all the wonderful things they will say about you in their letter. Be sure to thank them for their time and assistance in this endeavor.

Keep these tips handy when writing a letter of recommendation

  • Keep In Mind The Requests Of The Applicant

Lastly, you will want to make sure that you are remembering the requests of the applicant. This letter of recommendation is for them, so make sure that you are sticking to their requests and hitting on the topics that they have requested.

  • Keep The Tone Positive

One of the most important tips when it comes to writing a recommendation letter is to keep it positive. A positive tone will help relay your passion and confidence in the applicant, allowing the reader to see how much you believe in them.

  • Use A Professional Business Format And Tone

A letter of recommendation is going to be a professional letter sent to a new employer. You will want to make sure you follow the tips above to keep your tone and format as business professional as possible to make your letter stand out to whomever may be reading it.

  • Keep The Focus On Important Qualifications Of The Job

When writing the letter, make sure that you stay on topic and focus solely on the important qualifications of the job. Keeping this focus on these qualifications will help get the point across more efficiently.

Formatting the recommtendation letter

The format of your letter is more important than you might think. When you send your email request, feel free to include a link to this article to provide your employer with tips for writing a letter of recommendation. Or become a master of it yourself in case you’re asked to write the letter for them to sign--this happens more than you might think.

Format is important when writing a recommendation letter. You want to keep it short, to the point, and provide an insightful look at the person who is the topic of the letter. To keep it easy to read and hit on all the main points, keep this basic format handy to be a recommender extraordinaire.

  • The introduction helps set the tone for the rest of the letter

To start off your letter of recommendation, you are going to want to write a short introduction that introduces yourself and your relation to the applicant. You can also discuss your personal experience or expertise.

  • Elaborate on the applicant’s strengths

Feel free to take up a few concise paragraphs elaborating on how the applicant has demonstrated their strengths on the job (particularly those that apply to the job in question). This is a great time to talk about any outstanding personal characteristics they might possess, and anything else you know about them that would give them the boost in the would-be interviewer’s eyes.

  • Go deeper into the experiences you’ve had with the applicant

As you create a narrative about your experience and perception of the applicant, you’ll want to be sure to further impress specific times they showcased certain skills or strengths, or why you hired them in the first place for their current (or former) job.

  • Close it with finesse

Keep it short and sweet, using it as an opportunity to summarize your letter and let the reader know why you think the applicant is not only suitable, but uniquely qualified, for the job at hand. 

  • The sign-off

Close out with your name and any contact information you would like to provide so that the new employer may contact you for any additional information.

And that’s it! You’re now prepared to write a great letter or recommendation either for an employee who’s moving on to a new company, or for yourself to streamline the process for your manager. 

The CareerBliss Team

Your career happiness is our #1 priority here at CareerBliss. To help you succeed in your career, we offer a wide variety of tools and resources to help you out along the way. Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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