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Writing a letter of recommendation is a tremendous honor and responsibility, but it should never become an onerous chore. A good recommendation letter should be brief and to the point, and it seldom needs to be more than a page long.
Writing a recommendation letter doesn't come without consequences. When you vouch for someone's abilities or character in writing, you are putting your own name on the line. If you are going to write a halfhearted, or – even worse – negative letter, you and your friend are better off if you don't write a letter at all. If you don't feel comfortable writing a recommendation, tell the person that you can't do it. If you do decide to write it, commit yourself to making it as glowing as you can.
2. Begin Professionally
Start the letter as you would any professional letter, by addressing the person who will be reading it using their surname, such as "Dear Mrs. Smith." If you don't know the person's name, use "To Whom It May Concern."
3. State the Letter's Purpose
Begin the body of the letter with a single sentence recommending your friend, such as, "I am extremely pleased to recommend John Brown for the sales position with Your Paper Company."
3. Document Your History
A reference without context is not very helpful. If you believe your friend is great at what he does, you need to briefly explain your relationship with him. In the second paragraph, state how long you have known the person and what your relationship was, such as, "John has worked for me for the past six years at My Paper Company in Chicago."
In the next paragraphs, describe your observations and the interactions that inspire you to recommend him. For example, you could say something like, "John started here as a a junior sales associate, and I watched him excel with record-breaking sales and one of the highest closing ratios I have ever seen."
4. Close the Letter
Restate your recommendation in the second-to-last paragraph. For example, you could write, "I wholeheartedly recommend John Brown to become a member of the team at Your Paper Company. I have no doubt he will be a great addition to your team."
5. Offer to Elaborate
Now that you have made the recommendation, you should be willing to go one step further. If the addressee requires it, answer any questions or provide additional information about your friend in the last paragraph.
Make sure you include your contact information before signing the recommendation letter.
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A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has been a hiring manager and recruiter for several companies and advises small businesses on technology. He has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles on careers and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including About.com, Re/Max and American Express.
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