Stand Out: Guidelines to a Compelling Letter of Recommendation

For Candidates, For Employers

A strong letter of recommendation can distinguish a candidate’s application from the rest and leave a positive impact on the employer or recruiter. On the other hand, writing a letter of recommendation is a great way to pay it forward and contribute to the success of the candidate’s career.

Whether you are the candidate requesting the letter, or the employer responsible for writing one, it is essential to learn how to write a letter of recommendation that will leave a lasting impression.


What makes a compelling letter of recommendation?

Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Print the letter on company letterhead
  • Personalization and sincerity is key – avoid using letter of recommendation templates
  • Explain the professional relationship and the duration spent working with the candidate
  • Give specific examples of the value and impact that the candidate has made in the company
  • Highlight the candidate’s hard and soft skills that greatly benefitted the company
  • When signing off the letter, include a handwritten signature along with the employer’s typed name, job title, and contact information
  • Proofread to avoid typos or grammatical errors


Candidates: How to Approach Requesting a Letter of Recommendation

As a candidate, reach out to professionals who have had a previous working relationship with you. Ideally, the letter of recommendation should be requested before actively seeking a job. The employers’ expectation is that references can be checked prior to the offer. When asking a professional to write a letter of recommendation, keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not be intimidated; just ask. Employers are used to this request.
  • Avoid pressuring the employer to write a letter.
  • Request for a letter in person. If that is not feasible, then reach out by phone and as a last resort, by email.
  • Provide a list of points to cover that is relevant to the opportunity if the employer is unsure of how to approach the letter,.
  • If the employer accepts writing the recommendation, express gratitude for taking the time to fulfill your request.
  • Be prepared to write the recommendation yourself. Many people want to help, but do not have time to write a recommendation. It is quite common for an employer to ask candidates to write the letter themselves that the employer will sign off.


Employers: Don’t Want to Write a Letter of Recommendation? Consider This.

It can be intimidating for candidates to personally ask for a letter of recommendation, so it is important to have a good reason for declining in the first place (e.g. against company policy, unable to realistically meet the deadline, etc.). Before declining all together, however, consider the benefits to writing one:

  • Writing the letter can result in the growth of the recommender’s professional network
  • Professionals will recognize the recommender as a positive leader who is willing to support their colleague’s career goals
  • The recommender may need a letter of their own from the candidate in the future

Alternatively, referring the candidate to another colleague within the company that can better vouch for the candidate’s work is a proactive way to assist the candidate in attaining a letter of recommendation.

Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 50 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; Hotels and Resorts; Travel, Tourism, and Attractions; Facilities and Concessions; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Restaurant; Hospital and Healthcare; and Nonprofit industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

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