UW-L Career ServicesSuggested Guidelines for Writing  Recommendation Letters

Before Writing a Letter
  • Agree to write a letter only if you can honestly write a supportive letter. If you cannot portray an individual positively or believe you do not know them well enough to comment on their skills and abilities, decline the request
  • Ask the student for a due date and have them provide you with an addressed envelope.
  • Job Search Recommendations:  Ask for a current resume and a position description of the type of position the applicant is seeking.  Ask for a summary of the candidate's professional goals.
  • Graduate School Search Recommendations:  Ask for a current resume, a copy of their personal statement, and any criteria requested by the graduate/professional school program (i.e. a specific recommendation form or a questionnaire).
Writing a Letter
  • Begin the letter by describing how you know the individual. For how long? In what situations have you worked with or observed the individual?
  • What is your evaluation of the candidate's capabilities and suitability to the profession? Identify key areas such as work performance, management and research abilities, leadership qualities, cross-cultural and interpersonal skills and, for graduate school recommendations, their ability to do research and scholarly work.  It is best to provide specific examples as evidence of the candidate's abilities.
  • Offer a "big picture" of the candidate's overall promise and potential.
  • Try to differentiate and highlight the candidate's specific and individual strengths.
  • Don't be too brief, provide relevant information and provide examples of candidate's successes.
  • State your own qualifications as they relate to the profession, organization or program.
  • In most cases, a letter of recommendation is one page with up to four paragraphs
  • Recommendations should be printed on a high quality printer on UW-L letterhead and signed.
After Writing a Letter
  • Consider providing the candidate with a copy of the recommendation for their files.
  • Keep a copy of the recommendation for your records.
  • Ask the student to update you on the process.
Additional resources from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)