Suggested 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 UWL 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)

Tips for Providing References
Sample letter of recommendation
Faculty Guide to Ethical and Legal Standards in Student Hiring (Word document)