The Key Components of a Letter of Recommendation

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    • The relationship of the letter writer to the applicant helps creates credibility for the letter's claims. Graduate school programs that require letters of recommendation expect letter writers to be full-time professors. Potential employers look for letters from applicants' previous employers. Whatever the situation, letter writers must state at the beginning of the letter their relationship to the applicant, including how long they have known the applicant and in what capacity they know the applicant: professional, academic or personal.


    • Before recommendation letter writers delve into specifics, presenting an overall impression of an applicant can be helpful in introducing them. This could involve describing the personality of the applicant, her attitude, maturity level or work ethic. Of course, positive attributes give the best impression.

    Abilities, Achievements and Experience

    • Most employers, schools and scholarship committees look for specifics about applicants. A professor could detail the type of courses an applicant has completed under her, the kinds of assignments she has completed and what grades she earned. Previous employers can discuss the type of work the applicant performed under their supervision, as well as any responsibilities she held. Any awards, special projects or other notable achievements are also worth mentioning. In any case, writers should emphasize positive abilities and experiences.

    Reasons for Recommending

    • Strong letters of recommendation end on a compelling note. Effective endings reiterate the purpose of the letter -- to recommend the applicant for a particular position -- and offer one final reason to consider the applicant. Statements such as "Susan would be a wonderful addition to any graduate school" or "I am confident you will find John a more-than-capable employee" summarize the contents of the letter and the writer's opinion of the applicant.

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