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Letter of Recommendation Guidelines

Introduction to Letter of Recommendation

What is a letter of recommendation? A recommendation letter may also be referred to in short as ‘LOR” or as a letter of reference. This formal document details the qualities and capabilities of the person being recommended by the recommender. Recommendation letters are usually requested for, either by an individual or a business/academic organization that would further like to assess the characteristics of the person being recommended. Not only does it dictate why the person is qualified, but also what makes them the right person for the job. It is imperative that you follow Letter of Recommendation guidelines while getting a LOR written.

Why do you need a letter of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation may be requested either for personal or professional reasons. From a personal standpoint, letters of recommendation from a friend or colleague validate your character, while also providing accurate information on how they perceive your ability to contribute. This is most useful when seeking a new job, college or university admissions or even just signing up for a new home.

Professional recommendation letters, on the other hand, is usually written out by an employer/boss/supervisor for an employee who may be seeking other career opportunities. From a professional standpoint, the letters should be able to convey the highlights of the professional working relationship between the referee and the person you are recommending.

These types of letters serve as an additional source of validation to represent any specific skills required for the job or as a college student. In many instances, the first representation of yourself either to a hiring manager or a college/university admissions office is through a letter of recommendation. First impressions are often the last impressions is true of this and is your endorsement through a credible source without physical representation. Hence it is vital that the ones who are writing your LOR follow the letter of recommendation guidelines.

Whom to ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

It is important to first establish and understand the type of recommendation letter that is required. Is it personal or professional? While thinking about who to ask, evaluate the relationships you have built at school, college and the workplace. You would need to select someone you know who would in turn not only write a positively impacting recommendation letter but also be equally invested in your success. If the application is to graduate school/university you might want to reach out to an ex-teacher, professor or any other person you may have been “supervised” by. If the application is for a new job opportunity or career change, you might want to ask old colleagues, bosses, mentors or even clients to write the letter.

Some colleges have specific letter of recommendation guidelines and will ask for two or even three recommendation letters from different sources who can vouch for you personally and professionally. While this can be a daunting task, start by making a list of 5-10 people who will be best suited to write your recommendation letter. It would be best if you could omit selecting family members or friends as employers or admissions committees are likely to look at these letters of reference as potentially inaccurate or biased. By speaking personally to your shortlisted recommenders, allows both them and you a chance to discuss the type of letter that you need. Doing this also ensures their willingness and commitment to writing a LOR for you. Having this conversation also allows you the opportunity to update them on your relevant academic/professional achievements which can be included in their recommendations. While discussing with them, it is best to include relevant context for the lor, including what it is for, important information that needs to be included and when it is due. Most people who agree to write letters of recommendation will be happy to receive as much information from you which can be put into the letter. It is helpful to provide your current resume detailing your specific skills which they can use as a guideline with regards to your qualifications. Responding with a thank you note shows your appreciation for your recommenders, and will likely ensure that they are part of your future successes.

Tips to Consider while following Letter of Recommendation Guidelines

Whether you are in the process of securing a new job/career change, looking to be admitted into a graduate school or even being asked to write a letter of reference/recommendation, you will definitely require some of these tips. This external source of information provides a value-added account of your previous professional/academic experiences and can be looked at as a testimony of your skills and abilities or that of the person you are writing the reference letter for.

Here you will find a few key tips for what to include a good recommendation letter.

  1. You or Your chosen referee needs to put extra emphasis on qualities such as integrity, initiative, communication skills, dedication and drive.
  2. It would be best to keep away from vague descriptions and compliments.
  3. Providing as many details as possible for specific skills will help the hiring manager/admissions committees to understand more of you or the person you are referring as well as the value being brought. Both of these need to know as much as possible about an applicant to determine his or her ability to perform the job adequately.
  4. Be sure to include information that pertains to the type of letter being requested and its intended audience.
  5. Letters of recommendation guidelines or the lor guidelines will be essentially different when written for academic admissions as compared to one written for a prospective employer.
  6. The referee should be able to confirm the competence and credibility by verifying the experiences and interactions and boosting the confidence for the person that is being advocated for.
  7. Above all always stay sincere and honest.

What makes a Letter of Recommendation stand out?

Primarily an outstanding recommendation letter should provide a vivid sense of the differentiators of the applicant. Here are some questions/ideas that can be addressed in the LOR which could then be the foundation of a productive interview.

  1. Have you provided specific information about the applicant’s strengths and qualities?
  2. Cite specific examples of the work done and why it stood out while establishing a connection to the current goal of the reference letter. It is recommended to explain the work experience and point towards tangible results that were produced. Citing statistics that can be referenced will help make the achievements of the requester stand out.
  3. Providing quantitative data in a larger context with strong comparisons. How the individual compares to others you have worked within similar positions. Why do they stand out? Storytelling or an interesting anecdote will likely leave a more lasting impact on the reader.
  4. How long and in what context do you know or are known to the referee? This can be a simple statement outlining when you worked together, for how long and in what capacity.
  5. Have you established a personal connection with the person you are recommending?
  6. Value added by drawing on remarks by colleagues in the same department to establish supporting evidence on the strengths and qualities of the requester.

It is necessary to also dig deeper into why the recommendation letter is required and what exactly are the readers going to be looking for in it. Getting to understand the values, role, position in the organization/academic institution that is being applied for will allow you to put into context and highlight the applicant’s strengths and qualities.

As a final touch, ensure that the letter is crisp, clear and makes an impact. Keep it no longer than a page and in terms of tone, be formal, professional yet enthusiastic.

Letter of Recommendation Guideline format for Content & Page Layout (Font, Margins, Length)

This is an often underrated aspect when it comes to letter of recommendation guidelines. A recommendation letter is a formal letter and it is highly recommended to use a company letterhead to write one. Including a date, addressing the recipient by name when possible and concluding the letter with a willingness to discuss the contents of the letter such as “If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call me”, is good practice. Sign off with your full name and contact details (phone and email).

Requesters are encouraged to waive their rights to look at the recommendation letters as it indicates that they have confidence in their referees to recommend them in the best light.

How to format a letter of Recommendation:

  1. Heading:
    • Your name and title
    • Organization name/University
    • Full Address
    • Your contact Information
    • Date
  2. Salutation - Include a salutation in the case of personal reference letters or where the name is known (Such as “Dear Mr/Mrs/Dr. Joe/Jane” etc). If it is a general letter a more generic term can be used (such as “To whom it may concern”)
  3. Opening Paragraph - This paragraph is arguably the most important because it sets the stage for the entire letter. Therefore start your introduction with a punch. A heartfelt and enthusiastic opening line followed by explaining the connection to the requester is a good way to start. Further details on how long you have known this person and what makes you a qualified choice to vouch for them with regards to potential employment or for the admissions committee of graduate school.
  4. The Body - This part of the letter consists of relevant details about yourself as the requester, highlighting the reasons why you are particularly qualified for the position/place in the University. It is important to also include what special skills and experiences you can bring to the organization/school and why they should consider you from a professional and personal standpoint. A skill match is important to establish with the position/university program and should be in line with the highlights in your resume.
  5. Summary - This section summarizes the intent of your recommendation letter by reiterating your belief/opinion of the candidate. Using a phrase that emphasizes your conviction will make for a strong case in favor of the person you are recommending.
  6. Call to Action - The last but not the least portion of your letter should include an offer of willingness to be available to give more information if required. Including a contact number, email address and your official signature with designation will be appreciated.
  7. Sign Off - A recommendation letter is a formal note and should be signed off as such. You could use closing phrases such as “Sincerely” or “Warm Regards” and sign off. Rewriting your contact number and email address will be helpful.

Letter of recommendation guidelines -Standard Font, Margins and Length

Letter formatting is recommended to be single-spaced with a space between each paragraph. Use the standard 1” margins, remaining consistent for all sides of the page. The text should be aligned to the left of the page. A Popular and professional-looking font is Times New Roman and the font size should be between 11 and 12.

The acceptable length should not be more than a page and should preferably be on company/college letterhead.

Letter of Recommendation - Samples & Templates
  1. Student, University and Professor Samples/templates.
  2. Employment and career related Samples/Templates.

University recommendation template:

  1. Highlight both academic and personal characteristics of the student to depict them as genuine, real and affable human beings. However, place more emphasis on academic strengths.
  2. Focus on the core strengths and academic accomplishments that are aligned to the values and curriculum of the college the student is applying for.
  3. Always maintain a positive and enthusiastic tone throughout the letter.
  4. If applying for a scholarship, understand the criteria or quality for the scholarship program and then adapt the letter to emphasize how the student embodies the criteria desired by the scholarship organization. Establishing an additional “need” over “qualification” will put more weight on the application.
  5. As a teacher providing the recommendation, ensure that you are qualified to refer.

Sample of Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School which has followed all the letter of recommendation guidelines.


Addressee Name

Addressee Title

University Name


Dear Dean of Admissions/Admissions committee,

It is my pleasure to recommend xxxxx for admission to xxxxx school program. I have known xxxx since xxx year as her coach/advisor at xxxx University. During this time I was thoroughly impressed by xxx commitment to xxxx program.

While studying in xxx undergraduate target to relevant program, xxxx demonstrated extraordinary (1-2 intellectual strengths). Her ( academic work xxxx related to xxxxx graduate program) was at par with a master’s program project. (details of academic work exhibiting abilities and strengths applicable to the relevant field).

Additionally, xxx accomplishments as an undergraduate student in the xxxx faculty coupled with her (2-3 positive personal traits) made her an outstanding member of the xxxx University community. As a leader of the MUN program, she conducted xxxx actions displaying her leadership personality trait.

It is my utmost belief that xxxx would be a tremendous addition to xxxx University Graduate program and she has my highest endorsement. Please feel free to contact me at xxxx or mail me at xxx@gmail.com if you need any further information regarding her character or past academic work.






Employment/Career-related template:

  1. Highlight your own position as a manager/supervisor and how long you have managed the employee in question.
  2. Skill match the employee being recommended and the position being applied for.
  3. Outline and establish your working relationship with your colleague who you are recommending.
  4. Highlight positive personality traits that depict a desirable person in a professional setting.

Sample Letter of Recommendation by Supervisor/Boss which has followed all the letter of recommendation guidelines


Addressee Name



Company Name


Dear Hiring Manager,

It is my pleasure and honour to recommend xxxxxx for the role of xxxx at xxxxx company.. I have known xxxxx professionally for xxx years as her manager at xxx company, where she used her excellent strategy and negotiation skills to deliver a prized contract win in the role of xxxxx. I am confident that xxxx’s exceptional skills, professional experience and personal qualities will make her an asset at xxxx.

As a lead on health benefits, xxxx demonstrated her (2-3 detailed skills/experiences relevant to the new position). In particular, example xxx 1 quality ), Moreover example 2)

Additionally, xxxxx extraordinary (1-2 positive personal qualities relevant to the desired job), always made her an outstanding member of the team. During xxx event/project/crisis she showcased her fantastic (trait 1) qualities to achieve (positive results)

Xxxx has my highest recommendation for this position. I do not doubt that she will make a valuable addition to your team. Please feel free to reach me on xxxxx number and xxx@gmail.com if you have any questions regarding her application or past work.




While these are the most often asked for recommendation letters, there might be other instances when a character reference is required. By incorporating the letter of recommendation guidelines written earlier, you will be able to get one drafted for any requirement. It is recommended to keep your recommendation letter as original as possible without using complicated jargon. However, looking at a few sample letters can help you to better understand and appreciate the key aspects that need to be covered to create an outstanding letter of recommendation.

FAQ Section

Question 1: What is LOR used for?

Answer 1: A Letter of Recommendation or LOR is quite literally true to its name. LOR is a personal letter from a credible source who can claim to have some insights into you as a person, that is sent to the person or place where you have applied and hope to be in your future going forward.While applying for admission to a graduate school or university, you will have enclosed your Statement of purpose or SOP. This is a realistic self-view, of who and what you are as well as who and what you aspire to be. The Letter of Recommendation is the way you are viewed by an external person who has worked closely with you – and is conversant with your strengths and weaknesses, character and quirks and can objectively place your value to the place you would belong to. It is quite simply a letter of reference.Very often your SOP may also refer to qualitative tasks or interactions, which may not be verifiable by the school or university you attend. This could be charitable projects, internships or research work. In all such cases, a Letter of Recommendation from a person who is in charge and with whom you worked will be a sufficient stamp of credibility towards certifying your input on all such activities and also highlighting more of your qualitative skill sets, such as management or people skills.

Question 2: Why is LOR required?

Answer 2: LOR is a personal letter from a credible source who can claim to have some insights into you as a person, that is sent to the person or place where you have applied and hope to be in your future going forward.While applying for admission to a graduate school or university, you will have enclosed your Statement of purpose or SOP. This is a realistic self-view, of who and what you are as well as who and what you aspire to be.

Question 3: What should be included in LOR?

Answer 2: These are the main components of the LOR:

  1. The first line is always needed to be warm as well as emphatic. It should indicate the writer's enthusiasm to be the means of introduction.
  2. The introductory paragraph describes the circumstances, length of time and relationship by which you know the applicant. This involves writing about your own job description and designation – and how you have crossed paths with the applicant.
  3. The virtues of the applicant along with the skill set of the candidate.
  4. A small anecdote which displays the candidates skills and values.
  5. Re-iterating the belief in the candidate that they are suitable for the endeavor they seek to pursue in the future.
  6. A polite sign off is the way to end any formal letter and the LOR is no exception. Encourage further communication from your end by signalling your availability.

Question 4: Who can give an LOR?

Answer 4: This depends on the kind of activities participated in as well the university or course being applied for. When applying for higher studies it is of interest to the reviewer to see how you have performed in your school or college aside from grades. The enthusiasm, participation levels, achievements, group interactions etc. that you have been a part of. The other skill sets that you as the applicant possesses are of increasingly greater importance in admissions.A teacher in whose class you have consistently performed well, or a professor whose course taken is relevant to the further study you are applying for would be your best options. In this – it is of great benefit if you have had memorable interactions, as the professor or teacher would be able to add on specific skills of your own to their letter of recommendation for college.

Question 5: Can LOR be copied?

Answer 5: The LOR plays a major role in making your profile look authentic. Hence, the LOR should be unique in its writing. Certain elements can be the same such as the format of the LOR but the context in which the LOR is being written must be unique.

Question 6: How many LOR needed for MS?

Answer 6: The number of LOR needed for MS depends from University to University. Some universities require you to have 2-3 LORs. For a LOR for MS, it also depends what type of activities you have been a part of. Incase if you have been a part of any internship, co-curricular, project, work experience, you can take the LOR from the person who you were working under in that case.

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