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What Makes a Good Recommendation Letter?

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Reggs, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. Reggs

    Reggs Distinguished Member

    Likes Received:
    Mar 11, 2006
    The Internet
    My boss is ready to give me a glowing recommendation. The only problem is that he is awful at expressing himself, especially in writing. I can just imagine him sitting down with the best intentions and writing stuff like "[Reggs] is a good worker. He comes to work on time. He gives 110% on everything!" Luckily, I have the kind of relationship with him where I feel I can suggest some things to put in the letter.

    I work in marketing for a B2B company. My work is mostly project based, and the nature of my projects varies greatly. I've had the freedom to pitch my own projects, get a green light, and carry them out with little oversight. Would it be better for my boss to write about specific projects I've done well, or focus on my overall job performance?

    Would it be ok to alter the letter for specific jobs I'm applying for? For example, put in key words they have in the job description, or make reference to particular projects that are more applicable to the job I am applying for?

    How are recommendation letters given to potential employers? Do I bring the letter in myself, or is it faxed directly to the potential employer from my current boss?

    Any general tips about what makes a good recommendation letter are appreciated.

  2. why

    why Distinguished Member

    Likes Received:
    Oct 7, 2007
    Just write it yourself and let him add or remove what he wants before he signs it.

  3. thinman

    thinman Distinguished Member

    Likes Received:
    Jan 24, 2005

    This is probably the best way to do it. I sometimes ask people to do this when I'm asked to write them a letter, especially if I don't know them well, then I re-word it. The alternative might be to give your boss a list of bullet points of your accomplishments that he might incorporate into his letter.

    I start my strongest letters with "I am delighted to recommend John Smith for the position of Widget Quality Control Officer at Company X. I know John extremely well because I have supervised his work for Y years. During that time, he has impressed me as one of the 5 (pick your number) best employees I have had." Then, I go into specific examples. The more specific the letter is, the more useful it is. Include specific examples of your outstanding work, work ethic, independence, creativity in solving problems, leadership abilities, how you went beyond your job description, etc. Quantify your work results where possible. I close a letter for someone exceptional with "I give John Smith my strongest possible recommendation for the position of...".

    Obviously, for lesser caliber employees, I'm less enthusiastic, down to opening with "I am writing because John Smith has requested a recommendation for the position of..." and closing with "I recommend you interview John Smith for the position of...". I never agree to write a letter that isn't going to be positive, though I've only declined to write a letter for one person in 22 years. There is always something positive to say.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011

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