Monday, May 16, 2011

Master the Art of the Recommendation Letter

By Reader's Digest Editors

Whether it’s a college graduate looking for his or her first job, the smashing intern you had last summer, or perhaps a current or former colleague, it’s likely that at some point someone’s going to ask you to write them a letter of recommendation. This can be a tricky — and stressful — task if you’re not well practiced at it. Here’s what you need to know to write a great letter.
Get the facts
Have the person asking for the recommendation give you a copy of her resume, a list of recent projects and accomplishments, her special skills and other qualifications, and a few things she hopes you’ll emphasize in the letter. Ask her about the company to which she is applying. Find out its goals, environment, etc. Ask for a copy of the job listing so you’ll know what the gig entails.
Keep it short
The letter should be no longer than one single-typed page with three to four paragraphs. The paragraphs should include the following:
  • First paragraph: A description of how well you know the person. Include the length and nature of your experience with him.
  • Paragraphs 2-3: Two or three qualities in the person that you believe the company will want, such as leadership skills, a strong work ethic, etc.
  • Last paragraph: A strong closing statement that explains how this person uniquely meets the company’s needs.
Be specific
The biggest mistake you can make is being too general. Include specific anecdotes and examples to back up each of your statements. You can also compare the person to others you have worked with in a similar capacity. For example, you may write, “Of the five assistants I have had, Amy was the most efficient.”
Include your contact information
Let the reader know that he or she may contact you to verify the information or to ask you more questions.
Read it over
Before you send the letter off, make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Don’t forget to spell-check!
Save a copy
This will save you a lot of time and work if this person needs another letter in the future.

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