4 Recommendation Letter Samples That Get It Right

Writing a recommendation letter for someone else is a huge responsibility, and getting everything just right plays an important role in that person's future. Looking at recommendation letter samples can provide inspiration and ideas for content and formatting. If you are the applicant, these samples give you clues on what you can suggest for inclusion in your letter.

Whether the person who's asked you to write a recommendation wants it for a new job, undergraduate or graduate school, the central goal is the same: Give a description of the person that highlights positive traits that are relevant to the applicant's desired position or academic slot. It's important that the recommendation letter balance praise and criticism so that the employer or college admissions team views the person making the recommendation as objective rather than biased in your favor. If bias is perceived, it weakens the recommendation and might even make it a non-factor or even a negative factor in your application. 

These four effective sample letters that focus on different kinds of applications have two key points in common:

  • All are written by someone who has supervised or taught the applicant and knows specific details about the applicant's performance and work ethic, which lends credibility to the letter.
  • They all give examples to back up the letter writer's judgments with concrete facts that also are relevant to applicant's job or academic endeavor.
Student meets with professor
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This is a sample recommendation for an undergraduate student from an advanced placement English teacher. The letter is being used as a recommendation for an undergraduate business program. Note the emphasis on leadership potential, organizational skills, and academic achievement. All of these factors are important to admissions committees.

What's key in this letter:

  • The teacher knows the student well which adds credibility.
  • Details make clear the student's positive traits that predict strong performance in college.
  • Advanced placement is evidence of the student's academic strength.
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This recommendation letter was written by a former employer for a job applicant. Employers look for applicants who know how to achieve goals and objectives; this letter will catch an employer's attention and might help to move a job candidate to the top of the pile. 

What's key in this letter:

  • Focus on relevant strengths: leadership, ability to be a team player, and interpersonal skills.
  • Examples from a former direct supervisor give credibility to assertions in the letter.
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This recommendation letter was written by an employer for an MBA applicant. Although this is a short recommendation letter sample, it provides an example of why the subject may be a good fit for a master's degree in business.

What's key in this letter:

  • The letter was written by a direct supervisor.
  • It stresses the applicant's leadership and critical thinking skills which are both important for this particular degree.
  • Examples back up the supervisor's opinions about the applicant.
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The recommendation letter was written by a former employer and emphasizes hands-on work experience. It does a very good job of demonstrating leadership ability and potential—both important for success as an entrepreneur.

What's key in this letter:

  • The letter was written by a former direct supervisor.
  • It details a significant amount of work the applicant did that show her diligence, energy, conscientiousness, and communication skills which are all important for entrepreneurs.
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