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Submitted by bteachman on


I am working on a letter of recommendation for a friend and not sure how specific I should be. When I have people apply for positions in the department I manage, the resume has details (example: Reduced turn over by 10%) and then on a letter of recommendation I normally only see general information (example: Reduced down time and great people person).

How do you think this should be worded?

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I prefer to see specifics when I read a recommendation. If the candidate has "great people skills" does the recommendation letter cite a specific incident?

In like fashion, when I write a letter of recommendation I make the effort to provide specifics. Typically, the recommendation letter can provide background to an accomplishment that *may* be in the resume...and it may not. The recommendation allows the hiring manager/committee to see more deeply into the person's skills and abilities.

AManagerTool's picture

I'd like to expand this question a bit as well.

How effective are letters of recommendation at securing a position? I keep thinking that anyone can have their friends write anything for them. Do recruiters think this way?

I'm trying to establish a better linked-in presence and have been asking around for recommendations. I wonder if it's really worth it. If anyone wants to see my LI profile, PM me and I'll send a link. I want to keep this forum ID separate from my real ID so that I can be a bit more open and honest here.

HMac's picture

I think recommendations that DON'T include specific examples are pretty much worthless because they end up being nothing but vague niceties.

When I write them, I always challenge myself when I finish a first sentence by immediately typing "For example..."


US41's picture

I agree with Hugh. Examples are more powerful and speak to performance. Anything else says, "We are buddies. Everyone has buddies. Anyone has buddies. This guy is just anyone. Hire anyone you want, and you'll get the same thing." Not good.

thaGUma's picture

Forget letters of recommendation. Rely on verbal recommendations as they are less actionable and therefore can give better indication of actual abilty.

The best letter of recommendation is 'ring me'.


meunier's picture
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I was recently asked for a letter of recommendation from one of my directs that has resigned. I was thinking similarly: should I write detail, or should I simply provide contact information and be willing to provide a verbal reference?

I can see pros and cons to both approaches for both parties.


HMac's picture

[quote="meunier"] should I write detail, or should I simply provide contact information and be willing to provide a verbal reference?

Why not do both - write the detail to the degree you're comfortable doing so, AND finish it with a "feel free to contact me".

Consider this about saying only "I would be willing to provide a verbal reference" - in this sensitive and paranoid world of ours, some may take that as a [i]negative [/i]reference ("you should call me because I don't want to put in writing what I really think...").

I base this on my experience as a recruiter. In those instances when I couldn't get much reference information on a candidate, I might be so forward as to ask the ex-boss: "Some people intrepret [i]no [/i]reference as a [i]negative [/i]reference. Is that the case here?" Most of them would immdediately start talking - "that's not what I meant to imply at all!" Others would simply say "I'm fine with that" and the call would end.

So - unless you mean to imply that you have a story to tell, I recommend that you write the reference, and [i]add [/i]the offer for peope to call you....


sholden's picture
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I have added an extra step for myself to follow-up directly with the person who I am sending the recommendation to with a phone call 3-5 days after I send the letter.

This is might just be because of where I work (federal gov), and most of my recent recommendations have been for 'new' positions that are part of a program to bring in recent college graduates.

In at least one occasion in the past, the decision makers did not get my recommendation letter. Following up has ensured that my input will at least get into the process.

I usually always include at least one example of effective behavior in a letter of recommendation. And I always invite the person receiving the letter to feel free to contact me.