One of the more important tools of your job search portfolio is the Letter of Recommendation. It is important to capture not only the facts about when and where you worked, but to give the reader a real sense of what you did in the previous job. Plus, when you ask your contacts for a letter, it lets them know that you are looking for a position – a valuable networking tool.
Unfortunately, many people may be willing to give you a letter of recommendation, but they don’t know what to write. As a result, they either write a very poor letter – or procrastinate and never get it done.
To escape those traps, here’s some tips for recommendations that matter:
First Paragraph – Establish the job
This is the facts of the position – dates, title, company and location. This doesn’t have to be a boring repetition; in fact, you can start with the accolades right away:“I am happy to recommend John Smith’s work for our company. John worked as our Accounting Manager from 2005 through 2010. Under his pro-active management, we always had accurate reports within tight deadlines…
Body Paragraphs – Details of what you did
Once the introduction is done, the recommendation needs to cover more specifics about not only your duties, but the significant outcomes or quality of your work. Letters of recommendation are more valuable when they include specific details about the job:
“John not only managed all of our financial reports, but also led a team of five accountants and clerks. As a leader, John made sure that all team members were receiving the continuing education and development to handle our rapidly-growing company. Thanks to his forward-thinking tactics, our billing turn-around significantly improved our cash flow for the company…
Personal Paragraph – A bit about you
Recommendations are not just about duties and accomplishments. They should reflect something about your personality or working style:
“John is highly-detail oriented, making sure that everything is accurate as well as easy to understand. With his pleasant nature, John was able to stay cool, calm and collected, even under stressful situations…
Closing – Would they hire you again?
The final paragraph is the strongest recommendation language. It should definitely include a phrase about willingness to hire you again:
“In conclusion, I can whole-heartedly recommend John Smith for any position. He was an extremely valuable member of our management team, and I would happily hire him again.
Some employers will verify letters of recommendation. Make sure that your reference knows this, and includes his contact information in the letter:
“Please feel free to contact me at 303-555-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.”