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Writing a Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a great resource to the job seeker. If they have been laid off and the potential employer raises an eyebrow, a letter describing the job seeker's attributes along with the circumstances around the layoff could make the difference between getting and not getting the job.

A letter of recommendations acts as praise for the job seeker. When you are asked to provide one, make sure this is something you're going to be able to do well and honestly. If you're unable to do this or are uncomfortable about it, then you should let the person know.

Once you've decided to write the letter, get the general information about what the recommendation is for and why they chose you. Some more information that may be helpful is making a list of the accomplishments and qualities in the job seeker you are proud of, and getting their resume will also be helpful in keeping in mind what they've done and what the potential new employer is seeing.

Once you have all the background you feel is necessary to write a letter, create a list of the person's positive personal and professional qualities they have. Include in this list some of the accomplishments and areas you feel they excel at as long as your personal observations. Also include some weaknesses or areas of improvement. While your letter should be positive overall, no one is without fault and a completely positive letter could cause some disbelief. Use their areas for improvement as a way to talk about how they were overcome. Lastly, make some notes about the future potential of how they will be a good addition to the company and the contributions they will make.

Next, organize and write the letter. As with any business correspondence, the letter should be professional and typed. The letter can be broken down into four sections.

The first paragraph involves your relationship with the job seeker. Are you a friend, professor, co-worker, or manager? Note how long you've known the person as well as give the reader a frame of reference. End the paragraph with a strong position of the job seeker.

The second paragraph (there can be more than one paragraph here) should go into more detail about your interactions with the job seeker and how they performed on specific assignments and/or projects. This would also be a good place to note how they overcame a weakness. Also, be sure to note how they contributed to the organization and their personal attributes and professional growth you've seen.

In the third paragraph, you should sum up your overall opinion of the job seeker and their work. Make some broad characterizations. Were they responsible, polite, etc? You could also mention how the company will benefit from hiring this person and his or her future potential. Lastly, indicate how strongly you recommend the person.

The fourth paragraph should include a sentence of two letting the potential employer know how to contact you should there be a need for follow-up.