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Letter Of Recommendation Types [Described & Explained]

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Do you need a letter of recommendation for a job? Are you trying to write a recommendation letter for someone?

We all know the importance of having a glowing letter of recommendation for various applications

Jobs, scholarships, and academic programs all require different information and styles, making it a challenge to know what you need. You’re not the only one trying to decide what to send and when.

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with this guide to the various letters of recommendation types, their unique features, and how to use them to make a successful application.

Who Can Use a Letter of Recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are useful for many people. Job hunting and applying to universities are the two most common situations where official letters of recommendation are needed.

Students Applying for Educational Programs

Students looking to further their educational career can use a recommendation letter. Educational programs like fellowships, graduate and post-graduate diplomas and certificates, and masters’ and doctoral programs usually require a letter of recommendation or two.

Undergraduate programs and many scholarship applications also request recommendation letters.

Employees Applying for Jobs

Many jobs, including internships, contract roles, and full-time positions, require an official recommendation letter. While some jobs are okay with less formal recommendations like a recommendation for LinkedIn or even a referral from a current company employee, many require official, signed letters of recommendation.

Why Are Letters of Recommendation Important?

A letter of recommendation is critical to many applications. They are an evaluation of an applicant’s character, skills, and abilities to be evaluated by someone who knows them well.

They Back Up Your Claims

Your resume is a document that potential employers cannot verify. To add credence to it, you can use letters of recommendation.

They are proof for the claims you made in your resume and cover letter. Someone willing to officially verify your education, skillset, and awards is a great way to lend yourself credibility in the job market.

They Provide Anecdotes

While letters of recommendation are official documents, they do not lack personality. Professionals who give their recommendations are encouraged to include anecdotes about the person they are recommending.

Letters of recommendation highlight personality traits, quirks, and passions that are not obvious on a resume.

They Provide Someone Else’s Perspective on Your Abilities

Your resume, cover letter, and personal statement highlight your skills and experience.

Letters of recommendation provide a third-person perspective that could further highlight your abilities or show that you may have exaggerated the truth.

Schools and potential employers want to know the truth about what you can do from those who have worked with or spent time with you.

They Validate Your Achievements

Talking about what you can do is helpful and you should never downplay your accomplishments.

Having someone back up your claims by sharing their view is the best way to give potential employers or academic institutions confidence in your abilities.

When someone writes to state that you did earn this award or achieve those metrics, it provides social proof and encourages others to put their trust in you.

How Many Types of Recommendations Are There?

There are different types of recommendation letters, each with its purpose and level of significance.

Understanding the differences between these types of letters is essential for both applicants and those writing recommendations.

Main Letter of Recommendation Types

A letter of recommendation is critical to many applications, whether for a job, academic program, or scholarship.

Not all letters of recommendation are created equal. You need to learn how to ask for a letter of recommendation and also who to ask. That is why you must know the different types of recommendation letters available.


An employment letter of recommendation highlights a person’s professional skills, accomplishments, and qualities.

These recommendation letters come from former and current employers, managers, or coworkers. Clients can also write an employment letter of recommendation, especially for client-facing roles like sales, customer service, and consulting.


There are a lot of people who can write a letter of recommendation for employment or character purposes. Academic letters of recommendation discuss your academic life and achievements.

An academic authority like a teaching assistant, professor, dean, or guidance counselor typically writes them.


Some jobs or academic programs require someone to discuss your character in a character letter of recommendation. It highlights aspects of your personality that would be useful in academic programs or to potential employers.

Ask your long-time friends, mentors, coaches, teammates, or people you have worked with in volunteer roles to write them.

How Many Recommendations Should You Have?

The number of letters of recommendation you need depends on the company or school and the role or academic program.

You will typically need two recommendations for academic programs, but some programs request up to four. Most jobs will ask for one or two references, but some may request up to three.

You should have at least four people willing to write letters of recommendation for you at a given time. This way, if you need four, you will have them, but if only need one recommendation, you can choose your best option.

How Do You Structure a Recommendation?

Letters of recommendation should be easy to read, possess no grammatical errors, and have a good flow. Proper formatting will ensure your recommendation presents well to potential employers or academic boards. Here is how to structure a letter of recommendation.

Start with a Letterhead with Contact Information

The first part of a letter of recommendation is the contact information of the person writing the letter. Always use official contact information such as company email, work phone, and legal name.

You can also include the company watermark if you wish to represent a company when giving the recommendation.

Choose a Greeting

Greetings for letters of recommendation vary.  Always include the person’s name and title when writing a personal reference. For example, “Dear Dr. Mathews, Miss Jones,” etc.

When writing a general reference letter that a person can use for multiple applications, it’s best to have a generic but professional greeting such as “To whom it may concern.”

Give an Overview of Your Relationship with the Person

Start your recommendation by stating how you know the person. Is this your student, former employer, or friend?

How long have you known them or worked with them? How did you meet or in what capacity have you interacted with them?

You don’t need to get into too much detail, three or four lines are perfectly fine.

For example, “I am pleased to recommend John Smith for the role of Data Analyst at your firm. I am Jane Jones, the Director of Finance at ABC bank.

I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Smith for four years when he was one of our best junior data analysts at ABC.”

Tell Anecdotes

Always provide a personal story that speaks to the person’s skills, accomplishments, and qualifications. The story you use should also provide an overview of who the person is.

“My first interaction with John was when he walked into our interview room looking to be hired as a data analyst intern.

Even without a degree, John was able to show that he understood the scope of job the job. He demonstrated a willingness to learn and a drive to succeed which was evidenced as he worked with us for four months as an intern.

I was happy to recommend we hire him as a junior data analyst. He exceeded our expectations and constantly delivered reports ahead of schedule.

He wasn’t just a skilled data analyst. John took it upon himself to revive the company Friday Drinks and softball team.

He made everyone laugh and remembered small details that made us feel like an integral part of his life. He enabled us to bond as workmates and form deeper relationships which we all appreciate to this day.”

Give Your Recommendation

After the personal story, it’s time to sell the person. Not literally, but make sure that whoever is reading your letter of recommendation wants to hire or accept the person you are recommending

Your recommendation is a one-paragraph summary of why you believe the person would be a good fit for a particular position or academic program.

“I am confident that John Smith would be a great fit for your LightUp.

Not only will he bring the exceptional skills and experience you’re looking for in an applicant, but he will also ensure he makes a positive impact on every person and makes an effort to grow LightUp in any way he can.”

Add a Strong Closing Sentence

Finish your recommendation letter strong with a good closing sentence. Always indicate that you are available for further explanation or clarification.

For example, “As this recommendation only provides a snapshot of John’s skills and accomplishments, I am more than happy to elaborate further on my time working with him.

If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected].”

Sign Off

End the letter with a professional closing remark. “Sincerely” and “Best Regards” are the most common options. Use your professional name.

Wrapping Up

A letter of recommendation is a vital part of many applications. There are three main types of recommendation letters, academic, character, and employment.

A recommendation letter is not a lengthy document, but structuring it properly and using anecdotes is the best way to highlight a person’s qualities.

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