A recommendation letter, or a letter of reference, is a written document that summarises your experience, skills, and/or personality. Your referee should be someone who can vouch for your abilities.
First things first- how and when does a manager write one?
Zarina Abu Bakar, a certified Career Practitioner with 13 years of experience with Workforce Singapore (WSG), shared: “Managers usually write them for staff working under their supervision, and these can take many forms.
“They can either be in a letter, or/and write a commendation on the employee’s LinkedIn profile. ”
Being an experienced career coach, Zarina has clearly seen the value of recommendation letters, and how they can help job searches.
For some background, she specialises in helping professionals through career exploration and coaching on resumes, job interviews and professional branding, and has helped over 3,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET’s) to move into careers that align with their interests, strengths and values.
She added: “Typically, they come from your past employers, co-workers, or any unbiased source in your network who has first-hand knowledge about your capabilities.
“Recommendation letters can be classified into two broad categories, namely professional and character references. A professional reference serves as a testament to the skills, experience, and technical abilities you possess.
“Character references dive deeper into your personality attributes and traits. They speak for your personal qualities, a key component evaluated by employers.”
Why are recommendation letters important?
1. They act as positive endorsements and give your employer a bigger picture of who you are
People who have professionally collaborated with you can offer the best insights into your work ethic and personality traits. More than just empty self-claims, your prospective employer wants to know what others think of you.
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This is your opportunity to provide more in-depth information about yourself and show how you have contributed to your previous roles. It demonstrates your credibility and positions you suitable for the role.
2. They boost the employer’s confidence in you as a candidate
A third-party’s positive opinion can greatly impact an employer’s hiring decisions. It gives the hiring manager the belief that you will make an incredible addition to the team. Needless to say, when someone speaks for you, it also gives you a much-needed edge over the competition.
3. They highlight accomplishments that you might not have the opportunity to convey
A comprehensive recount of past experiences and an intimate glimpse into your referees’ perspectives of you — these are important aspects that are not reflected in your resume or CV.
Your recommendation letter covers details that can speak a lot about you, perhaps more than what an hour-long interview can summarise. This helps to enhance the employer’s perspective of you, bringing you from a good candidate to their top choice.
At the end of the day, when hiring managers narrow down the field of potential candidates, your recommendation letter can become the determining factor.
What your recommendation letter should include
For your letter to make an impact, ensure that they come with these components:
- Introduction of your referee
- A summary of the relationship between your referee and yourself
- How long has the referee known or worked with you
- The quality of the relationship
- Realistic, concrete and concise judgment (a personal story) on your skills and capabilities/personality and traits, and what differentiates you from others
- A firm and positive statement that endorses you for the position
When requesting a recommendation letter from a referee, it would help to provide a sample to guide the writing process, along with your resume and portfolio.
Recommendation Letter Sample Template
[Referee phone number]
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to you to confidently recommend [Applicant name] as a candidate for [position] with [Company].
[This section introduces the referee and his/her relationship with the applicant, the length of the collaboration and the applicant’s responsibilities].
[This is the body – and most critical part – of the recommendation, where the applicant’s qualities or strengths should be highlighted with examples. ]
[A summary on why the applicant is an asset or good fit to the prospective company.]
[Applicant name] has my highest recommendation. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss [Applicant name]’s performance with our firm in greater detail. I would be more than happy to further expand on my endorsement.
Here are some helpful tips to acquire a recommendation letter if you don’t have one ready.