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Letters of Recommendation - Defined

Letters of Recommendation - Definition

As mentioned on the main page of this Web site, a "letter of recommendation" is defined as one that is specifically requested about someone, and therefore is always specifically addressed to a particular requestor. Letters of recommendation are usually employment-related, or college program admission and/or scholarship related.

The primary letters of recommendation are:

  • Employment-related recommendation letter

  • College admission recommendation letter

  • Commendation or recognition letter

  • Performance evaluation letter

The following paragraphs provide brief definitions for each of the main types of letters of recommendation that are listed above.

Employment-Related Recommendation Letters

An employment-related recommendation letter is one that is normally requested by the person about whom the letter is being written. Since the requestor chooses the author of the letter, it is usually positive in nature, and written by someone who knows the subject well enough to comment on the skills, abilities, and specific work attributes of that person.

Typically, an employment-related recommendation letter conveys one person's view of the work performance and general workplace demeanor of another person that has worked under their direct supervision. The requestor of the letter normally requests such a letter so that they can submit it when applying for a promotion or a new job.

These letters are always addressed to the specific person to whom the requestor has been asked to submit the letter.

College- and University-Related

Another situation where recommendation letters are a common requirement is for entry into undergraduate and graduate programs at a college or university. Graduate programs often require two or more letters of recommendation as part of the program admission requirements.

Normally, these college-admission-related letters of recommendation are written at the request of the program applicant by people who know them and are familiar with their academic career to-date, and their future education and career aspirations. These people could include: former teachers, community leaders, school faculty members, clergy, administrators, academic supervisors, and/or employers.

These letters are always addressed to a specific person and are normally included as part of the program admission application.

Commendation and/or Recognition Letters

These are normally unsolicited letters, which typically commend or recognize an employee to their supervisor for something outstanding or noteworthy that the employee has done. Usually, the employee would have to do something "above and beyond" what is normally expected of them in their job to warrant such a letter. These letters are always addressed to a specific individual - usually the subject's direct supervisor.

Typically, these letters are written by the subject's co-workers, or by managers from another area of the same organization who were suitably impressed while supervising the person on a short-term project.

Commendation letters and letters of recognition are also used to nominate individuals for special awards or outstanding public service.

Performance Evaluation Letters

These are usually detailed assessments of an employee's work performance as part of an organization's regular employee review process. Typically, they are written by the employee's supervisor and are attached to the individual's performance appraisal and placed in their personnel file.

The format and structure for this type of letter is more often than not dictated by the employee performance evaluation system or process that is in-place wherever the subject of the letter is employed.

However, in the academic environment in North America there is often a requirement for a specific "performance evaluation letter" for the assessment of academic staff.

Letters of Recommendation - Typical Situations

The following link goes to a page that contains a list of some of the more typical situations for which "letters of recommendation" are required.
Letters of Recommendation - Typical Situations

Letters of Recommendation - Writing Resources

This Web site contains various resource pages designed to help you write your own letter of recommendation, should you wish to write one yourself. The following page contains links to those resources:
Letters of recommendation - Writing Resources

Letters of Recommendation - Writing Assistance

If you need to write your own recommendation letter, or if you have been asked by someone else to write one on their behalf, given the tricky and critical nature of these letters, you might want to consider getting some expert help.

It just so happens that the Webmaster of this Web site, Shaun Fawcett, has written what is considered by many to be the definitive number one resource in the world on how to write ALL types of recommendation and reference letters. That's right, it's the number one resource on the planet, on this particular subject!

It's called Instant Recommendation Letter Kit - How To Write Winning Letters of Recommendation. In addition to extensive how-to information, that writing kit eBook contains 79 real-life templates of actual, fully-formatted letters that you can download immediately onto your hard drive and use as you wish. You can check it out at the following link:
Instant Recommendation Letter Kit

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