A letter of recommendation can often be used as backup information to a more traditional employment or character reference.
Similar to a character reference which should show the person being spoken about in a positive and favourable way a recommendation letter written by a close friend should give a more personal outline than that of a co-worker, a neighbour, teacher or members of a mutual club or organisation.
A character reference can often be seen as being biased if written by family or very close friends but a recommendation letter from someone claiming to be just that can contain a different type of information and supplied in a much different tone. A recommendation letter is often expected to be a little biased because it has been written by those who care about you the most and this is their chance to show the letter’s recipient exactly why.
So who should you ask?
Ask someone who you know will present you in the strongest way possible. When making your choice you will want someone who will be able to reveal your best personal qualities with caring and kind examples of your behaviour. Too much information can obviously be cringe worthy and make the recipient feel uncomfortable so choose somebody who knows when to build you up and when to reel it in. They will need to create a harmonious balance between how close you are to them, how great they think you are, yet without any embarrassing details being revealed for either party.
How should you ask them?
When you’ve chosen a trustworthy candidate you should let them know why you need the recommendation and whom it’s going to be given to. You should provide them with a good outline of what you’d like them to say and any pertinent information they need to include. Try not to put any unwarranted pressure on them to keep them upbeat. You want them to reflect how happy they are to help you in the tone of what they write so don’t make it feel like a task or a chore, help them to feel like they’re doing you a kind favour and hopefully they’ll produce just the results you’re hoping for.
Tips on what to write
Follow a typical business letter format but write in a relaxed and friendly manner, you’re not their ex-boss or bank manager after all, so let that show.
Find out exactly why they need the letter and create content that is relevant. If they’re applying for a new role whether in paid employment or the voluntary sector, choose factors that will make them appear more than suitable for the role, and outline qualities that would make them perfect for the task at hand.
Obtain as much information as possible; if they have a CV ask to look at that for ideas or simply talk to them about what’s at stake and if they have specific details in their opinion of what will help swing the decision.
Explain the details of your relationship; how long you’ve known them, how close you are, and why you think you’re suitable to be making this recommendation over anybody else.
Be positive at all times. You want to help, that’s why you’re writing for them, so don’t be drawn into a character analysis, just keep it as upbeat as possible and always be honest. Be outspoken in your opinion of them but don’t make any promises that they can’t keep nor could they live up to.
Don’t get bogged down in too much detail. Focus on a few exceptional traits and instances. If you try too hard or write too much the recipient could easily lose interest or decide it’s too long to even start reading. Make your point concisely and quickly. Get to the point. Less is so often more in such cases.
You should give examples if you can of your friend’s morals and ethics (just make sure they’re positive and in line with the beliefs of the recipient!). You could give examples of their past experiences which have helped shape them into the person they are today, outline both their academic achievements and also their people skills, their manner in dealing with delicate situations and their level of charisma and the attractiveness of their personality.
An example letter layout
You can use the following as an example of how to put your letter together. You will have to consider the facts and details of your own subject but as an outline it will give you a good idea of how to get the ball rolling.
Dear [recipient’s name]
I’m writing this reference in support of [your friend’s or family member’s name].
I met [friend’s name] at [insert how you met if it feels relevant] and we have been friends for the past seven years. If you are looking for an amiable and sociable, talented individual, then [friend’s name] is just the person you’ve been looking for!
Through all the time we’ve been friends, [friend’s name] has always been incredibly supportive and helpful. He’s been a great listener when I needed a true friend and he always backed up his words of support and encouragement with generous actions dictated by his helpful nature and loyalty.
He has always displayed the same characteristics throughout his working life. As far as I know he has continuously shown exceptional capabilities in each of his career roles, becoming a highly respected member of all the teams he has been a part of.
As a friend, he has been the best I could ask for. When I was going through my own troubled personal situations he was always one of the first people I would turn to. He never let me down and I consider myself very lucky to have him as one of my closest friends. He is a great example of how I would like to think other people see me.
All of his personal skills and the way he presents himself to those around him would enable him to excel in any task or position he would choose for himself in the future.
I honestly believe he would be an asset to any company, and I wholeheartedly recommend him. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any further questions.
[Your name here]