Recommendation Letter Template and AdviceWritten by Nathan Parcells
At the end of every internship program, there will come a time when one of your former interns will ask you to commit to the following question:
“Would you be able to write me a letter of Recommendation?”
Remember, writing a meaningful letter of recommendation requires time and thoughtfulness, an understanding of the target readership, and most importantly, knowledge of the intern for whom you are writing. To be sure, the content of the letter is just as important as the person or organization that is writing it.
So where do you begin?
A letter of recommendation is an opportunity to describe how an intern’s accomplishments at your organization reflect any unique professional, academic and character qualities or aptitude—and how these would separate him or her from other candidates.
Click below to download our free Letter of Recommendation Template for your interns!
The following quick tips may save you some time when structuring and writing the letter:
- Talk to your intern about the letter’s requirements. Find out what the letter is for and why the intern needs one. Ask the intern about deadlines and submission instructions. Discuss specific projects which could be highlighted in the letter.
- Take Time to Reflect on the Intern’s Work.You may want to refer back to performance evaluations or finished products completed by the intern. Observations or interactions related to the intern’s work ethic and professionalism are key.
- Keep the letter to 1-2 pages. The letter should be written in first person and on your organization’s letterhead. Absent specific instructions stating otherwise, the letter should be single-spaced.
- Your opening paragraph should explain your relationship to the applicant. Include the name of the intern for whom the letter is being written and the length of time and in what capacity you know the intern.
- Describe the intern in 3-5 paragraphs. These paragraphs should be specific and detailed. Show, not tell.
- Include specific examples or stories. Highlight what projects or accomplishments demonstrate the intern’s potential for success and his or her ability to contribute in his or her field professionally, academically, or otherwise. Point out something distinctive in the intern’s work.
- Use comparative language to differentiate the intern from potential candidates. An example would be, “…definitely one of our most analytical interns” or “Has written one of our top ten policy papers by interns for our organization”.
- Highlight a special interest or a particular motivation for the intern’s career path. Are there particular interests that the intern has in his or her chosen field? If this is a letter of recommendation for a summer internship, can being devoted to a role full-time over summer be directly linked to these interests?
- Identify any observations related to the intern’s character, integrity, or emotional maturity.Mention any distinguishing qualities. For instance, you may want to touch upon how the intern operates in a team and any leadership, analytical, or communication skills essential to making a contribution in the profession or the academic institution.
- If you have any familiarity to the reader of the recommendation, you can additionally point it out. A great letter of recommendation presents and explains why your intern is a promising candidate to the school, program, or scholarship to which the intern is now applying for. Your letter should make that connection and tie it back to this theme. It will eliminate the “template” or plain feel of other letters and the reader will appreciate this extra step in making such connection.
- In your final paragraph, summarize and include an overall evaluation:Have an unequivocal statement of your overall evaluation of the intern. If you are writing a “strong” letter of recommendation, then you may want to state that in you are “strongly” recommending this applicant.
- In your final paragraph, conclude with an appropriate closing: Include your contact information/where you can be best reached.
- As always, make a rough and final draft; eliminate grammar mistakes, check for spelling errors, and edit for stylistic flow.
EXAMPLE - Letter of Recommendation
Dear [specific contact],
I gladly write this letter of recommendation for Anna Roesing and her numerous accomplishments as a Marketing Intern for LearnSomething during the summer of 2009. As the Director of Marketing for LearnSomething I had the distinct pleasure of working with and overseeing Anna on a variety of marketing initiatives for the four months she interned at our organizaton.. When Anna joined us, she did not have any first-hand experience in communications, but she quickly exceeded our expectations by completing new and challenging projects at a professional level. As a nonprofit that depends on a strong marketing strategy, Anna’s work left a lasting impact on our organization and places her in our top five outstanding interns we have had in the past 10 years.
Anna’s passion for understanding marketing principals and public relations is evident in her work. She helped develop a marketing strategy for our 2010 Community Campaign by conducting relevant research on constituent bases and crafting effective “on-message” materials for our donors. She went above and beyond by volunteering to streamline our donor database and used her resourcefulness to find an advanced technical solution to transfer this large batch of data into our new CRM system. This new database will facilitate our outreach efforts for years to come. Anna is unique in that she not only has a great marketing sense and the technical know-how to contribute on a variety of campaigns, but she also learned quickly how to integrate these ideas with our larger organizational objectives and this made it easy for us to trust her with high-level projects.
Additionally, Anna demonstrated professionalism and respect by timely submitting her projects and communicating clearly in staff meetings. Our team was impressed by her final internship presentation, entitled “nonprofit marketing best practices”, which reflected her growth as a promising expert in marketing. Further, the constituents and members who attended commented on her energy and analytical insight. Currently, Anna is finishing her degree in Communications but occasionally attends our community workshops which we developed because of her help. A graduate degree at your school will formalize her training and give her a specialization in marketing that nonprofits desperately need.
I therefore strongly recommend Anna as a graduate student of Marketing at your University. As the head of our marketing team, I have no doubt in my mind that Anna’s diverse background has prepared her for graduate studies. Her passion for marketing in the nonprofit sector will make her as valuable in the classroom as she was in our organization. I am confident she will be a strong asset to your program.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [ Your Number] to discuss her candidacy for your program.
Click below to download our free Recommendation Letter Template for Interns!