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Recommendation letter for internships and jobs in business

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Before you begin

Except for technical or highly specialized positions, businesses in English-speaking countries generally seek applicants from a wide variety of educational and work backgrounds. They focus on the candidate’s potential, their ability to ‘fit in’ and the transferable skills they bring. Your letter should help the employer see how the skills and personal characteristics you have observed make your student the right candidate for the job.

To help you target your letter to the particular needs of the company and requirements of the job, the student should give you:

  • The job advertisement/description if they are applying for an open position
  • Basic information about the company and type of position if they are sending an unsolicited application
  • A copy of their CV or application
  • Information from the courses they were in, such as their grades, significant assignments and projects

Writing the letter

The salutation should be ‘Dear Ms Collins’ or 'Dear Mr Frye'. If you don’t have a name, address the letter to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or just begin without a salutation.

The first paragraph of your letter explains your position at the university, your connection to the student and how long you have known them.

The following paragraph(s) describe the student’s skills and performance. Answers to any of the following questions will interest a prospective employer. Choose the skills you think are most relevant to the position.

Skills and characteristics

What are two or three outstanding attributes of this student?

  • Is the student a ‘quick study’ who rapidly understands new ideas?
  • Does the student display leadership skills?
  • What is the student’s attitude toward others? Is he/she outgoing, friendly and cooperative?
  • Has the student worked successfully as part of a team?
  • Is the student a ‘self-starter’ who is able to work efficiently and independently?
  • Does the student accept responsibility and learn from mistakes?
  • Does the student have enough self-confidence to welcome a challenge and benefit from constructive feedback?
  • Is the student creative?

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What has this student achieved?

  • Does the student look for opportunities to use his/her skills and knowledge?
  • Does the student stand out in any way?
  • Are there examples of class work, assignments, projects or self-study that highlight his/her achievements?

Why is this student qualified and what do you think they will be able to contribute?

For more information, here is a link to an October 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers on the skills and qualities employers most want in new employees.

The wording of the actual recommendation can be any of the following or one of your own.

'I am happy to provide a reference for (student’s name).'

'I highly recommend (student’s name).'

'I sincerely believe that (student’s name) will be an asset to your organization.'

'I can recommend (student’s name) without reservation.'

Final paragraph

Offer to answer questions or provide more information.

Close with: Sincerely, (US) or Yours sincerely (UK)

Your name with degrees and academic credentials

Your Position and Department

Phone number

University address

Email address

Back to: University recommendation letters