Writing a testimonial or recommendation letter is both a challenge and a responsibility as it can materially affect a person’s life. It can help them get a new job, or be admitted to a study course of study. As such it is important to take the matter seriously and give it a great deal of thought.
What is a testimonial letter?
The word ‘testimonial’ is derived from the word ‘testimony which is an account by somebody, like an eye witness. They give information about something that they know about. So in a testimonial letter somebody supplies a written account of somebody that they have worked with and know well. It will address a person’s character, work experience, qualifications, etc, in the form of a written testimonial.
A testimonial letter is generally written by an employer, manager, supervisor, tutor or lecturer who knows the person and has worked with them in some professional capacity or other.
What is a personal recommendation / character reference?
A personal recommendation or character reference is somewhat different. It is a personal reference from someone who knows somebody personally, rather than necessarily professionally from having worked with them. It will also attest to somebody’s character, skills, experience and qualifications.
Personal recommendations can be written by friends, teachers, ministers and business acquaintances who know somebody well enough to attest to their character and suitability for a job.
What to include / how to format a testimonial letter
As said before, a well-written and effective testimonial or recommendation letter can make the difference between a person getting or not getting a job! These are the important points to bear in mind when writing a testimonial or letter of recommendation:
Be clear on what the purpose of the letter is
What is required from your letter? Is it simply a character reference or is a professional testimonial required? If a professional recommendation is needed, it is better that someone like a manager or supervisor writes the letter. A character reference can be provided by anyone who knows the person’s character well.
Understand the details of the job they’re applying for
In order to be able to highlight the relevant qualities, skills and abilities of the person applying for the job effectively, you need to know exactly what the job they’re applying for entails.
Clarify the background of your relationship with the applicant
It is important that your relationship with the applicant is stated clearly as this will establish your credibility to act as a referee. You also need to state how long you’ve known the applicant and what personal qualifications make you a suitable referee.
Keep your letter brief and clearly worded
A letter of recommendation or testimonial should be short, concise and clearly set out. It should adopt and maintain a positive tone throughout. It should also be worded quite simply, be completely error free and be quick, easy and pleasant to read. Set it out in a business letter format.
Ensure that you address the letter correctly
Before writing your recommendation or testimonial, ask the candidate to whom it should be addressed. You should ideally include the relevant person’s name and title, as well as the name and address of the company.
The generic ‘To Whom It May Concern’ salutation is best avoided because you want to ensure it reaches the right person. Personalising your recommendation also reinforces its impact.
Focus on the applicant’s specific skills and qualifications
It is important that you highlight the qualifications, skills, abilities and experience mentioned in the applicant’s resumé. It is particularly important that you stress what makes them the ideal candidate for the job.
Make sure that you include all your relevant contact details
Make it clear that you are available for further discussion and/or confirmation of the points raised in your testimonial or recommendation. It must be possible for the recipient to ask you further questions if they wish to.
Always follow submission instructions to the letter
Make very sure how the letter must be submitted and then strictly adhere to those requirements.
17 Delamere Avenue
24 January 2022
Dr MS Delaney
151 Long Street
Dear Dr Delaney
Recommendation for Ms Patti Jones as Course Development Coordinator
I wish to endorse Ms Patti Jones wholeheartedly for the position of Course Development Coordinator at your company. She is a highly intelligent, committed and indeed gifted individual, who thrives on challenges and hard work.
I’ve known Ms Jones for more than 15 years ever since we became neighbours and friends as teenagers. Ms Jones has always shown a marked ability to work with people, and has an entrepreneurial spirit and an admirable work ethic. As a teenager, she was the driving force behind our neighbourhood initiative to visit elderly people in their homes.
She’s pursued her education with single mindedness, commitment and unflagging hard work. She’s already completed two degrees, both specialising in Human Resources and Development. She’s already been highly successful in her career, as you can see from the managerial position she already holds. Her talent for solving problems is unique, as is her ability for implementing new business ideas. Patti is simply the best person to have around in a crisis!
I am convinced Ms Jones will be a great asset to your organisation. I also know that it has long been her ambition to work for your Corporation.
I’d be happy to answer any further questions you may have, or discuss my recommendation of Ms Jones further. Please feel free to call me at 444-555-7777.
(Signature if hard copy)
Dr Jennifer Pettigrew
Human Resources Manager
Redfern Management Inc
25 January 2022
Wilson, Samuels Development Ltd
Vineyard Extension 2
490 Ninth Ave
Dear Mr Wilson
Testimonial for Peter Dennison: Application for International Field Research Coordinator
I herewith submit my testimonial and unreserved recommendation of Mr Peter Dennison for the above position. Mr Dennison has been a valued member of my department for the past seven years. We will be sorry to lose him, but know he is ready for the greater opportunities that your international organisation can offer him. I know Peter will be a valuable asset to your organisation.
Peter joined our organisation not long after he had graduated from university. We threw him in the deep end from the word go as leader of one of our course development teams. His single-minded application to any project was evident from the start, as was his marked ability to work with and motivate his team members.
Though Peter is a stickler for detail, he is also able to see the bigger picture with clarity and vision. He thrives on hard work and challenges. His ability to stay calm under fraught conditions has frequently defused tense and stressful situations. His infectious sense of humour has often done the same!
Kindly feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about Peter Dennison qualifications, experience and contribution to our department. I would gladly provide more details. You can reach me by phone at 000-555-7777, or email me at email@example.com.
Jennifer Pettigrew (Dr)
(Signature if hard copy)
Always remember that a testimonial or recommendation can make the difference between a candidate getting or not getting a job! You should therefore approach it with thought, care and professionalism.