As many recruiters can attest, letters of recommendation are a critical component to candidate applications. The letters help round out the applicant’s profile by providing insight into what the candidate is like as a professional from the perspective of someone who has worked closely with the individual during their career.
Letters of recommendation are so important that they have become mandatory in many hiring processes, yet many recruiters can’t always differentiate between a good letter of recommendation and a bad one. To give recruiters a helping hand, HR gurus and professionals recommend the following tips to help separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to letters of recommendation.
1. Read Between the Lines
First, it is important to note who is writing the letter of recommendation and whether or not the recommendation is genuine.
An education professional well-versed in the world of recommendation letters writes, “You can see when a candidate is being damned by faint praise because there’s a kind of code to these letters. Faint praise may be indicative of a half-hearted recommendation and should cause a recruiter to pause and consider the honesty of the letter.
The same education professional notes that they look for the phrase “I highly recommend” when reading letters of recommendation, as this phrase is often a sign of genuineness.
Powerful recommendations are written by CEOs, presidents, managers, and other professionals who can focus on a candidate’s strengths and provide concrete examples of times when the candidate utilized their skills. For example: “John Doe’s greatest strength is his ability to communicate and connect with his clients. He was able to grow client accounts by 25 percent within his first year.”
2. Attention to Detail
Recruiters can get a better understanding of just how badly a candidate wants a position by scrutinizing the amount of detail in their letter of recommendation. Candidates should always prep the individual writing their letter of recommendation with information about the job description, why they want the position, and the organization itself.
Knowing that candidates have the option to do this, recruiters should look for letters of recommendation that are personalized to the organization, rather than general letters of recommendation that could be used anywhere, for any role.
For example, a personalized letter of recommendation may explain how the recommended candidate would be an important asset to the company by aligning the candidate explicitly with the company’s mission; or a personalized letter of recommendation might demonstrate ways in which the candidate and company share the same core values.
3. Relevant Experience
A good recommendation letter should leave recruiters with a clear picture of the candidate’s accomplishments, potential, and character by offering specific examples of the candidate’s past experiences.
Speaking about the field of teaching, one education professional says that a good letter of recommendation should help a committee understand how a candidate would perform in their district. The same can be said for letters of recommendation in non-educational contexts: a letter of recommendation should have enough information that the recruiter can easily see how a candidate’s traits, skills, and experiences could help the company prosper.
As a key element of many hiring processes, letters of recommendation can either make or break a candidate’s standing in the eyes of a prospective employer. To take some of the pressure off of recommendation letters, many recruiters use digital interviews as an additional methodology to help them gain insight into who candidates are as professionals. Digital interviews help recruiters access candidates’ key communication and social skills that help qualify candidates’ cultural fits with a given company. Letters of recommendation — along with digital interviews — help recruiters guarantee that they are hiring the best individuals for their organizations.