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Tips for Writing Recommendations

As an individual that has been asked to complete a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference, below are some guidelines and resources to assist you:


Students will often ask faculty and staff to serve as references for jobs, internships, awards or the graduate & professional school application process.  As an individual that has been asked to complete a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference, you have several obligations to the student or alumnus that has asked you to do so: 

  • If you cannot provide a positive recommendation in support of the individual’s candidacy, please decline to write a letter or to serve as a reference.  Provide information to the individual as to why you have declined to serve as a reference.
  • Ask the individual for any information that may help you complete the letter – i.e. a copy of her/his resume, transcript or additional information.
  • The presentation and professional appearance of your letter often impacts the individual’s candidacy.  Please be sure that the letter is typewritten rather than handwritten.  Proofread it carefully for typographical and grammatical errors.
  • Be sure that your professional affiliation to the individual is clear.  Indicate how you can be contacted for additional information and list time frames that the contact information is accurate.  You should include address, phone number and email address if applicable.

PLEASE NOTE: When serving as a reference for a student, it has been recommended by UW-Green Bay Legal Counsel that faculty and staff members request that a student complete a FERPA release form. This serves as documentation that the student has asked you to write a letter of recommendation and provide it to the designated organizations or institutions. Under FERPA, material that is often addressed (ie: GPA, courses, performance, etc.) in  letters of recommendation are considered part of a student's educational record. 

FERPA & Recommendation Request Forms

Preparing Your Letter

  • If your letter is a general, open letter for employment or admission to Graduate/professional School, date the letter and address it as “In Reference to the Candidacy of (Individual’s Name).”  You may provide an original to the individual for future use as well as forward a copy directly.  Providing an original puts the responsibility on the candidate to provide the information as requested. 
  • Indicate your relationship to the candidate and the length of time you have known/worked with the candidate. 
  • Be objective and realistic in describing such things as strengths, “on-the-job” or “in-the-classroom” performance, planning and follow-through abilities, flexibility, professional qualities, teaching/professional skills, interpersonal skills or other skill areas. 
  • Give your professional opinion of the potential for success of the candidate.  Be sure to explain the incident or circumstances upon which you base this opinion. 
  • Do not include information that might indicate the individual’s ethnic background, religion, national origin, age, handicap, citizenship status, sex or marital status. 
  • State in the letter, “This information is confidential, should be treated as such, and is provided at the request of (name of individual), who as asked me to serve as a reference” or similar language.

Additional Resources