A friend, colleague, student or employee has asked you to write a letter of commendation. The requester of the letter believes that you can provide a well-written letter that will help him obtain employment or admission to an educational program. Alternatively, the letter may provide a character reference for housing accommodation, child adoption or other legal situations. Before writing the letter, express any concerns you may have about the requester's abilities. If you cannot provide a strong recommendation, let him know about your reservations.
Find out the name, title and address of the recipient, main purpose of the letter and the deadline. Meet with the requester and ask her to provide you with more details about her background and qualifications. If she is unable to meet with you, arrange for an informal telephone or e-mail interview. Obtain any questionnaires or other documents that must be completed and attached to the letter.
Introduce yourself and the applicant in the first paragraph of the letter. Identify your official relationship with the requester and the time period of that relationship. For example: "As marketing director and Paul Anderson's employer since May of 2009, I am happy to report that Mr. Anderson is a gifted designer, a good team player, and a dedicated employee."
Use the body of the letter to cover two or more exceptional qualities of the applicant. Discuss the achievements, qualities and skills that most impressed you. In particular, refer to any outstanding interpersonal skills. For example: "Andrea Clark is an intelligent, resourceful and energetic young woman who impressed her teachers and gained the respect of her peers at Mainville High. While maintaining a high academic average, she also participated in numerous extra-curricular activities, including the tennis team, school newspaper and chess club."
State any reservations you may have about the applicant. If you must call attention to any negative traits, start by describing the applicant's good points. For example: "John Davies takes his job duties seriously and performs well on an independent basis. However, he experiences difficulty maintaining productive relationships with other employees."
Encourage the reader to contact you for additional information in the concluding paragraph of the letter. If you have provided a lukewarm reference, indicate that you expect your comments to be kept confidential. For example: "Please consider my remarks as a courtesy to you, given my regard for your company. I assume that they will be kept confidential."
If you feel uncomfortable writing a letter of commendation for a particular applicant, decline graciously and suggest that she contact someone else.