There are many instances in which a person may require a letter of recommendation. These letters are designed to allow an organization to which the person is applying get a better idea of the candidate from others who are in a position to the speak to their merits. While a letter of recommendation should be tailored to the requirements of the organization, most letters should contain the same general contents.
One of the main things that an organization will want to know about the person writing the letter of recommendation is his relationship to the person he is recommending. The writer should explain how he knows the applicant, as well as how he has had an opportunity to get to know the applicant's skills. This should include the length of time that the recommendation writer has known the applicant.
One of the purposes of a letter of recommendation is to offer the organization an understanding of the candidate that cannot be gleaned from more formal documents, such as the person's resume or his academic transcripts. Therefore, the person writing the letter should speak to the applicant's personal qualities. This can include such things as the applicant's willingness to work hard, his personal integrity and his communication skills.
In addition to describing the applicant as a person, the letter writer should also describe why he believes the individual is particular meritorious or worthy of receiving the position or prize for which he is applying. This can include describing some of the accomplishments that the letter writer has observed or any other skills that the letter writer has special knowledge of and that may not appear elsewhere in his record.
Lastly, the person writing the letter should say a bit about herself. The organization reading the letter will likely want to know why it should take the word of the letter writer. For this reason, the letter writer should describe a bit about herself. For example, if the letter writer is the chair of the history department at a prestigious university with 20 years college-level teaching experience, she should mention this.