So someone has reached out asking for a recommendation. And of course, you are more than willing to oblige. Piece of cake you say. Should be easier than making a warm cup of Blend 45. A couple of days have passed and you realise you still haven't gotten around to doing it. Feeling guilty you finally sit down to get the job done.

Five minutes later and you are still hunched over the keyboard bereft of inspiration, looking for the words to help your contact stand out without sounding contrived. Do you keep it short and sweet or do you highlight skills, achievements or their crazy haircut? See, writers' block strikes at the worst moments. And it's in these moments when we are in the trenches that I have a renewed appreciation for authors like George R. R Martin (hurry up Martin, I’m still waiting for the sixth book of GoT).

Lucky for you, I have cracked the formula and it doesn't require 11 herbs & spices. Rather, it's a simple 5 step process which should see you get through it faster than making 2 Minute Noodles. Next time you are asked to provide a recommendation, just follow this template, and you can even cut and paste it. That's right boo, I got your back!

#1 - Descriptive Phrase | Knock their socks off with an opening line

Grab the reader by the scruff with a captivating opening line that will be sure to entice. You want readers to follow through and read the rest of the recommendation. Don’t be over the top with your superlatives. For example, Mary is just the best person in the world or Barry is the greatest employee I have ever met. You can use plenty of other words that convey strength and conviction without being over the top.

“Troy is a standout operator in his field”

“I had the pleasure of working with a manager that was both my mentor and friend”

“Stephen is a brilliant and gifted Project Manager who really understands how to get the best out of people”

#2 - Articulate Working Relationship | What's the story?

We need details. We need context. We don’t need a novel. It needs to be short and sharp. How do you know this person? What did you work on? How long did this relationship last? And no, we are not referring to your Xmas party tryst, let's keep it G rated, please. This step is to simply validate to readers you are amply qualified to provide the recommendation.

“Shane and I worked together on a large scale project for two years”

“I was blessed to report into Bob during my time at ABC Company, and collaborated on a number of campaigns.”  

“Jeremy crafted a number of amazing business proposals during my 12 months in his team.”

#3 - Description of what makes the person really stand out | Share an amazing trait

I am assuming that if you are prepared to recommend someone it’s because you rate them quite highly. Is it because you think they are talented, smart, organised or easy to work with? Don’t state the bleeding obvious and certainly don’t reference the fact he/she looked amazing in jeans. Instead, think of two things this person does better than most that really makes them stand out. Focus your recommendation on this and ensure that it's relevant. Usually, someone is asking for a recommendation for a specific reason. For example, a promotion, to win more work, or to boost their standing in their industry.

“Tanya’s biggest strength is her ability to deal with conflicting priorities in high-pressure situations. She never loses her cool which is one of the reasons she stands out as an EA.”

“What really impressed me most about Duncan is just how polished he is when presenting to large groups of people. He is cool as a cucumber.”

“Joseph’s ability to manage difficult stakeholders is one of the key reasons we were able to win repeat business in the construction industry. He knows how to manage expectations.”

#4 - Personality Trait | Sprinkle some humanity into your recommendation

I’d say this is the most important part. Often we focus too much on the what, at the cost of the who. Ultimately people want to work with others that are great to work with. So, if possible, share something that can provide some insight into their personality. Know thy audience. Steer clear of things like “Brett is the life of the party and organised the best after work drinks”. I can assure you, this will go down like a lead balloon.

“John’s quirky approach will be missed, especially preparing for Charity Marathons”

“Even during the most intense moments, Peggy knew how to release the pressure with a well-timed one-liner.”

“The office can get a little quiet, but when Justin is in he really brings a lot of energy that is quite contagious.”

#5 - Your Recommendation | Seal the Deal

Finish your recommendation with a line that is clear, punchy and to the point. This will frame your recommendation eliciting a double high five and a cobra fist pump from your contact. This is the easiest part, so don’t stuff it up.

“I highly recommend Mary if you need to get the job done!”

“Bill is the ultimate people manager and will be an asset to any company!”

“It’s without hesitation that I recommend Ryan if you are looking for the best Construction Recruiter.”

So that's it. Just follow the steps and never experience the pain and guilt of letting people down with your meek and feeble responses. If you are feeling lazy, you can use the template below. But please don’t be thick, change it up!


[DESCRIPTIVE PHRASE] is what comes to mind when I think about [NAME]. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing [NAME] for [LENGTH OF TIME], during which [DESCRIPTION OF WORKING RELATIONSHIP]. Above all, I was impressed with [NAME’s] ability to [DESCRIPTION OF WHAT MAKES THEM STAND OUT]. And, of course, his/her [PERSONALITY TRAIT. [NAME] would be a true asset for any positions requiring [1-2 SKILLS NEEDED FOR THE POSITION] and its without hesitation that I recommend [NAME].

Ryan Delon is the Founder and Director of Talentscope, a boutique recruitment firm to the Property, Construction & Technology sectors. We are expert talent acquisition specialists who have a knack for identifying and acquiring technical, hard to find talent. We combine digital marketing, analytics and recruitment craft to engage and interact with talent much earlier. Ryan has over 13 years of agency recruitment experience exclusively within the Building and Construction markets.