Open with a short, but enthusiastic, bit of praise. Let the company know right off the bat that you believe in this person. You don’t have to be over the top or insincere, but a positive note to start will make a big difference. It makes me extremely happy to recommend Michael for the position of Director of Development at XYX Corporation. Any company should count themselves lucky to have an employee as bright, friendly, and dedicated as Gina. No matter what she does, Helena Bonham does it well.
Inform yourself about the person you are recommending. Spend some time talking to them about their goals and the position they are applying for. Gather together their current resume, any memos or notes you may have on them, and any other information that will help you as you write the letter. The best recommendations are thorough and specific, and having all the information at hand will make the process much easier.