Write a great employee recommendation letter

I remember the first time I was asked to write an employee recommendation letter. It was awful, not because I didn't think the person was qualified (I knew the person to be extraordinarily talented and dedicated to their career), but becuase the request meant I was getting old.

One of the hallmarks of being old is being asked to write an employee recommendation letter—young whippersnappers asking if you'd mind helping them land their dream job. I said of course I would write the letter, and I sat down at my computer to write. This is what I learned.

Make sure you have all the information you need

Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? Make sure you not only have a copy of the candidate's resume and qualifications, but also have a list of points that they would like emphasized in the employee recommendation letter.

For example, if the job requires the ability to work well within a team context, make sure they provide you with that information. Don't assume or do your own research into their job opportunity. You're doing them the favour by writing the employee recommendation letter, let them do part of the work.

Also find out how the employee recommendation letter is to be submitted (electronically, mail, delivered), as well as any special instructions that are required for submissions (signature across the envelope).

The Introduction

Begin the introduction with the standard "To Whom It May Concern." Make sure that you state your name/position, the requester's full name and position, how long you've known them and in what capacity. (Are you their manger or a co-worker?)

Check out our employee recommendation letter sample to see exactly how to format and write this type of letter.

The Body

Ensure that you mention some of the requester's qualities in the employee recommendation letter. What makes them special? Why are they a good employee? What are the characteristics that will make them successful? This is a particularly good place to emphasis soft/transferable skills from a blended/functional resume.

Also, if you can, compare the individual to others in a similar position. This will provide a context for the would-be employer to know a bit more about the person that they are considering hiring.

Now, here's the trick when writing an employee recommendation letter. Employers know that these types of letters are perfect opportunities for sycophantic sucking up. No one's going to ask someone who will give them a poor reference to write their employee recommendation letter for them. It's just not going to happen.

So, in order for the letter to be believable, maintain professional/business appropriate language and provide a balance by being honest about some of the individual's areas for improvement. It may seem like you're hurting the individual, but you are actually doing them a favour.

Conclusion

You've reached the end of the employee recommendation letter. Finish it off by giving your overall assessment of the individual; refer to specific qualities and attributes that the individual has, and how you think they'll succeed at the job they are applying for. It's important to ensure that the language here isn't too flowery or obtuse. Be frank, simple, and short in your conclusion.

Remember that you are not responsible for getting this person the job. You are only responsible for being honest about the type of employee the person was while they working with you or for you. The rest is up to the employee. Conclude with your professional contact information, and be sure to edit the letter before sending it off.

Image source: FirmBee/Pixabay.com

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