HR & Personal Development

Things to remember when writing a letter of recommendation

When an employee quits his position, often, he or she will ask for a letter of recommendation. However, it can be quite difficult to find the right tone, structure and style.

Here are some guidelines you can follow, if you need to be pointed in the right direction.

1. Only agree to write a recommendation if you have something positive to write – otherwise it's better to decline. Your former employee isn't entitled to a recommendation, but it is custom to write one.

2. Be honest, don't write anything you cannot vouch for.

3. When writing the actual recommendation, you can use the following structure:

  1. Facts. Include personal data, period of employment, job function and mention possible periods of leave. Sometimes it's a good idea to include the reason why the employee gave notice.

  2. Job and assignment description. Describe which assignments the employee has solved and at what level in the organization. Responsibility and jurisdiction are described relatively detailed without getting specific.

  3. Job requirements. Describe which requirements you asked of the employee’s experience, skills, education and not least his personality. Focus more on the position the employee held and not on education or personality.

  4. Qualities. Based on what you have written in the two previous paragraphs you now describe how well you think the employee has done at your company. Negative remarks are not included.

  5. Summarizing assessment. Spend the last paragraph closing the letter. It should contain an overall recommendation and a summarizing assessment expressed in one or few sentences.

    With five different degrees of recommendation it could sound something like this:

    • Excellent/the best of recommendations
    • Is a pleasure to recommend
    • We wish to give the best of recommendations
    • We can recommend
    • We wish good luck