Recommendation Letter for an Employee: Steps and Template
Updated September 25, 2023
The illustration shows a laptop opened on a desk with a notebook and pen. The headline on the image says, "Recommendation Letter Format"
On the screen of the laptop is a plain representation of a letter, created with a white background and blue lines. On both sides of the letter, there are points that identify key parts of a recommendation letter. The list of key parts are:
1. Introduction and statement of recommendation
2. List of specific reasons you are recommending them to the position
3. Personal story with evidence of their qualities (soft and hard skills)
4. Closing statement with contact information
A letter of recommendation is a document individuals might request when applying for a new job. A potential employer might ask for a recommendation letter to get another perspective of a candidate's work ethic, proven performance and habits. Understanding how to write this type of letter may help you communicate effectively on the behalf of a former employee, which can help you maintain a positive professional connection.
In this article, we discuss what a letter of recommendation is, explain how to write a letter of recommendation for an employee and offer a template and examples you can use as references.
What is a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is a formal document used to demonstrate a candidate's desirable skills and qualities to a potential employer. Typically, this letter includes the relationship between the candidate and the writer, examples of specific experiences working together and a strong closing recommending the candidate for the position. A potential employer may ask for a recommendation letter during the hiring process.
Candidates can also submit a recommendation letter to a hiring manager along with their application materials. Former employers, professors, teachers, colleagues or mentors may provide a recommendation letter that attests to a person's ability to excel in a new role.
Related: What Is a Letter of Recommendation?
How to write a letter of recommendation for an employee
Here are six steps to help you write a letter of recommendation for an employee:
1. Use a business letter format
Begin with your contact information, the date and the recipient's address, name and job title. If your former employee requests you send the letter as an email, you can omit this header information. Instead, write an informative subject line to gain the recipient's attention in their inbox. Use a salutation, such as dear as you would for any other formal communication. It's essential to use a professional font, such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, in an easy-to-read size. Using a business format can offer a positive impression on the recipient.
Related: Business Letter Format and Example
2. Explain why you're qualified to write the letter
In the introduction, explain your relationship with the candidate. This helps the recipient understand why you can provide a unique insight into the candidate's work habits. You may give the name of the relationship, such as colleagues or manager and professional, and the place of employment's title with how long you worked together. For example, you may write, “My name is Claudia de la Rey, and I was Tess Rivera's direct supervisor at Quality Ice Cream Suppliers for four years.”
3. Describe your former employee's work habits, skills and accomplishments
Ask the candidate for a copy of the job description for the role they're applying to earn, so you can highlight any transferable skills. This also helps you understand what you can write about the professional. For example, you may write, “Erin Schuyler worked as an assistant in our vet office while completing her education degree. She was always on time, cheerful and motivated. Erin decorated our displays with creativity and showed eagerness to find ways to motivate the team. I'm certain these qualities can make her an excellent kindergarten teacher.”
4. Use specific examples
To show that you had a professional relationship with the candidate, use anecdotes to illustrate the professional's qualities. This can also help add validity to information the former employee might have already shared with the potential employer, or it can help them visualize what the professional can do for their company. For example, you may write, “When we first entered this market, Jordan O'Rourke networked tirelessly, enabling us to become the major sponsors of the area's biggest food and wine event.”
5. Conclude the letter with a formal closing
End your letter by restating your confidence that the candidate can perform well in the new role. Express how the potential employer can contact you for further information about the former employee. Then, add your name and title at the end of the letter. Here are some closing salutations you can use:
Thank you for your time
6. Proofread your document
It's essential to proofread your document to ensure it's free of errors. When you submit a letter with correct spelling and format, it helps show you care about the former employee you're writing the letter for and that you pay attention to details. The former employee's potential new manager may view them in a positive and professional because of your precise editing, which may improve their chances of earning a new career opportunity and help them achieve their goals.
Template for a letter of recommendation
You can use this template as a guide when writing your recommendation letter:
[Your professional title]
[Recipient's company address]
Dear [name of recipient],
I'm pleased to recommend [name of your former employee] for a position in [name of the firm the former employee is applying to earn.] I have worked as [your position] overseeing [candidate's name] for [number of years] and can attest to their excellence and worth as an employee.
During the time I've supervised [former employee's name], I've found them to be [adjectives describing their work or work ethic.] [Include specific examples of how they excelled in the workplace under your supervision.]
I'm confident that [former employee's name] can be an asset to your company. Please contact me with any additional questions as I'd be happy to discuss them with you.
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
Example of a mailed letter of recommendation
Here's an example of a letter you can send to a potential employer on behalf of a former employee:
Harriet Beth Wheeler
173 Ocean Drive
Bradenton Beach, FL 39873
March 7, 2023
Tampa Sunshine Times
34 Water St.
Tampa, FL 33597
Dear Mr. McCombe,
I'm pleased to recommend Harper O'Brien for the position of copy editor at the Tampa Sunshine Times. As her former editor at Ocean Living Magazine, I've worked closely with Harper for the past three years and can attest to her superior writing, editing and problem-solving skills.
Harper began freelancing for us right out of college, and she immediately impressed me with an initiative expanding beyond her assignments. She asked to attend monthly brainstorming meetings, where she brought at least three well-researched story ideas each time. Harper cultivated sources and initiated two new recurring feature columns. I'm confident she's more than prepared to bring that same passion and drive to your newsroom.
We came to rely on Harper's sharp editorial eye so much that we created space in our budget to hire her part-time for copyediting our final proofs. She's versed in AP style and an excellent researcher who doesn't hesitate to pick up a phone to verify information from the source directly. Your copy is about to be thoroughly fact-checked and error-proofed with her in charge.
Harper is the kind of professional who remembers birthdays, plans celebrations and makes the workplace a warm and inviting place. An excellent team worker, she edits writers gently but tactfully without sacrificing quality. She mentored a student through an internship with us, and under her guidance, the student developed a series of stories that went on to win third place in a state competition.
I'm positive Harper's ready to take on the role of full-time copy editor, and she can be an asset to your publication. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions.
Harriet Beth Wheeler
Example of a letter of recommendation email
If your former employee requests that you email a letter of recommendation, consider referring to this example:
Subject: Letter of Recommendation for Augustus Wyzch
Dear Latanya Wheeler,
I enthusiastically recommend Augustus Wyzch for a position as a sous chef in your catering company. As the owner of the Tin Cup Brunchery in Holmes Beach, Florida, I can attest that Augustus is a hardworking and trustworthy employee who takes his job seriously and does it well.
Augustus began as a dishwasher as soon as he graduated high school about seven years ago, and I promoted him to line cook about two months later. Augustus has always been interested in a career in catering and often came early to work to help me set up the baked goods displays in the front counter's windows.
While working full-time, he enrolled in a culinary arts program at the local university. He began to help me develop new recipes, and his tart orange drop scones have become a staple of our Sunday brunch menu. Augustus is respectful, curious and eager to learn. He is also an excellent and creative cook with a solid grasp of the basics of cooking.
I was proud to attend his graduation ceremony last week and wish him the best as he embarks on a career in catering. Augustus can make an excellent addition to your team. Please contact me if you have more questions about his work because I'm happy to discuss more information with you.
Manager of the Tin Cup Brunchery
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