As a manager or supervisor, you will likely need to write a reference letter for an employee from time to time. During a job search, having the endorsement of a previous supervisor can be very helpful in landing a new position.
If you can write a glowing, positive recommendation for a former employee, it’s always a good idea to take the opportunity to help them out.
On the other hand, if you don’t feel that you can honestly strongly endorse this person for the position, or if your company has a policy that prohibits providing references, you should politely turn down their request for a reference.
It is better not to write a recommendation at all than to write one expressing anything less than full confidence in the employee.
How to Write a Recommendation for an Employee
1. Get the specifics. When a former employee asks you to write a reference letter for them, they should provide you with some information to help you make your letter specific and complete. If it’s been a while since they worked for you, they should give you an updated copy of their resume, so that you have handy the dates they worked for you and can see what skills they have added since then.
A job description or job posting for the type of position they are applying for is also helpful. If they have the name of the hiring manager, they should let you know that as well.
2. Follow the correct format. If you are sending your letter in a business format, you’ll begin with your contact information, followed by the date and the hiring manager’s contact information.
Your salutation should be followed by the body of your letter, where you will begin with how long you have known the candidate, and in what capacity. You can then elaborate on their skills, strengths, and experiences that make them an exceptional employee. It can be helpful to use anecdotes and specific achievements to highlight the attributes which will be most applicable in the position they are seeking.
In your closing, mention your confidence in your candidate, and offer your strong recommendation for them in the position. Thank the hiring manager for their time, and let them know you are available for clarification or further questions, should they have any.
Your contact information should follow your name if you are sending an email, and it’s not in the heading.
3. Send an email when appropriate. Sometimes, an employee will ask you for an email reference (especially if time is of the essence). In this case, follow business letter format but omit the address paragraphs.
Your subject should contain the person’s name you are recommending, that this is a reference, and perhaps the title of the position they are applying for, e.g., “Subject: Jane Doe - Reference for HR Assistant.
Recommendation Letter Sample for an Employee
The following is an example of a recommendation letter written by a manager for a former employee. It contains information on the person's qualities, attributes, and effectiveness on the job, as well as a strong recommendation for future employment.
Reference Letter Sample for an Employee
Subject: Recommendation for Laura Woods
Dear Ms. Lee,
It is my pleasure to recommend Laura Woods for employment with your organization. I have known Laura for over two years, during which time she worked as a communications assistant in my office.
I have been consistently impressed with Laura's attitude and productivity during the time that she has worked in the office.
Laura is both very bright and quite motivated. I am confident that she will devote herself to a position with your organization with a high degree of diligence. She is a quick learner and has shown the ability to digest large volumes of information. Ms. Woods has demonstrated the ability to articulate information and ideas in both the verbal and written forms.
Laura has also been effective in her efforts to engage the media we outreach to. She has been able to write interesting press releases and articles and convince editors to publish those pieces. Ms. Woods is willing to take risks. She will reach out to people and involve them with projects. I particularly appreciate Laura's willingness to take initiative to help the office serve its constituents more fully.
I recommend Ms. Woods without reservation. I am confident that she will establish productive relationships with your staff and constituents. Please let me know if you need additional information about this outstanding young woman.