Layoffs are unpleasant for everyone involved—those being laid off and those having to deliver the bad news. But one thing that can soften the blow to a certain degree is a positive reference letter.
If you're the one being laid off, it's a good idea to request a positive reference letter after hearing the bad news. Your boss is likely to be willing to do this to help ease the blow and to help get you back on your feet again as quickly as possible. If you're the one doing the laying off, it's a good idea to offer such a letter or even to have one prepared when delivering the bad news. Nothing can take away the sting of losing a job, but an outgoing employee will exit with more confidence knowing that you are in their corner during their job search.
Sample Letter for a Laid-off Technical Writer
The following is a sample reference letter for a technical writer who was laid off after the position was outsourced. This letter can be customized and used for other positions as long as the employee held a position that called for the use of specific tech skills and the employee lost their job due to no fault of their own.
Use this sample reference letter as a guideline for writing your references:
Sample Reference Letter
Name of Recipient
Title of Recipient
Recipient Company Name
Recipient Company Address
City, State, Zip
To Whom It May Concern: (or contact name requesting reference)
John Doe worked for me at XYZ Company for three years as a senior technical writer for the period between (start and end date). I was John's manager at XYZ Company the entire time of his employment and would like to recommend him for employment with your organization.
While at XYZ Company, John's performance was exemplary. John is a conscientious, highly-skilled technical writer. He is detail-oriented and has a firm grasp of technical terms. John has a great ability to write in a way that can be understood by technical and nontechnical personnel alike.
John's recent layoff from XYZ Company was a result of outsourcing his responsibilities made at a corporate level, not as a result of any performance issues on his part. If conditions at XYZ Company change, I would not hesitate to hire him back because he was a valuable member of the team.
If you would like to speak to me about John's skills, accomplishments, or work habits, please do not hesitate to call me directly at (555) 555-1111.
Adding Additional Information
The job of a technical writer is two-fold. The employee needs to be a skilled writer in a particular field but also needs to have the skillset to translate esoteric information into layperson terms. A successful employee should be able to create technical documents and manuals and explain complex information in a clear and concise manner. They also must be able to work with the technical staff to ensure the accuracy of all product descriptions, even though their main talent is writing.
When you write a reference letter, be sure to specifically express to the potential employer that John Doe mastered both job requirements. Feel free to elaborate (where appropriate) on John's day-to-day duties, such as planning, developing, organizing, writing, and editing operational procedure manuals. Many tech writers are charged with "analyzing documents to maintain continuity of style of content," which highlights the long-term importance of their job. Don't forget to note this in your letter.
While most companies don't require reference letters to be on company letterhead, writing a reference on company letterhead will make you seem more credible to a prospective employer, so opt for letterhead overwriting the recommendation on a blank piece of paper. If you write a digital version, be sure to incorporate your company's logo.