When you’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with an extraordinary individual, you will not hesitate to recommend her. After all, she has your utmost respect, admiration and gratitude. But precisely because she is “perfect,” you wonder if you can write a recommendation for her credibly. Thankfully, you can. Simply demonstrate in concrete terms how she was instrumental to your success, effective in carrying out her responsibilities, inspiring to co-workers, respectful of the company, self-motivating and so on. Discipline your impulse to gush but praise her sufficiently and honestly. Your outstanding employee deserves no less as she moves on or competes for an award.
Begin your letter extraordinarily. The typical recommendation letter starts with a description of your relationship with the employee and the reason why you are writing. Precede or follow this information with a statement that hints of your employee’s exceptionality. For example, “I am pleased to write this letter of recommendation for Beatriz Jones, who has worked as an industrial designer under my supervision for the last five years. I have made a supreme effort to avoid using a whole lot of superlatives that genuinely apply to this extraordinary individual.”
Demonstrate your exemplary employee’s strongest attributes, especially those which would compel the interest of another employer. Instead of generalities such as “She’s an excellent employee and a great manager,” say, “Beatriz assumed a demanding position that had been filled and vacated many times in the years before she joined us. She brought three essential skills for which we had sought high and low.” Use up to three short paragraphs to address her skills and proficiencies.
Speak to your employee’s character and integrity in the next paragraph or two. Once again, substantiate your claims. For example, instead of saying, “She’s a self-motivated, generous worker appreciated by all,” say, “No one asked Beatriz to volunteer or assume leadership roles at our local United Way; no one told her to seek accreditation in sustainable design. Beatriz initiated all of this on her own. She also involved our emerging professionals in every aspect of her work, mentoring them as she went along.”
Conclude with a strong summary of your employee’s capabilities and qualities. If your employee is leaving the firm, express unfathomable regret, even envy of the next company that will employ her. Restate your recommendation unreservedly. Provide your phone number or email to answer any questions. Close formally with “Sincerely yours,” and then sign your name over your printed name and title.
Adopt a business letter in either block or semi-block format. Print the letter on your letterhead for the utmost formality.
A letter of recommendation typically has at least five paragraphs.
Do not provide employee details such as her religion, ethnicity, age, race, marital status or disability.
Check your proposal for spelling and grammar errors before providing a copy to the employee. Find a fresh set of eyes to review your letter, if possible.
Since 1988, Diana Faustmann has been writing on technology, business and culture. Her articles have appeared in various print publications, corporate websites and authoritative online sites. Faustmann holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of the Philippines.