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by Eileen Levitt | March 10, 2009

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How often have you been asked to write a letter of recommendation, and then you freeze? Sure, you want to help the person secure that next job (or you want to help push a troublesome employee out the door by giving a glowing letter of recommendation), but you are not very happy about adding one more task to your already-overflowing "to do" list.

Compound this lack of enthusiasm with the ethical decisions surrounding recommendation letters (i.e., do you give people your honest opinion or do you just try to help the person?), and you would just prefer to delegate this one. Nonetheless, you cannot delegate it. And, there is no way around the ethics - just be honest.

Now you ask, what pearls of wisdom can this article impart that will make the task an easier one. So, here it goes.

Your letter should include both strengths and weaknesses of the individual as they pertain to job performance. Whether the person requesting the letter has signed the waiver, giving him or her the right to see your letter, you should be honest. Be careful that any negatives you may report are relative to the job he or she is seeking. If, for instance, you know your employee is not a morning person and never arrives on time to open your door at 8 am, that would be worth noting, but not emphasized if the individual happens to be applying for a night job.

In addition to being objective and honest in your evaluation, you should include in your well-written business letter the purpose of the letter, why/how you are qualified to assess the person you are recommending (were you his/her direct supervisor, for instance?), your evaluation of that individual with details as appropriate to support your statements, and a summary.

Remember, if your letter is written as a response to a written request, the opening to your letter should reference that request. Additionally, even if your letter is on company letterhead (as it should be), give contact information in case the recipient needs more information about a particular point.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, an example should do.

date

Mr. Joseph Georges
Unicom Company
2200 Belfry Drive
Williamsport, MD 21111

Salutation Dear Mr. Georges:

Purpose of letter/intro At the request of Denise Williams, I am submitting this letter of recommendation as you consider her for the position of bookkeeper.

Qualification to write letter As you have seen on her resume, Denise has been under my direct supervision for the past two years. Based on our close working relationship, I am confident my assessment of her skills will be an accurate one, which will assist you in determining how she can fit into your organization.

Comments With regard to her day-to-day performance of bookkeeping at our organization, I cannot say enough about her attention to detail and accuracy. She is superb at detecting errors in clients' accounts, and in reconciling them with the clients.

As you can tell, I am very pleased to recommend Denise to you and only wish we had been able to provide the additional hours she requested to make this a full-time position for her.

Invitation to contact Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or if I can provide any additional insight into the ways in which Denise can contribute to your organization.

Sincerely,

signature
typed name and title

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues
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