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Recommendation letters are commonly requested by employers, and their contents are weighed heavily during the hiring process. If you've been asked to write a letter on behalf of a former colleague and you're passionate about helping him secure a job, it's essential that you effectively communicate his qualifications in your writing. Writing the perfect recommendation letter requires extensive knowledge about the person you're recommending, as well as careful consideration of laws regarding slander and libel.
Provide Background Information
Begin your letter with a short statement that provides the recipient with background information about your relationship with the person you're recommending. Tell the reader how you know the candidate and how long you've known her. For example, state that you're her former employer and that she worked under your supervision for five years.
Include Your Qualifications
Lend credibility to your letter by briefly summarizing your own qualifications early in your recommendation. State your title or position, as well as how many years of experience you have in your field. Your qualifications will help put your statements and observations about the candidate into better perspective for the reader. For example, if you write that the person is one of the top sales associates you've worked with, the reader will be more likely to give credence to your statement if he knows that you're a senior manager with 20 years of experience in sales.
Be as specific as possible in your statements about the person you're writing the recommendation for. It's not enough to simply state that he's a good employee; you need to tell the reader exactly why you feel that way about him. List specific skills you consider to be strengths of his, as well as examples of how he utilized them in his work. Mention particular obstacles he faced in his job and how he overcame them to obtain positive results. To provide a well-rounded, unbiased recommendation, you should also briefly discuss areas the candidate could improve on or talk about ways he has improved specific shortcomings.
Tips and Considerations
Avoid editorializing your statements and try to be objective while sticking to the facts. State in your letter that all of the information you're sharing is confidential and is being provided at the request of the person you're writing on behalf of. Don't include any information regarding the candidate's race, ethnicity, religion, age, marital status, or any disabilities. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 35 states have passed reference immunity laws that protect former employers from libel and slander lawsuits so long as their references contain accurate information. However, this protection isn't guaranteed in every state. Be very careful with how you word your reference so you don't face a lawsuit for defamation of character as a result of your letter.
- Type the letter on letterhead rather than plain white paper.
- Do not disclose information about the individual's personal circumstances without written permission.
- Focus on professional and education information about the individual. A large amount of personal information is not appropriate in a recommendation letter.
- Write three to five paragraphs. A short letter may imply that you do not know the candidate very well.
- Sign the letter in blue or black ink.