3 tips for writing an effective employee recommendation letter

Writing a recommendation letter for an employee can be loaded with challenges, but you can avoid them if you set yourself up the right way.

Writing a recommendation letter for an employee can be loaded with challenges, but you can avoid them if you set yourself up the right way. Here are three things to keep in mind when it’s your turn to type one out.

Don’t go in cold

Alison Doyle, a career expert, author, CEO and founder of CareerToolBelt.com, writes in The Balance that you should “collect information before you start.”

“Ask the person for whom you are writing to supply you with a copy of the job posting and their resume or curriculum vitae (CV) before you begin composing your letter.  It can also be helpful to review their cover letter to see how they pitch their qualifications for the job,” she writes. “When you are writing a more general recommendation, ask the subject of your letter to outline their targets for employment. Ask them for an example or two of jobs they are applying for. Also ask them to share their most marketable assets for that type of work, especially ones you may have observed in your relationship with the person you are recommending.”

Make them do some of the work for you

This could really come in handy.

The Harvard Business Review features insight from Priscilla Claman, the president of Career Strategies and a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job, on this topic.

“If you’ve been asked for a written recommendation, which is still a prominent feature in some professions, such as teaching, as well as in graduate school applications, suggest that your colleague prepare a draft letter with all of the relevant information that you can then ‘edit as you see fit,’ says Claman.”

Remember, time is still of the essence

Brian O’Connell, an author and freelance writer, writes on TheStreet that you should “get to the point.”

“People, especially decision makers in the midst of a job hire process, are busy. Consequently, keep the recommendation letter short and sweet. Right after your greeting to the letter recipient, introduce yourself as the person writing a letter of recommendation, provide a quick line or two on the nature of your relationship (i.e., manager, teacher, or other professional relationship.) Keep this information to one paragraph or less. Your second paragraph should state that you’re writing to recommend the subject of your letter to the recipient.” he writes.

He then adds that you should use “bullet points,” and write a maximum of one page.

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.