You hate to see the employee go, but you want to help them on their career journey - writing a letter of recommendation could help them to move forwards

When you write a letter of recommendation for an employee, sometimes referred to as a reference letter, you are basically vouching for them. Prospective employers will have a good idea about the education, skills, and experience that a job seeker brings to the table, based on what's presented in their resume. Your letter of recommendation shines a spotlight on specific work traits or successes that person had under your management. 

But how do you write a letter of recommendation for your former employee? What's the best wording? Are there specific details that should be included in your letter? Without further ado, let's dive into how to write a letter of recommendation for a star employee. 

What should a letter of recommendation contain?

There are a few things - six things, to be exact - that should always appear in any reference letter you write. 

  1. The title of the position that they held at your company - try to mirror that title to the job they're seeking now, if possible

  2. How long you've known the person - if you knew them outside of work, go ahead and add that timeframe, too, but specify which period was work and which period was personal

  3. What the employee did at your company - their key responsibilities

  4. Some achievements - things that person did to improve processes, save money, or reduce labor hours, for example

  5. Something that you'll miss about having the employee around

  6. Your contact information - in case the hiring manager wants to reach out to you

What to do if you can't write the letter

If you are unable to write a letter containing these six items, it's best to decline to write one. Maintain professionalism and let the employee know that you don't have enough details to write a reference letter that would serve them well. It's better to let your employee down than to have him or her waiting around for a letter of recommendation that will never come. It gives the candidate time to move on to the next person they want to ask. 

Here's a sample letter of recommendation for an employee 

Now that you've seen what should be included and have decided to write one, take the time to write it yourself. Avoid asking the job seeker to write a letter for you to sign. Remember, you're not writing a book about the employee's greatness. Keep the letter to one page and only choose the most standout performance to include in the letter. 


ABC Company

123 Main Street

To whom it may concern*, [*Try to use a person's name, if possible]

Re: Letter of Recommendation for Jane Smith

I've had the distinct pleasure of managing Jane Smith for the past three years, in the role of Software Engineer. I'm the Information Technology Director at XYZ Company. 

Jane was tasked with debugging programs during systems integrations, to resolve internal and client-facing challenges. Along the way, she found a pathway to automate an invoicing process that cut a 15-hour process down to two hours. Jane catches on to new processes faster than almost anyone else I know. 

She was also instrumental in deploying new technologies ahead of timelines and under budget. While Jane's software engineering skills are impressive, she has also impressed me with an unmatched ability to see the larger situational picture of any given task, to find a way to overcome challenges. On top of that, she was a role model for other employees - always emulating positivity and encouraging success in others. 

Jane will surely be a great asset to your team. Please feel free to reach out to me should you desire further details about her skills, abilities, or achievements. 


John Doe

Information Technology Director

Don't forget to recommend the employee through LinkedIn

Considering that approximately 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find job seekers, another way you can extol the virtues of your employee is through a recommendation on LinkedIn. There are two ways to recognize someone's abilities through their LinkedIn profile. That is through endorsements and recommendations:

Endorsements: This is the easiest way to elevate your employee's profile. Head on over to their skills list and click the “Endorse” button. The great thing about endorsements is that they're fast and you can endorse multiple skills with just a few mouse clicks. 

Recommendations: Just beneath the skills list on LinkedIn is a place to write a letter of recommendation. This isn't dissimilar from a real letter, in that you'll use the same verbiage, it just won't appear in letter format - it's just a paragraph. 

Here's a sample note of recommendation that you can use on LinkedIn:

I worked with Jane for three years. She was onboarded to XYZ Company to debug software for systems integrations. Along the way, Jane spotted a pathway to automate invoicing that saved 13 hours on a single task. I've never seen anyone catch on to new concepts as quickly as Jane. She is not only able to overcome challenges quickly, but she does so with a smile and a positive attitude. This, of course, encourages her colleagues to be more positive. I'd have no qualms about recommending Jane for a role in the field of software engineering. Please feel free to reach out to me if you'd like more details on her achievements at XYZ Company. 

There's no need to add an introduction or close with a sign-off, as LinkedIn will include a header on the recommendation that links to your own profile. 

In closing

Writing a letter of recommendation is a great way to let your employee know how much you appreciated the wonderful things they did for your company. Being recommended by a former leader helps them to get their foot into the door of a new company. 

TopResume's talented team of career coaches and resume writers has a slew of information on job-hunting best practices. Reach out for any questions you may have - or follow your star employee up the career ladder by submitting your own CV for a free resume review!

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