Over the course of your professional life, you have probably asked a few of your past bosses or colleagues to write a letter of recommendation for you, but have you ever been on the reverse end? Has a colleague ever asked you to write a letter of recommendation for them?

If a colleague has asked you to write a letter of recommendation for them, you might be excited about the opportunity to help them achieve their career goals.

At the same time, you might be wondering how to go about the whole thing. How do you structure the letter of recommendation? What are you even supposed to say? The fact that your co-worker doesn’t report directly to you makes it even worse.

You don’t assign them their tasks and responsibilities, you don’t set their objectives, and you are not responsible for reviewing their performance.

So, what exactly can you say about your co-worker to ensure that they are viewed in favorable light by a hiring manager?

Even if you are not their supervisor, working alongside someone gives you unique insights into the kind of person they are at work.

You have firsthand experience of their skills, their achievements, their work ethic, their attitude at work, their working style, and so on.

These insights place you in a position where you can provide a professional opinion about your co-worker’s professional life.

In this guide, we are going to cover the process of writing a good letter of recommendation for a co-worker, as well as an example of what a good letter of recommendation should look like. Before we get to that, however, let us start by understanding what a letter of recommendation is.

WHAT IS A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION?

A letter of recommendation refers to a document written by someone for their employee or colleague discussing the person’s achievements, abilities, skills, and character traits as they pertain to an opportunity (usually a job opportunity) they are applying for.

In the letter of recommendation, the writer provides a firsthand account of their experience working with the colleague and what they think of the colleague as a professional.

The aim of the letter of recommendation is to give the potential employer a better idea of the kind of employee the candidate (your colleague) is, and what they are potentially bringing to the table should they get hired.

In most cases, the letter of recommendation is used by recruiters and hiring managers alongside other tools, such as the resume, cover letter, portfolios, and job interviews to help them evaluate how qualified and skilled a job candidate is.

Sometimes, they are also used by universities to help them determine which applicants to admit to a certain program.

Therefore, when writing a letter of recommendation for someone, your aim should be to help your colleague set themselves apart from the other candidates and boost their chances of getting hired or admitted to a university program.

Since the aim of the letter of recommendation is to give your co-worker an edge over the competition, it can be very tempting to lie and give a glowing recommendation to your co-worker even if they do not deserve it.

However, this is something you should never do. Do not lie when writing a recommendation for someone.

The letter of recommendation is not just a simple document where you get to say positive things about your co-worker.

By writing a letter of recommendation for someone, you are vouching for that person and staking your professional reputation, as well as your company’s reputation, on that person.

If you write a glowing reputation for a colleague, but then they turn out to be the complete opposite of what you said about them, you will end up ruining your reputation and your credibility.

Therefore, if you feel like it is impossible to write a letter of recommendation for someone without having to lie, it is better not to write it at all.

WHEN NOT TO WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR A COWORKER

Below are some of the circumstances when you should not agree to write a letter of recommendation for a coworker:

  • If you feel that the employee does not have enough experience for the job they are applying for, or if their experience is not relevant to the job they are applying for.
  • If you feel that they have limited skills in relation to the job they are applying for.
  • If you believe that it would be wrong to recommend your coworker for that job because they are not hardworking.
  • If you feel that your coworker does not have a strong work ethic.
  • If you have not spent enough time working alongside the colleague to be able to give an objective opinion of them as a professional or recommend them for a job.

If any of these situations apply to you, it is a lot better and more professional to decline your colleague’s request for you to write a letter of recommendation for them, than to write a letter of recommendation that is filled with lies and half-truths.

WHEN TO WRITE A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR YOUR COWORKER

On the other hand, below are some of the situations where you should oblige your coworker’s request for you to write a letter of recommendation for them.

  • When you believe that your coworker is a hard worker who would fit in the job they are applying for.
  • When you believe that your coworker has the necessary skills for the job they are applying for.
  • When you genuinely believe that your coworker has enough background and experience in the industry and the job they are applying for.
  • When you have worked with your coworker for a period that is enough for you to have formed a good opinion of their character and abilities as a professional.
  • When you can genuinely recommend your coworker for the job because they have consistently demonstrated a high level of competence for the entire period you have worked with them.
  • When you have helped train your coworker or acted as a mentor to them and are confident that they have the ability to learn quickly.
  • When you have some connections at the company your colleague is interested in working for and believe that your recommendation can help them get their foot in the door.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION?

If you decide to write a letter of recommendation for your coworker, you should make sure that you write a strong letter that describes their skills and abilities in a strong, powerful way and gives a significant boost to their chances of getting hired, otherwise there is no point in writing the letter.

Below are three key features that make a good letter of recommendation:

1. It Should Explain Why You Are Qualified To Give A Recommendation To The Candidate

Imagine you were looking to hire a fresh candidate for an entry level position, and you receive applications from two candidates, along with their recommendation letters. The first candidate’s letter of recommendation is from their faculty dean at university, while the second candidate’s letter of recommendation is from their classmate.

Which of the two candidates would you go with? If their qualifications are similar, most people would go with the first candidate, because the recommendation letter from the faculty dean holds more weight than the recommendation from a classmate.

Similarly, when you write a letter of recommendation for your coworker, the potential employer will want to know that the letter comes from a reputable source.

If the potential employer wants to know about the candidate’s skills on the job, a recommendation from a friend or family member doesn’t mean much because the friend or family member hasn’t interacted with the candidate in a work situation. Therefore, your letter needs to explain what makes you a qualified and reputable person to recommend the person for the job.

When explaining your qualification as a source for a recommendation, you should start by explaining who you are and your relationship with the candidate. Where have you worked with the candidate? For how long did you work together? In what capacity did you work with them?

Mentioning these details shows that you are in a good position to talk about the candidate’s skills, abilities, and accomplishments, which in turn gives credibility to your letter of recommendation.

2. It Should Be Tailored To The Position They Are Applying For

While the letter of recommendation talks about the candidate’s skills and accomplishments in their current or past position, the potential employer is more interested in figuring out whether the candidate will perform well if they get hired to the new position.

Therefore, a good letter of recommendation should focus not only on the candidate’s performance in a past role, but how this past performance makes them a good fit for the position they are applying for. How do their current/past skills, abilities, and achievements tie to the position they are applying for?

For you to be able to tie your colleague’s skills and abilities to the position they are applying for, you need to have a clear idea of the position they are applying for.

This means that you will need your coworker to provide you with all the necessary information about the job they are applying for.

3. It Should Provide Specific Anecdotes And Examples

Finally, if you want your letter of recommendation to be effective, you should not just drop abstract adjectives describing your colleague in glowing terms.

Instead, you should provide real-life examples that demonstrate whatever you say about your coworker.

For instance, don’t just say that your coworker is a hardworking, innovative, and intelligent employee. Instead, you should provide stories and anecdotes of situations where your coworker demonstrated their hardworking nature, their innovative nature, and their intelligence.

This shows the potential employer that your coworker actually possesses those qualities or skills, that you are not just pulling things out of thin air.

Aside from making what you are saying about your coworker more credible, including real-life examples in your letter of recommendation also gives the hiring manager a glimpse into how your coworker performs their day to day activities.

This makes your letter a lot more persuasive, and in addition, it keeps you from writing a clichéd list of qualities that everyone else is writing in their letters of recommendation. In other words, it makes your coworker stand out from all the other candidates.

WRITING THE LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR YOUR COWORKER

Now that we know what makes a good letter of recommendation, let’s take a look at the steps you need to follow when writing the recommendation letter for your colleague.

Source: ThoughtCo

1. Go Through The Important Information

The first step before you sit down to write the letter of recommendation is to ask your colleague for all the important information you will need in order to write a great letter. Some of the information you should ask for includes:

  • Information about the job they are applying for: In the previous section, we have seen that a strong and effective letter of recommendation needs to be tailored to the position your coworker is applying for. For you to customize the letter to this position, you will need information about the position. You can ask your coworker to provide you with the job description for the position they are applying for, as well as other information about the company they are applying to.
  • The recipient: When writing a recommendation letter, or any other letter for that matter, it is a lot better to address the recipient of the letter by name than to write a general salutation like “To whom it may concern.” Therefore, if your coworker knows the name of the recipient of the letter, ask them to give it to you.
  • Your coworker’s resume: Having a copy of your coworker’s resume will make it easier for you to talk about your coworker’s skills and job experience, since you have somewhere to refer to as you write your letter.
  • Achievement list: Even if you have worked with your coworker for a long period, it might not be easy to recall all their achievements, yet mentioning these achievements is crucial to writing a strong recommendation letter. Therefore, ask them to provide you with a list of achievements that are specific to the position they are applying for or those that they would want you to mention in your letter.
  • Information about what not to mention: Sometimes, there might be information that your coworker doesn’t want you to mention when writing a recommendation letter for them. Be sure to ask about this in advance.
  • Submission date: You don’t want to take your time writing a letter of recommendation for your colleague, only to learn that you have missed the submission date. Therefore, it is important to know when the submission is due to ensure that your coworker doesn’t miss the deadline.

2. Say Who You Are And Explain Your Professional Relationship

Once you have gathered all the requisite information, it’s now time to start writing the letter.

The first section of the letter should be focused on introducing yourself, explaining your job title, and the details of your professional relationship with the coworker you are recommending. If possible, mention some specific projects on which you worked together with the said coworker.

3. Talk About Your Coworkers Skills And Accomplishments And Provide Anecdotes

After introducing yourself and making clear your professional relationships with the coworker, you can now go ahead and mention their relevant skills, abilities, qualifications and accomplishments.

For each skill or key strength that you mention, provide an anecdote to demonstrate how your coworker applies the skill or trait.

One thing to keep in mind here is that you should not give your coworker too much praise, since excessive praise will make the recommendation letter appear false or disingenuous.

Even as you talk about your strengths, you want to show that they are still continuing to learn and improve on their skills and strengths.

4. Explain How The Potential Employer Will Benefit From Hiring Your Coworker

The overall objective of the letter of recommendation is to convince a prospective employer that your coworker is a good fit for the role they are applying for.

Therefore, after talking about your coworker’s strengths and abilities, talk about how the employer stands to benefit from hiring your colleague. What will your colleague bring to the table? What contribution will they make to their new company?

Here, it is also advisable to include examples showing how they made similar contributions in their current position.

5. Include You Contact Information

Sometimes, the hiring manager might want to reach out to you to ask some additional questions about your coworker.

Therefore, towards the end of your letter, you should provide the recipient of the letter with a way to reach you. You can either provide your phone number, your email address, or both.

SAMPLE LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION FOR A COWORKER

To make it even easier to understand how to write a letter of recommendation for a colleague, let’s take a look at what a sample letter of recommendation for a coworker looks like.

 

27 May 2020

Smartech Inc.

943 Loman Boulevard,

Albuquerque, NM 0249

 

Dear Kellerman,

I had the opportunity and pleasure of working with Wade Williams at Smartech Inc for the last three years. I would absolutely recommend Williams for the position of Engineering Manager at Omicron Technologies.

My name is Rockmond Dunbar, Technical Lead at Smartech Inc. I have over six years of experience as a software engineer. During this period, I have worked with several young and intelligent engineers, but Wade Williams is one of the most outstanding engineers I got to work with. His understanding of various programming languages is exceptional, and his innovativeness and problem solving skills exceed those of most of the other engineers I have had the pleasure of working with. Williams is insanely creative, and he has a work ethic that is becoming increasingly difficult to come across nowadays.

For the period we have worked together, Williams’ skills and innovativeness have been really helpful in helping us continue serving our clients in the best way possible. For instance, there is this time a program we had installed for one of our biggest clients developed a bug, something which, unresolved, would lead to losses to the tune of millions of dollars for our client.

Once I discussed the problem with Williams, who wasn’t even part of the team tasked with resolving the problem, he volunteered to help and try resolve the problem. In addition to his normal duties, he devoted his energy into looking at what the problem could be, working extra hours to try and resolve the problem. After working tirelessly for three days, Williams was finally able to identify and fix the bug, thereby averting what would have been a huge disaster for the company.

In addition to his impressive talent, problem solving skills, and work ethic, Williams is also a born leader and a great team player. He is always willing to help, even when he is under no obligation to do so.

I am positive that Williams will prove to be a great asset to Omicron Technologies. His creativity will be very useful to the company, and his leadership skills will help him steer the engineering department at Omicron Technologies in the right direction.

If you need any more information about Williams, or if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me. You can reach me by email at dunbar@smartech.com.

Best Regards,

Rockmond Dunbar

Technical Lead, Smartech Inc.

 

WRAPPING UP

As someone working with talented coworkers who are be keen to grow and advance their careers, it is very likely that at one point, one of your coworkers will ask you to write a letter of recommendation for them.

A coworker asking you to write a letter of recommendation for them shows that you have had an impact on their professional life, and therefore, if you oblige their request, you want to make sure that you won’t end up writing a crappy recommendation for them.

The good thing is, if you follow the tips covered in this guide, you will be able to write a strong and effective letter of recommendation that will increase your coworker’s chances of getting hired to that exciting job they have applied for.

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