How To Write A Recommendation Letter For An Employee

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Writing a recommendation letter for an employee may be a little daunting. It can be stressful if you’ve never done it before or the employee was not great. But, it’s not a hard thing to do if you follow a template. Remember, recommendation letters for employees don’t have to be works of art! They just need to be readable and clear. Here’s what you need to know.

Of course, unless your organization requires that you write letters of recommendation for everyone, you should decline to write a letter for an employee you do not recommend. This may be painful for them to hear, but it will allow them to find another reference who can support them.

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What Is A Recommendation Letter?

When an employee (or a former employee) needs a  new job or applies to graduate school, they often need a formal recommendation letter. This is a simple letter stating why you do or do not recommend this employee.

Please remember that you may need permission from your Human Resources department to provide a letter of recommendation for an employee. Many companies do not allow you to do anything other than verify dates of employment and job title.

If you are asked to write a recommendation letter and have will have an open position at your company to fill, we recommend posting your job opening on one of the best free job posting sites.

How To Write A Recommendation Letter For An Employee

When an employee (or former employee) asks you for a letter of recommendation, and you verify with your HR department that you can provide one, you first need to know what they need it for. Ask the following questions.

  • Is this for school or a job? This may change what you say or how you say it.
  • What is the job/or school program? The more you know about the organization or position, the better.
  • Is there anything you’d like me to emphasize? Your employee may wish you to focus on their leadership skills, technical skills, or something else. Just ask.
  • If it is for a job, can I see the job posting/job description? This will also help you choose the right words to help your employee get the position.

The answers to these questions will help guide you in writing the recommendation. Then you’ll include these elements in your letter.

  • Write it on company letterhead. This shows that you are who you say you are. (Although to be fair, letterhead is easy to fake these days.)
  • Write it as a formal business letter. Unless your employee specifically tells you otherwise, write it as a formal business letter.
  • State the purpose of the letter and how you know the employee. Were you the boss, a coworker, or a skip-level boss? Whatever your relationship is, make it clear.
  • Indicate how long you have known this person.
  • Give three to five reasons why you recommend this person for the job or academic study path. Keep these things short and, if possible, relate them to the job description.
  • Any additional information you feel would help.
  • Give your contact information should they have any further questions.
  • Sign off!

That’s it! Easy, and you’re done. Don’t overthink it. Here are a couple of samples.

Recommendation Letter Sample

Dear Search Committee, Acme Corporation,

I am writing this letter to recommend Peter A. Jones for the position of Senior Accountant. I have worked with Peter for four years at Bobs House of Numbers, with the last three as his direct supervisor.

Peter is well qualified to move into a senior accountant position. He led the auditing for three million dollar firms in 2021, mentored our new hires, and consistently performed at a high level.

Peter is a person you can trust to do quality work and is a great person to work with. I highly recommend him. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. My phone number is 555-555-5555 or my email is


Jane C. Smith

Vice President, Accounting, Bob’s House of Numbers

Dear Admissions Committee, Acme University,

I am writing to recommend Jane C. Smith for a place in your MBA program. I have worked with Jane for five years as CEO of Bob’s House of Numbers. She started at Bob’s as a senior accountant and worked her way up to Vice President.

Jane demonstrates leadership in all she does. Through her guidance, the accounting department has doubled, and we’ve taken on three times the number of clients. She would be an asset to your MBA program.

Jane is ready to take this next step in her career. I believe she has what it takes to become a CEO, and an MBA from your highly rated program could help her achieve that.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at 555-555-1234 or


Bob Stephens

CEO and Founder, Bob’s House of Numbers

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do you write a strong letter of recommendation?

Follow the guidelines your employees received from the requesting organization. Be honest! Focus on the things that would help your employee succeed in this new position. Make sure you indicate your relationship and the amount of time you knew this person. Longer relationships make better recommendations.

How do you write a short recommendation letter?

Unless the requesting organization gives specific guidelines (such as in academia or medicine), all letters of recommendation should be short. The people reviewing them are busy and unless they specify otherwise, just keep it to the minimum.

The Bottom Line

Don’t panic about writing a recommendation letter for an employee. Just follow these easy steps, and you’ll be able to support your employee in a few minutes. If your employee is looking for a new job on ZipRecruiter, your chance to write a letter may come up sooner than you think.