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Everything You Should Include in a Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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So your coworker asked you for a letter of recommendation, but you're not quite sure how to get started writing one.

Here's everything you need to know about writing a letter of recommendation for your colleague, including how to open it, what to put in the letter (and what to leave out), how to format it and how to close the letter.

1. What do you do when a coworker asks you for a letter of recommendation?

When a colleague asks you for a letter of recommendation, you might feel obligated to write it. But you don't need to write a letter of recommendation if you don't want to or don't feel that you can.

Here are all the times when you should say yes — and all the times when you can totally say no — to writing a letter of recommendation for a coworker.

When do you say yes to writing a letter of recommendation for a coworker?

You should say yes to writing a letter of recommendation in the following circumstances:

  • You would genuinely recommend your coworker because you believe that they are a hard worker
  • You would genuinely recommend your coworker because you believe that they have coveted skills for the new job for which they're applying
  • You would genuinely recommend your coworker because you believe that they have a solid background and experience in the field of the job for which they're applying
  • You have worked with your coworker for years and feel that you can confidently recommend them
  • You have worked with your coworker for just a short amount of time but already feel that you can confidently recommend them because they've displayed a high level of competence
  • You are friends with your coworker and want to help them land a new job
  • You have mentored, coached or trained your coworker and know that they are a quick learner or an adaptable employee
  • You have experience at or connections to the company for which your coworker is applying, and you are happy to help

When do you say no to writing a letter of recommendation for a coworker?

You should say no to writing a letter of recommendation in the following circumstances:

  • You would not recommend your coworker for the job for which they're applying because of their lack of or totally unrelatable experience
  • You would not recommend your coworker for the job for which they're applying because of their limited skills
  • You would not recommend your coworker for the job for which they're applying because of their limited years on the job
  • You would not recommend your coworker for the job for which they're applying because you do not believe that they're a hard worker
  • You would not recommend your coworker for the job for which they're applying because you do not believe that they're quick to learn or adaptable
  • You don't know your coworker enough to confidently recommend them for the new job
  • You have worked with your coworker for a long time and have had a tough time getting to know them enough to recommend them for any job (and, likewise, the impersonal relationship is a red flag for you)
  • You have experience at or connections to the company for which your coworker is applying, but you have burnt bridges at that company

2. What should you say in a letter of recommendation?

If you do indeed choose to write a letter of recommendation for your coworker, you should keep it short, concise and to the point — you want to say why exactly your coworker is a good fit for this specific job and/or company.

But how do you say that? Here's what to include (and what to leave out) in your letter of recommendation — as well as how to format it.

What do you include in a letter of recommendation?

You should always include a few key elements in your letters of recommendation, such as these:

  • Who you are
  • How you know your coworker/what your working relationship is
  • Why you would recommend your coworker for this specific role/company (based on their skills or experiences that you have gotten to see or understand firsthand)
  • What it's like working with your coworker, from personal experience
  • Your contact information in case of further questions

What do you leave out in a letter of recommendation? 

You don't need to say everything in a letter of recommendation. Here's what you can leave out (and why):

  • Your coworker's job description at your current company (their resume will cover this)
  • Your coworker's experience leading up to their work at your current company (again, their resume or cover letter will explain this)
  • Your coworker's negative traits (this is a letter of recommendation and, while it should be honest, it should focus on the positives!)

How do you format a letter of recommendation?

Formatting a letter of recommendation is simple. It should flow well from one section to another. Every letter of recommendation should have five sections like these:

  1. Opening (address the letter to someone specifically, not just the company as a whole, if possible)
  2. A section about you are and why your opinion matters — in other words, an introduction about yourself, your relationship to your coworker and why that's important
  3. A section about why your coworker's specific skills and experiences that you've personally witnessed are going to be valuable to the company and/or role for which they're applying
  4. A section about what working with your coworker is like (people want to work with people — not just robots who can get the job done, but colleagues on whom they can depend, with whom they can collaborate and with whom they can communicate and, ideally, befriend to some professional capacity)
  5. A closing section with your information in case of further questions (you want to keep the door open to prove that, you'd recommend your coworker so much that you're happy to jump on a call to discuss more if necessary!)

What are some examples of letters of recommendations?

Here are three examples of letters of recommendations for your reference:

1. Example A

Photo via Resume Genius

2. Example B

Photo via Template.com

3. Example C

Word Templates Online

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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