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How would you write a Letter of Recommendation - Tech Challenged Employee

By trtjj ·
Recently I've let one of my helpdesk people go. He is very easy going, punctual and works well with people. He tries to do the right thing and is a team player. Unfortunately after two years working and training him, he is just technically challenged. We had an honest relationship and I've tried to steer him away from technology.

He asked me to write him a letter of recommendation for another tech job he is applying to. I'm not sure how to write one without misleading the reader or writing one about poor performance. How would you write one? Are there templates I can follow?

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Why write it?

by Maevinn In reply to How would you write a Let ...

A letter of recommendation is suppose to be honest. If you can't honestly tell someone this guy is the right candidate, why try? You'll end up lying, or saying nothing in 500 words. Give the guy a call, and say 'You know, I think you have a lot of potential, but based on your experience here, I can't recommend you for this position.'

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by trtjj In reply to Why write it?

That's true but ....When I let him go.. I told him that if he needed help with anything to give me a call. I know it's a mistake but it's the first time I had to let someone go.

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Then follow up on your own advice

by Maevinn In reply to True

Help the kid. Tell him bluntly that you want to help him succeed but that you can't honestly recommend him for an IT position. If he's looking for something in another career field, you will happily write up something talking about his positive points.

Or, talk with him and explain that you will write a letter the emphasizes his positives without mentioning the negatives, and explain that this means you won't be able to say anything positive about his (lack) of tech skill.

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speak only to his strengths

by Lost_in_NY In reply to True

I thinkt hat you can ethically provide a letter of recommendation as long as you limit it to only his strong points - if he's patient, respectful, attentive to end-users and gets along well with colleagues, hard-working, etc. then speak to those points as well as any others strengths he has. Clearly it is not appropriate to lie about his abilities. And, as a hiring manager yourself, you certainly wouldn't appreciate being told someone is strong in a particular area you can't tech him out for (like keeping commitments, respecting colleagues and customers, etc.) and then finding out one you've hired him that he's anything but.

One other caution - if you're contacted by phone, then you can try to emphasize the guy's good points, but if you're asked a point-blank question about his technical skill level, answer it truthfully - you can try to soften your answer, but keep it honest (you can say 'he's always eager to learn new skills and applies himself to learning' but you cannot say he's an excellent troubleshooter or expert in Active Directory or whatever, unless that is also true).

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Phone call conundrum

by tljones00 In reply to speak only to his strengt ...

In Texas you are only legally required to answer the questions of "did they work there?", "how much did they make?", and "would you rehire?". Anything beyond that opens you up to the legal issues of blackballing. Be VERY careful in what you say to any questions from a phone interview. You are not required to answer any of the questions other than the above, either positive or negative. If you want to say positive things to a question, then by all means go for it. If you say anything nagative other than that you wouldn't rehire watch out!!

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give phone number instead

by bigbigboss In reply to How would you write a Let ...

Don't write the letter, but give him your phone number so that he can give as reference. I don't read those recommendation letters and prefer to call and ask my own questions. This is less onerous on you, and the potential employer gets better information. And in the conversation, you can tell the potential employer what you feel are his strength and weakness, and won't get yourself in trouble.

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you are lucky

by Jaqui In reply to give phone number instead

Here all we can tell someone in a reference call is yes or no.
yes we would hire them again for the job, or no we would not.

not one bit more information is legally given over the phone.

in a letter you can positively comment on the good points.
the telling part of a letter would be no comments about tech skill for this situation.
the letter would be honest.
the areas with no comments would indictate clearly that there is nothing positive to say in those areas.

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by trtjj In reply to you are lucky

Well, I wrote the letter. The letter sounds like a positive character reference. I wrote a lot of good things but there isn't anything there about his technical skills.

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by Jaqui In reply to Written

gives him a positive reference, yet doesn't hide his lack from anyone reading it who looks for what's not said.
[ as most hiring managers will ]

It is a bit more work, in the short term, to write a letter of reference, but long term, it actually save you time, since you won't be feilding phone calls for references for the person(s) with letters.

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Sometime we expect too Much of a Tech.

by jmccardl2 In reply to which

I worked for a major govt research Lab and I sat on many interview panels. I was amazed at what some others on the panel thought was excellent and what was poor. One lot thought someone who could identify a 37 pin canon socket was great and another expected the applicant to know the type of ics used in say the keyboard controller or the maths chip (80287) (shows my age!). Also when you have a great team it can make it hard to pick someone else to climb on board. Granted you do need someone who listens and has good interpersonal skills and who is not frightened to admit the problem is curley and request help from another in the IT support team. Servicing and fault diagnostics often need heaps of experience and a logical method of approach.
Life is tough!

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