IT Employment

General discussion


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?

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -


by tomasb In reply to Written

So he will be well on his way as a successful salesman then! :-)

Collapse -

Lack of mentoring

by r_chabie In reply to sales

Good. It seems you've got a job for him then!

Often a person has the potential and that's why s/he was hired in the first place.

However, he is left at his desk for probably a couple of months and learns nothing because the manager/senior staff are too busy killing fires.

After a while somebody remembers that they actually employed someone to make the workload easier, but the "not so new" resource is still not able to help. Who should be blamed?

Also, most technical people are not good at teaching others (I'm painting with the broad brush, I know). Some decide to fix the small problem themselves, mumble a couple of words and expect that next time the person should know how. Who's to blame?

Some of us (like myself) were fortunate to get a good mentor and are able to succeed in this difficult field. Some may be very smart and don't need it as much as others.

I think the technology world should focus more on identifying good mentors and mentoring programmes, and we won't have this common problem creeping up all the time.

Collapse -

Good mentoring observation-- should be new thread; Monster has LoR tips

by ToR24 In reply to Lack of mentoring

R_Chabie has brought up some excellent points that should be started as a totally new thread which would be beneficial to technicial staff who find themselves in the role of mentor or manager.

I personally would write the letter. However in this particular case, I would ask the individual to list some points that they would like to be considered for inclusion in the letter. It would give you insight to their self-evaluation and maybe their goals. has some great tips on how to write a LoR.

Collapse -


by r_chabie In reply to Good mentoring observatio ...

It is difficult to come up with a solution for this.

If one could begin with availability of mentors. Almost impossible request.
They usually have a heap of other responsibilities.

Capable mentors/managers. Many managers get into that position as a reward of good technical service to the company, but now has to manage people, something they may struggle with themselves. Took the promotion probably because of the financial incentives, and are found out of depth.

Unwillingness of senior staff.

Knowledge transfer/ lack thereoff. Many want to keep their jobs safe and would not part with what they know.

Please add more.

Collapse -

Lack of mentoring...

by bajanpoet In reply to Lack of mentoring

Sounds familiar...

I'm currently in a situation where I've been "left at my desk" for months... I've been given stuff to do, but when I have questions my manager is nowhere to be found - he usu isn't even in the building... he's off "fighting fires" elsewhere in the organization...

Makes me wonder if I should look for another job....

Collapse -

Self-motivation and initiative

by ToR24 In reply to Lack of mentoring...

Sometimes, but not always, managers are looking for people that can do the work they are given, but are also able to independently solve problems they encounter without too much intervention, supervision and "bothersome" questions.

There are two mind games that I use to overcome a boss who micro-manages one moment, then becomes unavailable for long periods of time.

First game: Imagine being the boss. After all, the boss always gets to stay in the office, while the workers run about. Imagine your manager as another resource for you (e.g. the person who will acquire the tools you need, grant you access to company resources, sign your timesheet). You can now skew that view to your advantage. If you know where everything is, you become the resource for answers, and your manager becomes the resource for action.

Now that you are, at least in your mind, the boss, you are the one that has to produce the answers. You are the one that will gain the reward for correct answers, and suffer the consequences of incorrect ones. Look towards taking control of your own destiny within the framework of your existing job.

Second game: Ask yourself whether you should ask a question or find the answer on your own.

Imagine if had to pay $100 for every question you ask your manager, like that of certain software companies' technical support. You may find yourself answering the original question without intervention, from an outside resource, or as a product of some logical line of thought, trial and error, or perhaps even a good guess.

Many technical folks are left to their own devices when they first start in the field, and again when they become accomplished. Try to solve problems, even if it means just straightening up your workspace, organizing your work, or documenting and optimizing your workflow.

If you find yourself with little to do, it will appear as though you are efficient, organized and capable. Technical people often find themselves inundated with technical work, while these important sanity preserving tasks are pushed aside. Use the time for self study and train yourself on some work-related aspect of the job, even if it as simple as creating your own technical web pages using the company's design elements. This will make you appear that you are attempting to contribute to the entire organization.

Most importantly, have a list of written questions prepared so that when your manager does finally return, you won't appear to have wasted time or impeded progress on projects.

Collapse -

Handle it diplomatically

by ram1951 In reply to How would you write a Let ...

In such cases I write "He believes that maintaining relations with users is even more important in undertsanding the nuances of technology and to that extent he has been successful"

Seasoned managers would understand what you want to say

Collapse -

Different People Have Different Skills and Strengths

by ckl_13 In reply to How would you write a Let ...

If you feel you would like to help this person get another job, then take the time to find out what he is looking for and what the job involves... Some IT departments are large enough to accomodate a liaison type individual who can effectively deal with the non-geek worker bees and translate their problems to the fully technical mr/mrs/ms Fix-its... Its a big world and there is room for everyone. People skills and work ethic is something that is more valuable than people realize and other skills can be taught....ckl

Collapse -

Truth will set him free

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

(very easy going, punctual and works well with people. He tries to do the right thing and is a team player) Sounds like a good place to start.

The truth is the kindest thing even if it costs him the job he "thinks" he wants. No one is happy in a job that he has no aptitude for. Being rejected after trying ones hardest can be devastating. If you are not perfectly honest with him you may do harm to his future by allowing him to waste the most valuable thing he has, which is time. Give him an honest evaluation in parting, along with an appropriate letter. Encourage him to seek help from a career counselor who can help him build on his strengths. He is obviously trying to leverage the 2 years of experience he got with you into another job. He almost has to apply within the same field or he won't look good on a resume. Unless you make it very clear that he has failed he may not begin the work he must do to find a new career.

Collapse -

Recommend What He Does Well

by Woody Goode In reply to How would you write a Let ...

This is a basic test of your soft skills-- how to give a truthful answer without offending someone. The problem is no different than (a) hypersensitive bosses who asks for your opinion of their harebrained plan or (b) co-workers who ask if you think they're qualified for a promotion that they can't handle. (Or, for that matter, your wife or girlfriend who asks if she looks fat in this dress.)

The solution in each case is the same-- accentuate the positive and let the other person pick up on what you're not saying. (Or not pick up, if they're clueless.)

In this case, you write a recommendation that talks about his strengths-- punctual, hardworking, very well liked by co-workers and users, great team player, eager for new challenges.

That should be good for 3-4 enthusiastic paragraphs. And a smart person will know why you didn't praise his technical skills.

Do not say a word about where he falls short. First, unless you know what the position requires, you have no basis for assuming he isn't competent. If the job consists mostly of saying "Reboot" and "I'll reset your password", you're actually making a false statement.

Second, don't presume that the hiring manager has the same priorities you do. They might be full up on knowledgeable twirps, and desperate for someone who can be polite-- even if they have to spoon-feed him the answers while the user is on hold.

Third, even if he isn't right for this job, the employer might have other jobs he is right for. For example, they might also need trainers or account managers and shift him in mid-interview. (This does happen.)

Don't lie-- include your phone number so you can be called and answer blunt questions about his ability honestly. Although, even then, you should say something like "we require people who are really gifted in technology and that's not what he does well."

If you feel a person can't be a good employee in any circumstances, then don't volunteer to write a recommendation.

In order to move up the ladder, you'll need the ability to discuss a person or an idea in a positive way without lying or hurting feelings. Use this situation as a way to develop those skills

Related Discussions

Related Forums