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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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Have him Write it...

by ristau5741 In reply to How would you write a Let ...

Have him write it, all you have to do is agree and sign.

I've written several of my own reference letters, at management's request, gave to them for signing, I still use them today, in fact just yesterday.

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Be honest

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

First of all make sure that the employee understands exactly why you let him go. One of the best management consultants in New Hampshire recommends that (in short) the decision to leave should always be made by the employee by showing him or her that they can achieve their goals and will be happier working elsewhere. That often translates as informing them that they don't get the bonuses, merit raises, good assignments, best work hours because they haven't earned them. However, a lot of people really have NO goals and are just working there on momentum alone. Such an approach won't work with them.

Go ahead and write the letter. Emphasize the person's strong points. Even suggest positions that you know he or she should be good in (I assume you don't have any of those positions or you'd have transferred the person to one.) Provide contact information so the new employer can contact you. When and if asked about technical expertise, be honest about it. I personally like a Likert scale of evaluation: Outstanding, Excellent/Above Average, Satisfactory/Average, Unsatisfactory/Below Average, and Marginal/Cut-to-the-Chase-the-person-sucks-and-never-will-be-any-better.

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Honesty yes both in the letter and to the former employee

by 01smmartin In reply to Be honest

You must be honest with what you write in the reference letter. They typically contain the former employee's strengths, I would shy away from placing any negative responses. If you do not think that you can write a positive letter that will help the former employee, you should not write on in the first place. If you cannot honestly write a positive letter you should explain the former employee that you could write a letter for them but that they would benefit from another writing it. I would not ask them to write it as it is your letter, referring them.

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Legally Speaking

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

If you pump him up the next employer can sue you if you misinformed them. If you state an adverse opinion he can sue you. Best to simply state the time he was employed and his duties.

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Absolutely correct

by hschoenman In reply to Legally Speaking

I've worked for three very large companies, the last two (30 years) as a manager. In both cases we (the managers) were "trained" by HR on a number of occasions to give out only name, dates of employment and ending salary (the corporate equivalent of the military's "name, rank and serial number") and for anything else to refer them to the HR dept. Under no circumstances write and sign a letter.

You can help the guy but not by writing a letter or verbally recommending him. Help him by telling him to find his true calling in a different field.

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Truthful, not revealing

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

You wanted him gone, and he's gone. And you want to write a truthful letter of recommendation to help him get a new job. Great! Be truthful, but not revealing.

Simply say, "John Doe was a punctual, easy-going employee, who worked at XYZ company from date to date as a technical support representative. During his time here, he took only X sick days, and worked well with his co-workers." Short and simple. Say the good stuff, leave out the bad, and quit writing.

If they call you for a specific reference, and ask about his technical competence, you can answer truthfully if you want -- or just refer them to HR if you work at a big company.

Another way to help the guy if you want to help him (without lying to a colleague) is to say: "Sorry, but I can only confirm dates of employment." If they push, go ahead and say, "I already told you, I can't comment on his technical knowledge or ability, just confirm dates of employment."

This way, you don't have to say anything negative -- but you're giving a hint to anyone who's paying attention that you're not endorsing his ability, either. Anybody who hires him after a reference call like that should have been forewarned, but you needn't feel guilty about giving him a bad reference, and you've given him no real room for litigation or an unemployment claim.

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Use the first paragraph of your post

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

It seems to me that you've already written a pretty honest letter: the first paragraph of your post. It's short, honest and generally complimentary of his better traits.

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Over and done

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

It appears that you've written the letter and have moved on (at least from this discussion anyway) but I'll chime in b/c I'm faced with the same challenge at the end of this month.

You said "We had an honest relationship and I've tried to steer him away from technology" which seems to imply that you've told him in so many words that he isn't cut out for a career in IT support. If this is truly the case and you don't want to mislead anyone then you really shouldn't have written the letter. You should explain to the man that you feel his strengths do not lie in the field of technology and that recommending him to continue down a career path that he is clearly not in tune with would be doing him a great disservice. If you want him to succeed then don't allow him to get in his own way. Do him a favor now.


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