7 tips for writing letters of recommendation

In den Vereinigten Staaten und Großbritannien holen Personalchefs das Urteil Dritter über persönliche Referenzen ein. Zeugnisse, wie sie in Deutschland bekannt sind, sowie die geheime "Zeugnissprache" gibt es dort nicht. Lesen Sie, worauf Sie achten müssen, falls Sie ein Referenzschreiben verfassen müssen.

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In the UK and USA, if someone is applying for a new job they usually give the names of referees who can vouch for their suitability for that job. If you or your boss are asked to act as a referee, follow these seven tips for writing a suitable and professional letter of recommendation.

1. Do you really want to write the letter?

Before you start writing, ask yourself how well you know or knew the candidate and if you feel that you (or your boss) are qualified to write a reference. Can you honestly comment on his or her performance? Do you have anything positive to say? It's better to decline writing a reference than write a bad one or one that is vague or irrelevant.

2. Describe the relationship

How long did the person work for you or your boss? Did they report directly to you or your boss or were they on the same level?

3. Describe your company

In a few words, describe your organisation, saying how large it is and which markets it is active in.

4. Describe their job

What did their job involve? Did they have special assignments? Did they work in a team? What kind of responsibility, if any, did they have?

5. Refer to the candidate's CV

If you are not sure what to put in the letter of recommendation, get hold of the candidate's CV. It will help you tailor your recommendation to the position.

6. Describe their performance

Say how the candidate contributed to your organisation. Give concrete examples and relate them to the potential job.

7. Describe specific attributes

Employers look for certain attributes when they are making their final selection. Add some of these to give the candidate a better chance of getting that job.

Attributes employers look for

  • willingness to accept responsibility
  • honesty and integrity
  • critical thinking and logical skills
  • self-confidence
  • problem-solving abilities
  • communication and verbal skills
  • decision-making skills
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • initiative and leadership skills
  • dedication
  • intelligence
  • motivation

Who do you write the letter to?

If the candidate has given you the name of the prospective new employer, include a salutation (Dear Mr Smith, Dear Dr Allen, Dear Ms Williams). If you are writing a general letter, write To whom it may concern instead of a salutation.

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Here are some useful phrases for your letter of recommendation

  • It is my pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for Chris Brown.
  • Chris Brown worked under my direct supervision for 4 years, between January 2001 and December 2004.
  • I had the pleasure of seeing him grow from a junior clerk into a fully functioning team leader.
  • He is a resourceful, creative and solution-oriented individual.
  • That was the last position he held here before moving on to a better career opportunity elsewhere.
  • I would like to recommend Alina Wroblenski for the job of Research Assistant in your organisation.
  • She invariably understands what a project is all about.
  • She knows how to get things done quickly and effectively.
  • During the time Alina worked for me, I cannot remember an instance in which she missed a major deadline.
  • She is a resourceful, creative and solution-oriented individual.