Recommendation Letter From A Previous Employer (With Samples)

By Sky Ariella - Sep. 11, 2020

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What is a Letter of Recommendation?

Before going to eat at a new restaurant, you check that it has good reviews from previous patrons. It’s natural to want to know other opinions before risking a bad experience.

An employment reference is similar. New employers want to know about your reviews as an employee from the people with the most experience: your previous employers.

A recommendation letter from a previous employer can be extremely impactful when applying for a new job. The reference letter is used to attest to your professional skills, experience, and character from a dependable source. It can be an excellent opportunity to have your accomplishments explained beyond the bullet-points on your resume and help a future employer get to know you better.

Why Do You Need A Letter of Recommendation?

Competitive job openings can have hundreds of applicants or more. Digging through these applications can be a long and draining process, resulting in a lot of notable candidates being unanswered for the simple fact that their submissions were the bare minimum.

A letter of recommendation can help in avoiding this tragedy.

Employers want to know more than just the jobs you’ve had before and the school you graduated from. They’re looking for insight into your work-ethic and soft skills. This is more than a backdoor reference check. It’s a preview into the employee you’re going to be from someone who’s seen the show before.

A letter of recommendation from a work reference can be especially useful and even required in some cases.

Preferably, this professional resource is your superior because they come across as the most reliable resource to your possible new boss. A declaration from a former employer is needed in your application because it gives a clear depiction of the professional you are. This makes it that much more likely that you’ll be invited for an interview.

How To Ask For A Recommendation Letter From A Previous Employer

Shannon Hilmar
Owner/Founder AUDACITY Career Consulting

The key to an effective employment recommendation is specificity. When asking your former employer for a letter of recommendation be sure to provide specific examples of your work accomplishments while in that particular role, and reminders of positive feedback regarding your relevant skills and experience to be included in the recommendation.

Recommendation Letter Format

Letters of reference should follow a professional guideline, but you should also make it your own. The hiring committee should have a good idea of who you are and who the candidate is by the end of the letter.

  1. Proper Business Letter Format. Open your letter with the appropriate business email or letter format. This will include your contact information, the date, and the hiring personnel’s information when available. If the applicant doesn’t have the hiring manager’s information, include the company information and address the letter as:

    Dear Sir or Madam


    To Whom It May Concern

  2. Paragraph 1 – Introduction. Your letter of recommendation is just another email in the daily landslide of messages that hiring managers receive daily. Before getting into the meat of your reference, you need to introduce the point of your email.

    In the first line, immediately inform them of your name, position, and that you’re recommending “X” candidate for their company. Once they know exactly the purpose of your correspondence, follow up with details about your professional relationship with the applicant. This should include:

    • The Company Name

    • The Candidate’s Former Position Title

    • Length or Exact Years of Employment

    • Your Position in Relation to the Candidate

    By the close of the first paragraph, the hiring manager should have a thorough sense of the candidate’s previous position and why you’re qualified to speak on their work habits.

  3. Paragraph 2 – Describing the Applicant’s Work Performance and Strengths. The second paragraph is where you draw the hiring manager in and let them know exactly why you’re recommending the applicant. This should be an honest interpretation of your experience with them as an employee.

    Attempt to get as much information about the position they’re applying for as possible, and include skills relevant to that. It should have an overall positive tone and focus on your former employee’s strengths, but there’s no need to over-praise. Keep it grounded. Give specific instances of when you witnessed their skills firsthand.

    Incorporate details about what made them a valuable member of your organization. If you’re finding that this section of the letter is too long, you can split it up into two smaller paragraphs.

    Some possibilities for strengths you could highlight include:

    • Excellent Communication

    • Demonstrating Leadership

    • Positive Outlook

    • Trustworthy

    • Dedication to Work Performance

    • Strong Writing Skills

    • Ability to Handle Tasks Unsupervised

    A reference letter is a vital part of any candidate’s application success. The applicant should have the opportunity to ask a previous employer for a recommendation with more positives to offer than negatives. If you’re having difficultly coming up with the candidate’s strong points, it may be best to decline writing the letter of recommendation for them.

  4. Paragraph 3 – Close The Letter. You’ve reached the end of your reference for a previous employee. The final paragraph is about tying it all together. Remind them once again that you highly recommend the applicant for this position for all the reasons you listed in the previous paragraph. Before signing off with a professional closer, let the hiring manager know that they can reach out if there’s any more information they need and be sure to include all your contact information.

Recommendation Letter Tips amp; Tricks For Applicants

  1. Give Notice in Advance. Asking previous employers for a letter of recommendation takes time out of their schedule to accommodate your success. Be considerate of this by giving them as much notice as possible before an application deadline.

  2. Be Aware of Backdoor Reference Checks. When applying for a new position, keep in mind that the recruiting team may utilize backdoor reference checks during the hiring process. This involves getting more information on a candidate from sources other than what’s listed on their resume. There are certain things that employers can andcannot do while conducting backdoor reference checks. Familiarize yourself with this process so you know what to expect.

  3. Expect Hiring Managers to Check Your References. Having an excellent professional reference is an important part of your application, however, don’t expect that an employer will be satisfied with a just simple letter. The recruiting team will likely reach out to your former boss to check your reference, ask more questions, and establish the validity of their recommendation before offering you the position. Make sure that your recommender is prepared to respond if requested.

  4. Thank Them Throughout the Process. When a former employer agrees to write a letter of recommendation, it means that they care about your career and want to see you succeed. Express your gratitude for this and their effort throughout the process.

Tips For Past Employers Writing A Recommendation

  1. Discuss with the Applicant Beforehand . Once you agree to write a recommendation letter for a former employee, you should have a conversation about what they’re expecting. Ask them as many questions as you need answers to. Some of these questions could include:

    • When is the application deadline?

    • What skills do you think would be relevant to highlight?

    • What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment working for our company?

    • What is the company and position you are applying for?

    • What is the hiring manager or recruiter’s name?

    • Why do you think you’ll be good at this job?

    Create a plan together for the recommendation, and then based on these bullet points, write out the letter of recommendation by yourself.

  2. Be Truthful. Honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to writing a reference letter for a former employee. Hiring managers are relying on you to give them the honest inside scoop on an applicant, and they’ll bechecking up on the validityof hard facts. Speaking about the applicant in the most positive light, and stretching the truth or flat out lying are two different things. Stick to the former.

  3. Give Examples. In addition to listing an applicant’s strengths, back up these skills with examples of a time when they were used in their work performance. Ask your former employee what they feel were some of their greatest accomplishments while working for your company to get a reminder if it’s been a while. It doesn’t need to be an extensive history of everything they ever did as your employee. Briefly outlining one or two notable accomplishments can greatly improve an applicant’s success.

  4. Include All Contact Information. Accommodate the hiring team by making it as easy as possible for them to get ahold of you. Include all forms of contact information you have. This can include:

    • Phone Number

    • Email

    • Company Mailing Address

    • LinkedIn Profile

    • Skype, Zoom or Google Meet Account

    Everyone prefers different methods of contact. Including all various ways of contact makes the application process easier for all parties involved.

Example 1: Previous Employer Recommendation through the Post

Delivery Address:
James Jackson
City Scene Magazine
111 Lakewood St.
Albany, NY, 30440

Return Address:
Blake Richards
Associate Editor
Los Angeles Weekly
567 Bridge St.
Los Angeles, CA, 34481

September 10, 2020

Dear Mr. Jackson,

My name is Blake Richards and I’m an associate editor at Los Angeles Weekly magazine. Between 2015-2019, Erin Knight worked for me as an investigative journalist. It is my pleasure to contact you with a strong recommendation on Erin’s behalf for the position of journalist at City Scene Magazine.

During the four years that Erin worked for us, she was professional, extremely hard-working, and responsive to feedback. Her writing skills are top-notch. She was one of the most valuable journalists I had in my arsenal.

She has produced several of our most popular articles in her time working for the Los Angeles Weekly. One story about small businesses was so impactful to the community, that she ended up turning it into an ongoing series by popular demand.

Erin is an experienced and talented investigative journalist. I recommend her wholeheartedly for this position and believe she will be a strong asset to your team.

Please contact me if you have any other questions about Erin. I’ve included my information below.

Best regards,

Blake Richards (Signature)

Blake Richards (Printed)

Associate Editor
Los Angeles Weekly

Example 2: Previous Employer Recommendation through Email

Subject Line: Recommendation for Timothy Jones

Lily Thompson
1347 Smith Lane
Los Angeles, CA, 70201

September 10, 2020

Bright Horizons Preschool
427 Nathan St.
Los Angeles, CA, 80302

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Lily Thompson and I’ve been a Kindergarten teacher at Spring Valley Elementary School for the past eleven years. I would like to enthusiastically recommend Timothy Jones for the teaching position at Bright Horizons Preschool. Timothy was my assistant teacher at Spring Valley Elementary School for between 2017-2019.

In the two years that Timothy was my assistant, I saw enormous growth in his teaching skills and leadership abilities. He has an exceptional way of communicating with the children. I’ve turned to him for help with an unruly student more than once. In addition to his talents with the students, he’s equally as valuable when it comes to working outside of the classroom. I could always count on Timothy to have a lesson plan prepared ahead of time.

I remember on one occasion, Timothy went out of his way to set up a book club for the children. Each week they’d pick a children’s book to read with their parents, and then tell the class about it. It was a great idea that I still use with my students today.

For these reasons, I highly recommend Timothy Jones for the preschool teacher position at Bright Horizons. I am sure he will exceed your expectations.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to provide further information.


Lily Thompson

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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