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Author Topic: College Letters of Recommendation
Michael Gonzalez
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 789
From: Grand Island , NE USA
Registered: Sep 2000


 - posted 10-10-2016 09:16 PM      Profile for Michael Gonzalez   Email Michael Gonzalez   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Alright so I have had a few employees ask for these over the years and I don't think I have done the greatest job with them. Figured I would try to take the lazy way out and inquire if anyone here has a template that they use (which I would obviously adapt to the employees strengths and such). I would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12410
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-10-2016 10:28 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't really have a template but my basic outline is to just write a greeting and state that I'm recommending so-and-so for consideration.

Talk about how long the person worked for you (or how long you've known him or her). Mention their specific duties, what their major strengths were, etc. and things like customer skills, how well they got along with other employees, friendliness, eagerness to learn, neatness, and any special standout things.

Then I mention things I know about their school career, if any -- honor roll, sports, clubs, etc. -- and if they were good at balancing their busy school schedule with their work schedule. (Here, we hire a lot of kids because just about everybody is in some sports and so we need a bunch of kids in order to always have a couple available.) If they weren't a standout student you can leave that part out.

If they trained other workers or were promoted through the company or given extra responsibilities, mention that. If they were the type to take initiative, go above and beyond without being asked, be sure to mention that.

If you can think of something to "humanize" the proceedings a little, throw that in... for example, once I wrote that a girl was totally shy when she started to work for us but by the time she left, she had received the "gift of gab" and was one of our most outgoing workers.

Lastly, if the kid was a really good employee, mention that they will be missed. Then end with something like "I believe (name) is worthy of any consideration you can give. If I can provide any further information, I can be reached at the address above."

If a less-stellar employee asks for a recommendation, it's better NOT to refuse them unless they were a truly horrible worker. Instead, just write a letter stating when the person worked, what their duties were, and try to find ONE good thing about them....he was pleasant to be around, for example. Just make it less glowing. Then leave out the second recommendation at the end; just end with "If you need any further information..." A smart reader will know exactly what you're getting at.

As a sample, I'll paste a letter I wrote about a girl who just left us three weeks ago and moved to Seattle. She was one of the best employees we ever had and she just texted me last week that my letter helped her land a job. (She wasn't planning to go to college so this letter is geared more toward prospective employers, rather than college scholarship boards.)

quote:
To whom it may concern:

I am writing to recommend Sidney (lastname) for employment consideration.

I have known Sidney and her family for many years. She has worked for us at the Roxy as a concessionaire for almost exactly four years, beginning in the summer of 2012. She was the second member of her family to work for us.

Sidney’s main job was to sell and stock concessions, keeping the concession area clean and neat. She either worked with one other person or solo. She is a fast learner, and over the years we gave her more responsibilities, such as selling tickets, maintaining our marquee, and various other duties. Most recently she has been training new employees to take over for herself and two others who graduated high school this year.

Throughout her time with us Sidney has demonstrated an excellent work ethic. She truly loves to work, and greets customers with an enthusiastic smile. She’s never been one to shy away from an unpleasant task or an unfamiliar one. She is detail-oriented, follows directions well and is a self-starter. She always goes the extra mile. She does a thorough job and can be counted on to show up for work on time and with a good attitude. She will truly be missed when she leaves us.

I would not hesitate to recommend Sidney for any available positions. If you need any further information about her time with us please contact me at the address above.


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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2103
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 10-10-2016 11:25 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with everything Mike said.

When someone requests a letter of recommendation, I ask them to provide me with some information in writing, including their GPA and expected major, as well as a list of various activities they have been involved with.

I have used some pretty creative ways to spin someone who wasn't an exceptional employee. For example, someone who asked for a lot of time off or was not available much I would say they prioritized school over work.

The other thing I do is really push the eligible employees to apply for the NATO CA/NV scholarship if they qualify. I have even gone so far as making sure they get the shifts to meet the hours requirements. I've had 3 winners in the past 2 years.

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1955
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011


 - posted 10-11-2016 12:52 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
And that's the problem with letters of recommendation. "Everybody wins a prize!"

I don't see any particular value in someone's letter of recommendation because, even if they were an unreliable, surly employee who rarely bothered to show up for work, they are suddenly a marvellous ray of sunshine when it comes to a letter of recommendation.

So what's the point of either writing or reading something like that?

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1087
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 10-11-2016 06:25 AM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
While I won't debate the worthiness of letters of recommendation I would caution the writer to be aware that negative comments could lead to a libel lawsuit.

My former employer would only allow us to confirm that an individual was employed with us, nothing more.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7976
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-11-2016 09:42 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Rick Raskin
My former employer would only allow us to confirm that an individual was employed with us, nothing more.
Which is a stupid, reactionary policy that hurts good people.

If someone works for you and does a great job, then that person has every right to expect that you will be willing to provide a positive reference for him at some point in the future. There is nothing libelous about stating the truth. More appropriately, though, one should not normally agree to write a letter of recommendation or provide an employment reference unless one knows the individual personally and can legitimately say good things about him. There is (or should be) nothing wrong with telling someone that you do not feel comfortable writing a recommendation for that person.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12410
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-11-2016 10:56 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I guess my reasoning for not refusing to write a letter is that this is a small town and if one kid didn't get a letter, the "word" might get around town that everybody else got a letter and I would suddenly be the a-hole who wouldn't write a letter. But I stand by my assertion that a smart employer would easily know a glowing recommendation from a not-so-glowing one.

I'm not saying I wouldn't "torpedo" a kid who had a serious work problem. In general though, most of the kids who don't deserve a recommendation never ask for one in the first place.

Plus, we are dealing with high school kids -- some of them don't grow a decent work ethic until they are past high school age. (I know this is true because that's the way I was.)

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6416
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-11-2016 02:23 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have written a few letters during the time I worked at the university.

First, I wouldn't write a letter unless I thought the student was worthy of recommendation. Like others say, students don't often ask for letters unless they are in good standing with the person they are asking the favor from. So, I never had any worries about being painted into a corner, feeling like I have to write a letter for somebody who didn't deserve one.

A recommendation is about the person writing the letter as much as it is the person asking for it. When a potential employer or academician reads the recommendation he considers who the writer is. If a PhD candidate presented a letter from Stephen Hawking or somebody like that, it'd be a done deal, wouldn't it?

Point here is that, unless the employer knows who you are, it might be good to add a few lines describing who you are or what your credentials are. If you're in a smaller town, that might not be necessary. Company letterhead might suffice.

Some of the things I include in letters of recommendation are:
• How long the person has been working or studying with me.
• What kinds of duties they have had or the position held.
• What kind of equipment, if any, they have used. (i.e. If they are a projection tech, what kinds of projectors, or systems they use.)
• Work ethic, punctuality and/or thoroughness of their work.
• Something personal. (i.e. Good attitude or "works and plays well with others.")

I would also try to tailor the letter to the type of place the person wants to work/study. If the position is a technical one, be sure to talk about the person's competency with appropriate technology. If it's an academic position, discuss the person's line of study, etc. If it's a retail position, try to get in a word or two about the person's ability to relate with customers and whether they are good with POS & cash handling.

I don't think letters of recommendation are form letters. Each one is different, depending on the person receiving the recommendation and the position they are seeking.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2103
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 10-12-2016 04:21 AM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When it comes to this issue, we have to draw a distinction between a recommendation letter for college admittance or a scholarship vs an employment recommendation. Over the years I have had plenty of kids work for me who were average (at best) employees, but who I know were good students and otherwise good people. Pointing out what would make them a good choice for a school or scholarship is a different set of things than what would make them a good employee.

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1087
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 10-12-2016 05:45 AM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Adding to my earlier comment: Verification of employment was usually in response to a phone call. All other requests had to be directed through HR. Line supervisors did not write letters of recommendation.

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

Posts: 4247
From: Bloomington, IN, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 10-12-2016 12:06 PM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I know of a few organizations where former employees don't get recommendations. Verification of employment dates only. Basically, in all such cases, there appears to be a fear of legal implications.

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Dustin Mitchell
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1865
From: Mondovi, WI, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 10-12-2016 12:34 PM      Profile for Dustin Mitchell   Email Dustin Mitchell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is no law I am aware of preventing an employer from giving an accurate description of a former employee's workplace behavior. What can happen is if the employer gives a bad reference, the former employee could potentially sue them for libel/slander. Factual statements about the former employee, such as "He was more than 5 minutes late for his shift 20 times in one year" will probably not get you in trouble. Subjective statements like "He had a bad attitude" might be harder to defend against.

Since large companies don't want to go through the effort of training their front line staff on how to give a 'safe' reference - and since it's entirely possible even with training some people would probably break 'the rules' when giving references - they resort to having HR handle all references and only giving date hired, date separated, last position held, and sometimes last rate of pay.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7976
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-12-2016 12:58 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What Dustin said.

But, again, one really shouldn't be writing a letter of recommendation for someone who is not worthy of being recommended for something. I do see Justin's point, and agree with it--someone who may not be a great employee may still be worthy of recommendation for something other than the same type of employment.

There is, no doubt, a large grey area between "the best employee I ever had" and "repeatedly stole money out of the cash register and also enjoys clubbing baby seals," but that is why companies should hire managers who have good judgment.

I also see Mike's point and don't really have an answer to that one, unfortunately.

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