How to Write a Reference for an Employee

Writing a reference, or testimonial, for an employee could be a significant help for his or her career success. Your reference could help the person attain a promotion within your company, or be helpful when moving to a new company. Writing a thoughtful and meaningful reference will highlight the employee's strengths. This task carries a lot of responsibility, but positively impacting an employee's career can be very rewarding.

Describe your relationship with the employee. If you are the employee's direct supervisor, your reference may have more credibility because you are privy to his or her work every day. Mention how long you have been working with the employee and in what capacity.

Refresh your memory by reviewing the employee's performance appraisals and talking with him about his work experience. If you are in a supervisory role or if the employee has been working at your company for several years, you may not remember all the pertinent information you should include. Include positive quotes from yourself and others from the performance appraisals.

Give specific examples of the employee's strengths. Generic descriptions of the employee's experience are not as helpful as concrete details. For example, instead of saying that the employee has a strong work ethic, talk about the time the employee came to work every day early and stayed late to finish a project. Instead of simply saying the employee is experienced and capable, describe a few of the larger projects he or she has been involved with. Giving these specific examples will ensure your reference does not sound generic.

Evaluate challenges the employee has faced, focusing on what he or she has done to overcome them. Describing these challenges will give the reader a well-rounded sense of the employee. For example, if the employee had to adapt to job duties outside his or her job description, talk about how he or she was able to quickly develop new skills to be able to undertake these new responsibilities.

Mention some of the employee's positive personal qualities. A reference focusing solely on work is adequate, but an exceptional reference will paint a picture of the employee as a whole person. Aim to give whoever reads the reference an idea of who the employee is beyond the workplace, if only briefly.

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About the Author

Based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Sarah Nyako has been writing professionally since 2008. Her area of expertise is health, fitness and the pharmaceutical industry. She is currently working towards a master's degree in medical writing.

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