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How to Write a Letter of Recommendation for a Coworker

Working with great people makes this whole 9-to-5 thing more bearable. That’s why when you have the chance to write a letter of recommendation for a coworker who you truly respect and enjoy working with, you should take it!

Our sample letter of recommendation will show you what to write in a reference for a colleague. Plus, we’ll share some tips for what to include and how to make sure your letter achieves its intended goal.

What is a letter of recommendation?

Gathering references is part of the hiring process; you probably had to submit one or more references when you applied for your current job. Some companies collect references by phone, while others accept them via written letter–hence, a letter of recommendation. 

A letter of recommendation speaks to the professional strengths of the letter’s subject as they pertain to the role being sought. It might give positive examples of the person’s work or share an anecdote that demonstrates their capabilities. 

Recommendation letters aren’t always for new jobs. They could be for a promotion, a transfer, admittance into a special training program, membership to an exclusive professional organization, or a higher education program.

Why take the time to make a recommendation?

You may not be a manager, so why would you write a letter of recommendation? Well, as a coworker, you’ve worked alongside the person for months or years. You know what they’re like to work with on a daily basis, which is pretty important intel for someone who might be looking to hire them. 

Personal references are one of the strongest factors in helping someone land a job. While anyone can put together a resume that looks good on paper with the help of a good editor, you can’t fake actual experience. That’s why letters of recommendation carry so much weight. 

Letters of recommendation are also just part of doing business, literally speaking. If you’re in the professional world for a few decades or more, you’re probably going to be asked to write a few of them, so it’s a good skill to have. 

Finally, writing a letter of recommendation for a coworker is good karma. You never know when you may need them to return the favor, so it pays to spend time putting together a great letter.

What to include in the letter

  • How long you’ve been working with the subject.
  • Your job title and how you know them.
  • The subject’s full name and position you’re recommending them for.
  • Some context about your professional relationship. Are you on the same team? In the same department? What kinds of projects do you work on together?
  • Their top skills. Focus on things you can speak to personally.

Tips for writing a recommendation letter

Make sure you can give a genuine recommendation

Above all else, don’t lie! Declining to write a recommendation letter can feel awkward, but you’re not doing anyone any favors by recommending someone who is genuinely unqualified or difficult to work with. You can bow out gracefully with a response like, ‘sorry, but I’m swamped with Project X right now,’ or ‘I don’t feel that I have enough direct experience with your skills in that area to speak about them strongly.’

Ask the subject what to include

If you’re enthusiastic about writing a glowing letter of recommendation for your colleague, it’s time to figure out the formula for success. To help make the strongest case possible, ask them what they think should be included. After all, they’re the one with knowledge of the position they’re hoping to get. Better yet, ask if you can take a look at the job listing or application criteria to help get your recommendation juices flowing. 

Offer additional help

It’s a great idea to include your phone number at the end of your letter along with the offer to have a live conversation to talk in more detail if needed. 

Sample letter of recommendation

Dear Mrs. Curtis, 

I’m writing to recommend Timothy Hall for the staff photographer position at the Herald Tribune. I have had the pleasure of working with Tim for four years at the Day Courier, during which time he was the photographer assigned to cover many of the stories I reported. 

During the time we’ve worked together, we’ve been tasked with covering many challenging, heartbreaking and grueling topics. He has handled all of them with nothing but the utmost professionalism. 

It’s not always easy to capture the emotion of a story in the newspaper medium. Tim has a natural talent for accomplishing this through photography. He has an eye for people and places that’s one of the best of any photographer I’ve worked with in my 30 year career. I’m confident he’ll be an asset to your newsroom. 

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to talk with you further. My cell number is 555-202-0200.


Dorothy Hawkins

Taking the time to write a sincere, thoughtful and detailed recommendation letter might just be the thing that lands your coworker their next job. What greater feeling is there than that?