What do you do if an employee requests a letter of recommendation for graduate study? It might seem as if you're not the right person for the job, but that isn't true. Moreover your employee needs your recommendation letter to fill a gap between graduation and now. Don't deny their request for a recommendation letter because you fear that you are not qualified. However, if you have reservations about the employee and his or her capacity to succeed in graduate school or a career, then do not write on his or her behalf. If you choose to write a recommendation letter for your employee:
How to Address the Letter:
If no name is provided address it to the admissions committee. If a name is provided address the person as Dr. unless otherwise indicated.
Discuss how you know the person. Define the context of your knowledge. How long you have known the person. If it's a short period of time indicate why you feel qualified to make a judgment on the applicant's behalf.
Give Details and Examples:
Identify and discuss qualities of the person that make him or her well suited to graduate study and his or her chosen field. Provide examples to illustrate each quality. An effective recommendation letter shows rather than tells. Use examples to show how the applicant exemplifies each quality. Examples of characteristics and qualities that are valued by graduate programs include intelligence, creativity, scientific aptitude, diligence, writing skills, teaching skills, clinical skills, professionalism, and research skills.
You Don't Have to Comment on it All:
No one letter will comment on all skills. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that he or she has a collection of recommendation letters that collectively portray all of her or skills.
If you are an employer writing on behalf of an employee you may feel ill equipped to write a recommendation letter for graduate study. This is not true. You have a set of experiences with the applicant and can discuss his or her capacities as you know them. You might discuss and provide examples of why he or she is an excellent employee. Discuss how he or she goes above and beyond his or her duties. Topics to comment on include initiative, intelligence, collegiality, professionalism, and why you think he or she will succeed in graduate school.