My lovely colleague Sharon Williams of JobRockIt put out a late night request on Facebook last night for a client who needed information about reference letter formats.
Although “letters of reference” have fallen out of favor in recent years, there is something to be said for our clients getting a reference letter from your manager or supervisor when they leave a company (especially if they leave on good terms). Having the reference letter provides the jobseeker with something to use in the event they're not able to find their former manager in the future. It can also help the manager refresh his or her memory if the client asks them to provide a phone reference in the future. And, as a resume writer, you can take excerpts of that reference letter and incorporate them into the resume and cover letter (this was the "original" use of the term "Endorsements" before LinkedIn co-opted it!). If the client's supervisor isn't on LinkedIn, the jobseeker can also excerpt or reprint the reference letter in his or her Summary, providing a powerful testimonial when a formal LinkedIn Recommendation isn't possible.
What are some elements of a great reference letter? Reference letters should be professional in tone and format. Effective letters of recommendation verify experience, confirm competence, and build credibility. The letters can be written by former employers, supervisors, and managers with first-hand knowledge of the employee’s work.
A reference letter may cover:
• Previous positions held in the company
• Summary of job responsibilities
• Strengths, skills, and talents
• Ability to work independently as well as with a team
With both letters of reference and LinkedIn Recommendations, advise your jobseeker clients to choose someone who can write well, who knows them well, and who thinks highly of them. Make the process as easy as possible for the manager/supervisor by providing information needed to develop a positive, accurate reference. (At a minimum, the client should provide a copy of their resume to the individual; if you think it would be helpful, also consider having the jobseeker provide a short list of their accomplishments in the role, or bullet points of key points related to their position.)
When advising clients about references and LinkedIn Recommendations, the following two Pass-Along Materials make excellent resources:
Remember, with Pass-Along Materials, you can put your own contact information on these materials and provide them to clients as a bonus or you can sell them.