A letter of recommendation shows a prospective employer that you have the right skills for the position. Here’s what you need to know about this valuable job-search asset, including how to go about getting one.
Request a letter
To get a letter of recommendation from a former employer, you can kindly ask for one when you leave or once you start your job search.
- Hand this letter over to the hiring manager during a first interview — it may just strengthen his or her impression of you.
Can a former employer refuse?
If the professional relationship ended well, your former employer has no reasonable grounds to deny you a letter of recommendation.
- However, an employer has an obligation to be transparent, so make sure your work was appreciated before requesting such a letter.
- A recent Canadian court judgment ruled that while an employer is not required to provide a letter of recommendation to a former employee, he or she must exercise good faith and have valid reasons for refusing.
Certificate of employment
In all cases, the employer has an obligation to at least submit a certificate of employment.
- This certificate states the post occupied, the nature of the work, the duration of employment, the employment start and end dates, and the employer’s contact information.
- It does not include any assessment of the employee’s performance or attitude.
In the absence of a letter of recommendation, a future employer may ask permission to call some of your former employers or colleagues.
- It’s important to remember that an employer may not disclose personal information about you without your permission and that he or she must comply with privacy laws.
- In general, a future employer or an employment agency will ask you for written authorization before contacting your former employer or colleagues to verify the accuracy of your resume.
What’s included in a recommendation letter?
The contents of a letter of recommendation may vary, but several basic elements are usually included.
- The name of the position and duration of employment
- A brief description of the work you did
- A review of your professional accomplishments
- An assessment of your competencies related to the position
- An evaluation of your behaviour and attitude
- An expression of your employer’s overall satisfaction with you
A definite bonus
Even though a letter of recommendation is not always required to obtain employment, it is a definite asset. Not only does it highlight your skills, but it can confirm, or even influence, the first impressions employers have of you. Best of all, it can give them greater confidence in your potential.