How to write a reference letter for an average ex-employee

As an employer, you may eventually find yourself charged with the task of writing a review for an employee who, while passable, wasn't as stellar as others. If an ex-employee who performed within the average range approaches you to write a letter of recommendation, doing so is an upstanding and ethical thing to do.

While you may not be able to fill this letter of recommendation with the glowing comments you bestow upon other employees, you can still produce a piece that can aid the ex-employee in obtaining future employment.

Start the letter with a "To Sir or Madam" salutation. Unless your ex-employee specifically asks you to address the letter to a certain individual, using a blanket salutation is a wise choice. With a salutation of this type, the ex-employee can reuse this letter in the future.

Introduce yourself. State your name and position, and explain who you are in relation to the ex-employee -- for example, her former supervisor.

State when, and for how long, the employee worked for your company.

Briefly explain the function that the ex-employee performed in your organisation. Provide the individual's position title as well as an explanation of what this position entailed.

Include a concise description of her most important job duties. If you know what type of job the individual is planning on applying for, you can tailor your explanation to this position. For example, if the individual worked for you as a clerical worker and is applying for a data entry job, you may want to play up her computer skills.

Include an explanation of how the employee performed her job, using as positive a set of adjectives as possible. Consider the employee's specific strengths when selecting these adjectives. For example, if he was always on time, you may want to call him punctual. Avoid mentioning negatives, even if some exist.

State that you would recommend the employee for a job if you are comfortable doing so. If you feel the employee performed to your specifications, you may want to say, "I am confident in her performance and eager to recommend her for a position."

Invite the letter recipient to contact you for more information if you are comfortable providing a verbal recommendation. Include your phone number and e-mail address so the reference recipient can do so.

End your letter with a complimentary close. Use the standard "sincerely" or "yours truly" to conclude your letter.

Sign your name, and place your title below.