How to Write a Letter of Recommendation
8 tips on creating a recommendation letter for your nanny, babysitter, pet sitter, senior care aide, etc.
When you've found an excellent caregiver, it can be hard to let them go. But like people in any other profession, sometimes they decide to move on or your situation changes and you don't need their help anymore. Former employees may ask you to write a letter of recommendation.
Creating this type of letter for a caregiver is different than writing one for any other profession. These people often become a close member of your family -- and you'll want to highlight that, along with any skills and personality traits that help make the person stand out.
The letter should only be about a page or two, talking about what the employee did for you, sharing stories and mentioning why they are great for this field. Here are eight expert tips on how you can write an effective, yet genuine letter of recommendation.
"When it comes to structure, the main difference is adding a personal touch," says Donna Shannon, career coach and president of The Personal Touch Career Services and author of "How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy." She adds, "Caregiving is about making a positive impact in the lives of the charges and the family as a whole unit." Talk about how this employee affected your life.
Talk About Character Traits
Some people have great credentials, but lack the caring and compassion needed to be a good caregiver. Dr. Marc I. Leavey of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, advises that, "A good caregiver is a compassionate individual who is personable and communicative."
Barry Drexler, "The Expert Interview Coach" with more than 30 years of human resource experience, puts extra emphasis on describing character traits, as these are the things that "can't be taught."
Caregiving jobs require a specific set of skills tailored to whichever field they are in. The experience that makes someone a good pet sitter is not the same as someone who will work well with the elderly.
As Geoff Scott, CEO of Friends of the Family Home Health Care, states, "A good caregiver has the ability to put themselves in their [client's] shoes." Make sure that your letter addresses the relevant skill sets that the person has. If it's for a pet sitter, highlight their credentials with emergency pet care and their knowledge of different breeds. If you are recommending a nanny, focus on the skills that make her good with children.
Tell a Story
Add a personal story to your letter that exemplifies the work that someone did for you -- it can really help a future employer envision having the candidate work for them. "Tell stories that touch the heart of the reader," suggests Scott.
Jan Marino, author of "Take Your Career Back," says "Specific examples are the very best. Tell them about a time the caregiver provided that extra special attention to details."
You want to make sure that the person's future employer knows that they're personable and are going to treat clients well. Include anecdotes that demonstrate warmth, friendliness and compassion and detailed examples of things that make this person an ideal candidate.
Describe the Average Day
Shannon also suggests highlighting the person's day-to-day responsibilities. "Keep in mind the concrete duties as well. After all, future employers need to be able to judge the mix of technical skills and personality."
Dr. Leavey advises that you "Point out if the individual went above and beyond the duties assigned, was creative and able to tackle new projects and duties well, with confidence and good humor."
Keep it Positive
Drexler believes in keeping the letter positive. "Avoid anything negative. If you don't feel comfortable providing a positive reference, then don't provide one at all."
"If there was a negative situation, don't write about them," advises Shannon. "Many states have laws restricting the negative information you can say about a past employee. If this is your situation, write the letter as a 'verification of employment,' which covers the just dates of employment and job title.
If you feel that there is an issue that needs to be mentioned, Dr. Leavey recommends, "Phrase deficiencies carefully to tell the truth without hurting the individual."
Try taking a negative and turning it into a positive. For example, explain how the incident in question provided a learning opportunity or highlight skills that resulted from the process.
And to protect yourself, Scott suggests that you "Avoid anything that could be used to discriminate, such as race, political stance, religion, etc."
Focus on Passions
Taking care of others can be exhausting. Regardless of which field of caregiving a person is in, it often requires long hours and a lot of patience. If you're writing about someone who is truly passionate about what they do, highlight this. Future employers want to know that their loved ones are going to be cared for by someone who will appreciate them and have fun with them.
Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer in Denver. Her work can be found here.