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How do I write a letter of recommendation for a promotion?
Writing a letter of recommendation for a promotion is a big responsibility, so it’s helpful to know a few tips and tricks. It’s important to do the following:
- Review recommendation letter examples and templates before writing your own. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of what to include, as well as how to organize and format your letter. (Jotform’s recommendation letter for promotion template is a perfect example of how to successfully write a letter of recommendation. It’s thorough, well arranged, and, most importantly, includes all the fundamentals listed below.)
- Be positive. If someone asks you to write a letter of recommendation, it’s because they trust and respect you and believe others within the organization will value your opinion (specifically the hiring manager). To honor this trust, write the recommendation letter with positive, honest feedback and language. Avoid snarky, sarcastic, or unprofessional language or themes as you write the letter, no matter how well you know the person who’s ultimately making the promotion decision. Bottom line: If you can’t be warm and enthusiastic in your letter of recommendation, you probably shouldn’t be writing it.
- Properly address the recipient. Think of the letter of recommendation like an elevator pitch. You don’t have much time to impress the person responsible for your colleague’s promotion, so you need to start off on the right foot. Include the recipient’s title and name at both the top of the letter and again in the greeting or opening salutation. This act of personalization and attention to detail shows you’re taking this responsibility seriously and demonstrates how much you believe your colleague deserves this opportunity.
- Introduce yourself. Right after you address the recipient, briefly introduce yourself — be sure to include your name and current position in the company — and explain how you know the candidate. Disclose how many years you’ve supervised them, for example, or which projects you’ve completed together. As the recipient reads your letter, there should be a clear understanding of who you are and why you’re qualified to recommend this candidate for promotion.
- Provide specific examples that show why your colleague deserves the promotion. When it comes to writing a powerful letter of recommendation for promotion, follow the old adage, “Show, don’t tell.” Highlighting specific times in the past when your colleague demonstrated excellent leadership, effective communication, or stellar customer service can really help set the tone for what they can do in the future, if given the opportunity. Plus, providing examples of their hard work that demonstrate their positive qualities is much more convincing than simply listing those qualities. It’s also a good idea to include language that matches some of the traits the hiring manager is seeking for the role — like specific soft skills or technical expertise — to further establish why your colleague is perfect for the job.
- Close the letter by offering additional assistance. Make sure you end the letter of recommendation as strongly as you began it. Provide the hiring manager another sentence or two as to why your colleague is the right person for the promotion and offer your contact information, inviting them to reach out to you if they have any questions or need clarification on anything you wrote. A powerful closing can emphasize your earlier points and leave a lasting impression on the hiring manager.
What do you say when recommending someone for a promotion?
When recommending someone for a promotion, it’s customary to first introduce yourself and explain how you know the person you’re recommending. You should then spend the rest of the letter detailing specific ways the candidate has demonstrated they’re ready for the potential promotion.
Say, for example, your colleague is looking to become a department supervisor but has never managed a team before. You could point out a recent workplace situation you witnessed when your colleague took a newer employee under their wing and helped them complete a project. Or maybe, unprompted, they took time out of their day to mentor, assist, and guide this new employee and even served as a mediator between this employee and a more senior colleague during a misunderstanding.
Additionally, you can recommend someone for a promotion by referencing the promotion details within the letter. If the role requires an employee with five years of experience and intermediate knowledge of a specific type of software — and your colleague matches those requests — make sure to mention that valuable information.
Who should recommend someone for a promotion?
To recommend someone for a promotion, ideally, you should meet the following criteria:
- You also work at the organization. You can’t recommend someone for a promotion if you don’t currently work with them. While working with them at a previous company is helpful if you’re recommending them for a job, it’s not practical for you to recommend former colleagues for promotion if you don’t work at their same company and know how the workplace functions.
- You know the employee well enough to write an effective letter of recommendation. Eating lunch near a colleague or working with them once years ago isn’t enough to write an effective recommendation letter. You should know why they’re best for this role now. If you don’t know their current skill sets, work ethic, and strengths and weaknesses, you won’t be able to provide an honest assessment of why they’re right for the role.
- You’ve managed or supervised them at some point, preferably recently and for an extended period of time. While there’s no hard and fast rule for this point, significant time spent supervising a colleague makes for some of the most compelling letters of recommendation. When a manager pens a letter of recommendation for promotion, it almost serves as a seal of approval to other managers. For the most part, managers wouldn’t vouch or stick their neck out for an employee they didn’t think was worth considering. A fellow colleague or subordinate might, on the other hand, if they were friends with the employee or looking to score some brownie points.
How do you justify a promotion for an employee?
While every organization is different, there are a few telltale signs that an employee is ready for a promotion. If the following statements are true of of an employee, you can justify a promotion for them:
- They’re already completing important, high-level work. If your employee is the person you turn to when someone quits, takes leave, or struggles to complete an assignment, you should consider promoting them. Not everyone steps up in stressful situations or takes initiative beyond their job description, so it’s smart to capitalize on and reward the ones who do.
- They’re a team player. It’s one thing to want to stand out and shine at work, going above and beyond to get noticed and be considered for upcoming promotions, but it’s another to put others down, take full credit for collaborative work, or just be an unpleasant colleague to work with. When your employee motivates and guides fellow colleagues, encourages them to submit their best work, and offers to help them and accomplish a task with them, they’re probably ready for a new role.
- They’re adaptable. As an organization grows and scales, so, too, do its personnel, processes, budget, and expectations. Employees who embrace these changes, as opposed to rejecting them, are often ready for a new challenge. This demonstrates that they want to evolve alongside your organization and may even have fresh, exciting ideas to drive the business forward.
- They’re valuable. Let’s face it: To employers and hiring managers, while all these attributes are important, nothing beats being a profitable team member. If your employee is consistently bringing in or saving money, meeting deadlines and exceeding set goals, expanding their skill set and technical knowledge, closing deals, and wooing clients, they’re not only ready for a promotion, they outright deserve one.
- They’re asking for one. Though it sounds simple, if your employee is asking for a promotion — ideally for reasons beyond just tenure — they’re probably ready for one. Sit down with them and let them state their case, especially if they’re interested in a specific role that’s currently vacant. Best case scenario? You realize they’re perfect for the role. And even if that’s not the case, you could gain a clearer picture of the type of employee they are — including their aspirations, motivations, and contributions — and coach them for a future role that may fit them better. It’s never a waste of time to listen to and invest in good employees who are seeking professional development and challenges within your organization.
Your employee is probably not ready for a promotion if they’re new to the organization; combative with clients, fellow employees, and managers; generally resistant to change and improvement; or missing the required skills.
If your employee requests a promotion when they’re not ready for one, give them feedback about why they can’t currently be promoted. Explain that you and your organization value them, and provide constructive criticism.