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A Good Reference Letter Is the Best Gift for the Person You Value

A Good Reference Letter Is the Best Gift for the Person You Value

When you were asked to write a reference letter, did you get a warm fuzzy feeling or did you cringe with anxiety? Perhaps a little of both?

Either way, having to write a reference letter comes with great responsibility. And while you might feel excited to help someone on their journey to a better future, you also realize there is a lot relying on your writing abilities.

First, do you know what a reference letter is?

Do you know what to say in a reference letter? How long should it be? How can you sell the person’s strengths and abilities without sounding overzealous?

It’s important first to understand the purpose behind the reference letter. Companies and institutions who ask for reference letters want to know why a candidate would be well suited for a position, but it’s equally important for them to know what qualifies you to recommend them for such a position.

Before you start writing, make sure you understand the context of the situation. Is this letter for school admission? A new job? Entry into an organization?

If you still aren’t sure about content, formatting, or what exactly you should say, here are a few tips and tricks you can apply when crafting your reference letter:

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10 Features of Standout Reference Letters and What Makes Them So Special

Speak from a personal perspective

    This example from Monster.com demonstrates the writer’s personal experience with Sharon, the person she is referring.[1] She takes care to include her own observations when working with Sharon, along with a specific situation in which Sharon attended optional professional development seminars.

    However, make sure that your personal testament is just that – personal. Don’t forge instances or embellish events because you think they sound good.

    Use a business letter format

      If you are sending a hard copy letter, you want to make a professional presentation to the reader. Using a standard business letter format, like the one above, can give your message a toned, polished look without distracting from the content.[2]

      Write your letter based off the job description

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        It’s important to know in what context your letter will be used. If it’s for a particular job, ask the person for a copy of the job description. You can use the description to search for clues about what qualities the ideal candidate will have, and then tailor your letter to demonstrate those same qualities, if they apply to the person you are referring.

        The example above shows the writer understands the position the person is applying for, and relates his skills to ones that will benefit the position.

        Keep it positive

          The purpose behind a recommendation letter is to showcase why a person deserves the attention of the company or institution who requested the letter, as demonstrated in the above example.[3] We all have our shortcomings, but a reference letter isn’t the place to point those out.

          If you don’t believe you can truthfully describe the person in a positive light, you may want to consider declining the request to write the letter.

          Only write a letter if you know the person well enough

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            If you are writing a letter, you should be familiar enough with the person to speak about their abilities and accomplishments, just like the example above.[4] You would be better equipped to write a letter for a colleague with whom you worked side by side for a year, rather than someone who simply worked in your building and spoke to you weekly for the past five years.

            Make it simple and to the point.

              You don’t need to write an entire saga of why a person deserves your recommendation. On the other hand, you also don’t want to make your message too brief. Keep your reference letter to one page, and use as much of that page as necessary to paint a clear, concise picture of the person you are referring.

              Don’t worry too much about creativity, and certainly avoid “fluff.” Instead, focus on how to deliver the most content in the shortest amount of words and space, like the example above.[5]

              Include your contact information

                Let the reader know how they can reach out to you if they have any additional questions. You can share your direct phone number or email address, as shown above.

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                Ask for the person’s resume or CV.

                Understanding other aspects about the person you are writing about can give you important clues to include in your letter.

                Share specific examples of the person’s work

                  The more specific you can be about the person’s true abilities, the better idea the reader will have of how the person might perform. In this example from Resumo, the writer shares that the person he is referring successfully helped to closed new contracts worth several million dollars and developed a new business line focused on Public Safety.

                  Once you finish your first draft, look for instances where you can speak more specifically about the person’s accomplishments or skills. This might take the form of numbers, statistics, rankings, how much money the person saved the company, etc.

                  Submit your letter to the right person

                  Do you need to give the letter to the person for whom you wrote it, or should be it mailed directly to the person requiring the letter? If you aren’t sure, ask.

                  You don’t have to be a good writer to write a great reference letter!

                  Use the above tips and samples to help ease your writing anxiety. Remember, if the person doesn’t reach their ultimate goal, it’s probably not because you wrote a bad letter.

                  Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

                  Reference

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                  Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                  14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                  14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                  Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                  In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                  For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                  For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                  Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                  Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                  Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                  How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                  Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                  1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                  Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                  For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                  2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                  Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                  Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                  Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                  3. Create a System

                  Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                  This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                  You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                  Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                  Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                  4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                  We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                  If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                  Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                  Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                  5. Use a Ratings Scale

                  Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                  Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                  It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                  6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                  This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                  You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                  You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                  7. Offer Feedback Forms

                  Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                  First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                  Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                  You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                  8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                  This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                  Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                  Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                  9. Use Self-Evaluations

                  Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                  Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                  10. Monitor Time Management

                  This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                  Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                    14. Use an External Evaluator

                    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                    Final Thoughts

                    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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