Letters of Recommendation & Character References

Last edited 05/03/2021
Recommendation Letter
Your neighbor’s son has just graduated from college and is job-seeking.  The young man asks you for a letter of recommendation for a private company that does frequent business with the Department of Interior (DOI).  Although you have never worked with your neighbor’s son, you have known him for over 10 years and think he is a great kid.  Hoping to help him get the job you consider writing your letter of recommendation on DOI letterhead using your official title because you believe it will carry greater weight with the company.  
Federal ethics regulation, 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702, Misuse of Position, Subsection (b), prohibits a Federal employee from creating the appearance of Governmental sanction or endorsement of his or another’s personal activities.  Therefore, as a DOI employee, you may only sign a letter of recommendation using your official title and/or agency letterhead in response to a request for a job recommendation or character reference if: 
(1) the individual you recommend is seeking Federal employment, OR
you have dealt with the individual being recommended in the course of your Federal employment, AND
(2) you have personal knowledge of the ability or character of the individual making the request.
Pursuant to this rule, under the circumstances above, it would not be permissible to write the letter of recommendation on DOI letterhead for your neighbor’s son.  (*Note* Use of your official government email account to send a letter of recommendation is the equivalent of use of official government stationary.)
However, you may write a letter of recommendation for your neighbor's son in your personal capacity and refer to your official DOI position in the body of the letter so long as the reference to your position is one of several biographical details and your position is given no more prominence than other significant biographical details, such as education background or other relevant experience or information.
If you have any questions or concerns about this or other ethics topics, please contact your Bureau or Office Deputy Ethics Counselor or the Departmental Ethics Office at DOI_Ethics@sol.doi.gov

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