Example Letter #1
I received your request for a letter of recommendation yesterday and hope you will understand if I decline. Letters of recommendation carry the most weight when they are from people such as colleagues and supervisors who know your job skills and work habits. We work in completely different divisions of the company, and I have known you for such a short time that I can hardly speak with authority about your professional abilities.
I am flattered that you would ask for a recommendation from me, but as a matter of strategy in your job search, I think someone else would be a better choice.
Best of luck in your job search!
Example Letter #2
During the two months we worked together, I do not think I had the chance to observe your best work. I feel it would be in your best interest to have someone else write you a letter of recommendation. I am happy that you have found a position you are willing to pursue ambitiously. I wish you much success in your efforts.
Example Letter #3
Yesterday I received your request for a letter of recommendation on your behalf as part of your application to medical school. It was really very kind of you to think of me, but I'm afraid I'll have to decline. With so many intervening semesters since you were last a student in one of my courses, I'm too unfamiliar with your current work to be of any real service to you.
In my experience, admissions offices generally look for recommendations that reflect a student's most recent academic successes. May I suggest you approach a few instructors of courses you've taken within the past two or three years for a recommendation? They can probably give more weight to your cause than I could.
If I can help you in some other way, please feel free to ask. I wish you the best as you plan for your future.
Example Letter #4
I am honored that you selected me to write a letter of recommendation for you and that you put your trust in me for such an important task.
Unfortunately, I must decline your request at this time. I believe that it would serve your needs better to select another individual whose words would really benefit you.
I apologize that I am unable to assist you, but I do, however, wish you the very best in your pursuits.
Example Letter #5
I sincerely support your pursuit and feel honored by your request for a recommendation. However, because of the limited extent of our previous interactions, I am not able to accurately describe your specific talents and potentials, and so I am not in the position to draft a persuasive recommendation for you. I must unfortunately decline your request and encourage you to identify a closer contact who could draft a more helpful letter.
Again, I wish you complete success in your pursuit.
Write Your Letter Step-by-Step
Explain in an inoffensive way that you cannot or would rather not write the letter.
Express well wishes.