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A letter of reference is a great way to endorse a work colleague or friend for a future position or promotion. As this document is often used as final confirmation that a candidate can do a particular job, it’s critical that it’s well crafted and contains all the necessary elements.
In a nutshell, it should focus on a person’s most desirable and transferable skills and traits, and it should be tailored to the opportunity or career path at hand.
Take a look at our free reference letter samples below and use our expert tips to help create an effective reference letter to help your former colleague or student shine.
How to Write an Reference Letter
Remember: the aim of your reference letter is to convince the reader that your subject would be an asset to their professional environment. To that point, if you can’t write a glowing letter, the best thing to do is to politely refuse and recommend they approach someone else.
Keep in mind, your letter of reference should be specifically tailored to the subject’s unique personality and qualifications, as well as to the requirements of the job or the career path, as seen in our reference letter samples.
Be Specific: In a reference letter, it’s important to list the transferable qualities that make the subject of your letter a great asset to a workplace. Emphasizing their creativity or their ability to work in a team and/or individually can help the reader appreciate how the candidate can benefit their organization.
Be Focused: Tailor your reference letter to meet the needs of the opportunity the subject of your letter is seeking. Consider the exact requirements of the job your colleague or student is applying for and be sure to highlight any and all relevant experience that matches those needs, listing any specific training or achievements.
Be Sincere: When writing your reference letter, be sure to include only those qualities that you truly appreciate about the person. Overwriting your letter with exaggerated or overly flowery language may come off as insincere and do more harm than good.
Be Concise: Make a big impact by keeping your reference letter to the point, professional, and polite. Try and say everything you need to say in one or two well-crafted paragraphs. You’ll find tone, length, and language suggestions in our reference letter samples.
How to Format an Reference Letter
Considering the official purpose of your reference letter, you should always write it in the traditional business style, as demonstrated in our reference letter samples. You should always open with a greeting to the specific recipient if you know their name. In the case of a general reference letter, you can always open with “To whom it may concern:?. Then, in the opening paragraph, reference your relationship to the subject and why they’d be an asset to a workplace’s roster. In the following sections, clearly and concisely list their personal and professional qualifications and qualities, painting as broadly an appealing portrait as possible. In closing, thank the reader for their time and consideration, and be sure to include your contact information so they can properly follow up with you if need be.
Common Reference Letter Mistakes
- Saying Yes, When You Should Say No: It’s probably best not to write a reference letter for someone if you can’t give a glowing review of their character or work performance or character. Let them know the reasons you’re passing so they may learn from the experience and also refrain from follow-up requests.
- Using Too Much Flattery: Praising the subject of your reference letter too much can smack of exaggeration and put off the reader. Keep the language grounded and professional, as in our reference letter samples.
- Being Sloppy: Sending out a reference letter full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes may suggest that you didn’t value the recommendation enough to take the proper time with it.
You’ve Written Your Reference Letter. Now What?
Writing a clear and concise personal reference letter, like the ones in our reference letter samples, can be an important part of helping your subject get their next job. After your letter is written, make sure it gets into the right hands at the right time.
Be Prompt: There is often a deadline when applying for jobs and promotions, so it is of the upmost importance to send out your reference letter in due time. Be sure to let the subject knowif there are any issues with you being able to write your letter in a timely manner, as they may want to approach someone else to write it.
Follow Up: If you feel the inspiration, you can check in with the subject to see if they got the job or not. Hopefully your reference helped them to seal the deal and get the gig, and if not, you can always offer to edit the letter for more positive results in the future.
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