A reference letter or letter of recommendation is a formal document that speaks of someone’s work experience, personal qualities, and/or academic performance. It can be written by an employer, colleague, client, teacher, or someone who can attest to a person’s capabilities and character.
If you are asked to write a letter on someone’s behalf, it’s important to know how to write one effectively. In this article, we’ll give you a reference letter template and also go over best practices.
Reference Letter Template
[Name of addressee]
[Position of addressee]
[Business address of addressee]
Dear [Name] /To whom it may concern,
It’s my absolute pleasure to recommend [Name of Candidate] for [Target Position]. [He/She] worked with us at [Name of Your Company] as [Candidate’s Former Job Title] for [Length of Time] and reported to me in my position as [Your Job Title].
[He/She] was a highly valued member of the team and made a strong contribution during [his/her] time here. [He/she] is honest, dependable, and incredibly hard-working. [He/she] is also an impressive [Soft Skill] who is always [Result].
[His/Her] knowledge and expertise in [specific subject] has brought about huge advantages to our entire team. [He/She] put this skillset to work in order to [specific achievement]. [He/She] never failed to surpass my expectations.
Along with [his/her] undeniable talent, [Name of Candidate] has always been an absolute joy to work with. [He/She] quickly gained the respect and trust of colleagues and was admired for [his/her] reliability and collaborative spirit.
I confidently recommend [Name of Candidate] to join your team at [Candidate’s Target Company]. I am sure that [he/she] will be a great addition to your organization. [His/Her] background and experience should be a good match for the position.
I am available and happy to discuss should you have any further questions about [Name of Candidate]’s qualifications. Please feel free to contact me at [Your Contact Information]. Thank you for your time.
[Your Job Title]
5 Things Your Reference Letter Should Include
The exact structure of the letter may vary depending on the type of reference it is, but below are the basic details to include:
1. Contact Information and Greeting
Include the contact information of the individual or committee to whom you are addressing the letter. Put their details at the top of the letter and in your greeting. If you are writing a general reference letter, you could use “Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” If you know the person’s name, it’s better to use the business letter format: include the recipient’s name and address, and address them as “Dear [Name]”.
2. First Paragraph
The first paragraph should explain your connection to the person you are recommending. Mention how you know them and why you are qualified to provide a reference letter. Don’t hesitate to state your own qualifications. Show them why they should be impressed with your recommendation or at least why they should trust your word for it. In order to hold weight, your letter should establish that it comes from a reputable source. No need to tell everything about yourself. A sentence or two explaining your position will do.
The middle paragraphs of your reference letter should include details about the person you are writing about. Specify why they are qualified, and what they can bring to the table. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to elaborate details. Be specific and share instances where you observed the person successfully demonstrating the skills or qualities required for the position.
Mentioning concrete examples of when the candidate excelled will make your letter more credible. You can single out exceptional qualities that the candidate has, such as his or her drive and enthusiasm, attention to detail, or leadership skills.
In your last paragraph, make it clear that you’re open to further correspondence. Offer to provide more information if needed and include your contact details such as your phone number and email address. Encouraging the person to get in touch with you if there are any questions or clarifications will help build a positive image of you and the person you are recommending. You can also say that you endorse the person “confidently” “wholeheartedly” or “without reservation.”
Formally close your letter and affix your signature.
Things to Do Before You Write a Reference Letter
Before you start writing a reference letter, you will want to make sure you consider the following points:
Think if You Can Provide an Honestly Positive Letter
Before agreeing to write the recommendation letter, make sure you know the person well enough in order to write a meaningful reference. Also, you should be able to honestly speak highly of the person’s skills or abilities. If you have doubts about a person’s character, you should probably politely turn down the request for a recommendation.
Get Enough Information About the Person
To help you craft an effective reference letter it is a good idea to ask for a copy of the person’s resume. Even if you have known the person for a long time, he or she may have new accreditation and/or achievements. The more current information you have, the easier it will be for you to write the letter.
Know The Necessary Details to Complete the Task
Aside from the information about the person you’ll be writing the reference letter for, you also need to get the details on how to submit the letter. Ask whom you should address the letter to, when the deadline is, and if there’s specific format required.
The template above should only serve as a guide as you write your own letters. They can’t look exactly the same as your final product because you have to customize your words to suit the candidate and make your letter unique.
Writing a reference letter is a significant undertaking, so take the time to fully understand the elements needed to craft a good one. While the specifics will vary, strong recommendation letters do share certain features in common, so stick with these basics and tailor your letter based on the candidate’s information and qualities.
Are you on the hiring end and wanting to learn about the methods that you can use to assess candidates? Read our guide on ways to do applicant screening.