What is a reference letter?
Among st other important documents in your file, a reference letter is one of the most mandatory and crucial documents that are required for admission to the university. This type of letter is required for an application as a stamp of integrity, capability, and character of the candidate, applying for a study course anywhere, requires it.
A reference letter is almost similar to a recommendation letter though the only difference being that the recommendation letter is usually sent to the recognized person only, while reference letters are sent to unfamiliar people at universities, they might not require a proper address of the owner.
Who can ask for a reference letter?
- School leavers can ask their teachers or the principal of that school/college for a letter of reference.
- For a student or employee, it can be written by somebody from the teaching staff which may include senior teachers, professors, career officers or by the employers who come for placements to the university/college.
Some guidelines for writing a reference letter:
- Explain your relationship to the applicant and mention the length of time you know each other.
- Write about the applicant’s exceptional qualities and why he or she stands out from others with the same environment. Note down on the paper, all the good qualities and skills the applicant possess, as these may be relevant to his or her job or field. You can also provide some particular examples to back up your views.
- Point the applicant’s efficiency and skills in a specific branch and catch the interest of the applicant. Along with this, you can mention past experiences, communication, and organizational skills, the way he or she interacts with people.
- Writing about any weakness of the applicant is to be avoided at all costs. In case you feel that you do not find anything positive about the applicant you may refuse writing this letter.
- Be sure to write about your own qualification as it will help you to make an impression on the reader too.
- You should focus on some of the main points that you would like the reader to take note of and calls for his attention. It should be conveyed in an effective way instead of just rewriting what the applicant had mentioned in his application form while applying.
- It is best practice to avoid writing about the applicant’s religion, age, race, country, marital status, disability or gender in this sort of letters unless it is absolutely necessary, then only should you mention these facts.
- Your letter should be crisp without being brief. Normally, a recommendation letter to a prospective employer should consist of one page, while it should be e t-o-paged letter for university and school admissions.
- You can also add your contact information if you would like to get a follow up letter from the reader.
- Do write a good and solid ending paragraph. It should not be too superfluous, as it may give the impression that you are partial to the applicant and rather being a boon may turn out to be a curse.
- Finally, make sure to proofread the reference letter, as it representative for you and the applicant.
Types of Reference Letter templates
Reference letters are used in a wide variety of situations the most common examples are:
- While a candidate is applying for a job, they may need a reference to support their application and it gives weight to the application.
- If an interviewee is given a job offer, they may need to supply a reference letter before the contract can be signed.
- A student applying for an academic course often requires a reference letter to support their application.
- When a student is applying for funding for a project/company.
- Reference letters may be used as testimonies by the companies to their trustworthiness.
- Tenants may need to provide a reference letter to their landlord, testifying their good financial status.
Reference Letter Template
If you are writing a personal letter of reference where you know the name of the recipient, in that ca,se, you should include a salutation (Dear Mr. Marina, Dear Ms. Temple ton, etc.). If you are writing a general letter, say “To Whom it May Concern” or simply do not include a salutation at all.
The first paragraph of the reference letter template explains your connection with the person you are recommending. It includes how you know them, and why you are qualified to write a reference letter to recommend them for employment or school enrollment. This section of the letter would in detail specify about how long you have known the person, or the years you worked together, taught the person, etc.
The second paragraph should introduce the person you are writing about, qualification, what they can contribute. It may also include meaningful anecdotes. This will create a memorable context and help the person stand out from their competition.
When referring a candidate for a particular job opening, it should include information about how the person’s skills match the position they are applying for.
This section of the reference letter template contains, in brief, a summary of why you are recommending the person. You can write “highly recommend” or “recommend without reservation” or something similar.
The concluding paragraph of the reference letter template contains an offer to provide more information. You can here, either include your phone number and email address.
Include a polite closing to the letter and at the end put your name and title.
Reference Letter submission
Requesting for a Reference Letter/Letter of Reference
Before you request for a reference letter, keep in mind these few things:
- Ask for a reference letter from people who know you and your capabilities, such as former employers, teachers, coaches, influential friends who have known you a long time, etc. Relatives are not a good choice.
- Give people enough time to write the reference letter—a week to 10 days should be sufficient.
- Don’t be shy. A reference letter is a sales letter that is intended to sell you so tell the people clearly about your goals. It is the right time to point out your accomplishments!
- When you send your follow-up letter, do not forget to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
- Remember to send the writers thank-you notes, once you have received your reference letters. You may also let each writer know about your subsequent success and how much their letters helped you to attain your goal.
Agreeing to Write a Reference Letter/Letter of Reference
Ask yourself if you are the right person to write a reference letter? If you are asked to write a letter of reference, discuss this subject with the requester. Think, can you honestly write positive things about the person?
On the other hand, if you feel you qualify, then brainstorm with the requester so you can write what he or she wishes and be sensitive to his/her deadlines.
Ask the person the list of accomplishments, organizations that he/she belongs to, or any other relevant information. This can also help you get a more accurate picture of the individual.
Reference Letter Tips
Here are some additional things to keep in mind:
- Type your reference letter instead of copy pasting from here and there. Your reference letter casts a reflection on both you and the candidate for whom you are writing. Appearance may even determine if it will be read or not and if it will be noticed by the reader. Make sure you print the letter on good quality inkjet paper.
- Concentrate on several different aspects of the person and make sure you do your best to bring out all the qualities of the person in a positive way. Be specific when you refer to his/her skills, attitude, personal attributes, contributions, performance, growth, etc. in the time period you have known the candidate or worked with him/her.
- Word usage:
- Be careful with “power words”! Some words that seem harmless in everyday conversation can carry both positive and negative connotations when written and presented to a prospective employer such as: honest, articulate, effective, sophisticated, intelligent, observant, significant, expressive, creative, efficient, cooperative, imaginative, dependable, reliable, mature, and
- Avoid adjectives and adverbs that are mediocre such as: nice, good, fair, fairly, adequate, reasonable, decent, and satisfactory.The following list of attributes can be exceptional topics to address as you describe the candidate:
- ability to communicate
- willingness to accept responsibility
- energy level
- interpersonal skills
- ability to handle conflict
- goal achievement
- appropriate vocational skills
5 Samples of Reference Letters and examples
Sample Reference letter
To whom it may concern,
X has been an employee here at our organization Y Pvt. Ltd. She has been a pleasure to work with and has brought tremendous attention to detail to the project. She has excellent communication and convincing skills and has provided us with innovative solutions to various problems.
X is organized, professional and punctual
I refer her for any venture she chooses to pursue.
First Name last name
Reference Letter For Business School Sample
To Whom It May Concern,
It is my pleasure to offer a recommendation for Aroha Sen. As the Chairman of the X firm, I have known and interacted with Aroha, and I am convinced that she deserves a confirmed place in the Business School program.
Aroha came to X 3 years ago and joined at the entry-level position of sales representative. It didn’t take her long to move through the ranks and it was only after 8 months, she attained promotion to a team leader. A few weeks ago, Aroha achieved another milestone when the board appointed heto the management team.
Many people at X consider Aroha as a dedicated and enthusiastic leader. Aroha in a short time has built a strong rapport with employees and clients. Due to this, the the team is more productive and happier.
I have no doubt that Arohmy honest recommendation for Aloha’s application.
First Name, Last Name
Sample reference letter for graduate school
Reference Letter for X
To whomsoever, it may concern,
As a [Title] of ABC School, I highly recommend X as a candidate for your graduate school.
While he was a student at ABC, X was involved in various projects including teaching courses to fourth-grade students at the [XYZ School district]. He has also taught art and drama courses to children and displayed elevated levels of energy and enthusiasm while accomplishing these tasks. X also challenged the rest of his class to think from an unfamiliar perspective and was known to ask penetrating questions.
X is known to share an incredible rapport with people of all ages. In fact, he has also worked with spec-ally-abled kids who need more guidance and support than others in the traditional classroom settings. I believe X’s patience and sincere concern for others make him very approachable.
X also has an inherent ability to connect with students and teachers alike. He can make advanced and complex topics appear very easy. In fact, he was known to take on complex topics and handle them brilliantly. Needless to say, that X has exceptional verbal and written communication skills. His assignments were always turned in on time, and they were invariably neat, well-written and well-supported.
I believe that X will be a terrific addition to your graduate program and an asset to any school. I recommend him without any reservations. Please do not hesitate to contact me further for any questions regarding his qualifications or background.
Name, Title,ABC school
Reference Letter for a Friend
Your Name & Address
Name of Addressee, Company Name,Address
Dear (Name/last name of addressee),
I am writing to you regarding X, whom I have known personally for several years. In fact, our friendship is nearly 10 years old. Over this period, I have found her to be a highly organized, responsible, personable and an easy going individual. I believe that her skills, as well as experience, make her an excellent candidate for your company.
I first met X in ABC elementary School. She was known to make friends quickly and was an excellent student with a flawless student record. X also tutored and coached younger kids in many subjects and was known as a dependable and responsible teenager to the neighborhood families. Later, in college, she held an administrative position where she looked after the accounts, answered phones and made appointments. Her employers were highly impressed with her ability to work independently and in a neat and organized manner.
All throughout my association with her, X X, please feel free to contact me by phone or email.
Email & Phone number
Sample Character Reference Letter
To whom it may concern,
I have known XYZ for many years. She has been a close friend of my
While in school, XYZ assisted me in coaching younger students in art and dramatics. The group consisted of 9 and 10-year-old. She, herself was a skilled actor and brought a great deal of vigor and enthusiasm in the activities. She also maintained her leadership skills and ensured that the younger students were disciplined and well behaved during the practice sessions. With great skills and patience, this young woman could bring out the best from the youngsters. The entire group also looked up to her and idolized her.
I vouch for XYZ’s dependability, responsibility, and honesty. Now, she is tutoring young students in various subjects including Mathematics, English, and science. I have often heard parents praising her sincerity and patience. Many neighbors are known to ask specifically for her each time they need a tutor for their kids, for help with specific school projects, or for babysitting etc.
I am confident XYZ will be an asset to any organization. I recommend her for any position or undertaking that she chooses to pursue.
Do call or mail me if you wish to discuss this recommendation further.
First name, Last name
Character references or personal reference letters
Certain situations require character reference letters of a more personal nature, such as character testimonials or references relating to court proceedings, or for a position in non-business organizations such as councils, trusts, clubs, or societies. In these cases, follow the same principles: do not defame a person in writing or verbally when providing a reference; state only positives or nothing at all. If you need a personal or character reference always ask the writer if it would help to provide them with a draft.
Character reference letters for court appearances
Here’s an example of the sort of letter you can write if asked to provide a character reference for someone you know who is to appear in court on a criminal charge. First, ensure that you are personally comfortable with the responsibility of providing the character reference and potentially being called to appear in court as a character witness (the accused legal team should normally advise you on how best you can help – if in doubt ask).
Trade reference letters – Quality of service
You may be asked by one of your suppliers to provide a trade reference letter, which they will present to a new customer seeking assurances of quality of service, reliability, etc. (See below for a sample reference letter relating to payment and credit-worthiness) Here’s an example of a trade reference letter relating to quality of service. Use a letter headed sheet, and date it. The subject of the trade reference letter could be a company, a sole trader or freelance supplier. Use the name of the person or the company as the heading.
Letters like this typically begin with ‘To whom it may concern’, which enables the reference to be used for different people requesting one.
Trade reference letters sample – credit worthiness
This is an example of a trade reference letter relating to a person’s or organization’s edit-worthiness and reliability for making payments. You may be asked by one of your suppliers or customers for such a reference letter, which they will present to a new supplier who is seeking assurances of their financial reliability and credit-worthiness. Use a letter headed sheet, and date it. The subject of the trade reference letter could be a company, a sole trader or freelance supplier. Use the name of the person or the company as the heading.
Request for reference (from past employers and referees)
This template is for employers seeking references from current or previous employers or other character referees for job applicants, candidates, and interviewees. The template can be amended for sending to other nominated referees (eg., character reference providers).
When seeking a reference about a potential new employee or job candidate you should ask permission of the person involved.
Difference between a Reference & Recommendation Letter
The term “Recommendation Letter” is often used interchangeably with “Reference Letter”.
Although both types of letters are primarily used to introduce a person and vouch for his or her skills, abilities, integrity, character, and interests, the difference between the two is significant.
A recommendation letter usually contains information specific to the person applying for a job or for entrance into college or university where the information is more specifically related to kills, and qualifications.A recommendation letter is usually used for obtaining employment or admission to advanced education. The information is more related to skills and abilities than it is to personal characteristics.
A reference letter is usually more general in nature and refers more to the overall character of a person. The information is more related to an individual’s personality and character than it is to their skills and abilities.
Definition of a Recommendation Letter
A “Recommendation Letter” or “Letter of Recommendation” is a letter in which the writer assesses the qualifications, skills, abilities, interests, and capabilities of the person being recommended in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a task or function.
“Recommendation Letters” are almost always requested by someone, and are therefore are normally addressed to that requester, typically relating to employment, college admissions, or scholarship eligibility.
Definition of a Reference Letter
A “Reference Letter” or “Letter of Reference” is a letter in which the writer makes a general assessment of the qualities, interests, attitude, integrity, community involvement, and personal characteristics of a person.
Reference letters are typically used in situations where an individual’s character is being assessed also confirming the details of an individual’s situation or circumstances.
Reference letters are general in nature and usually addressed to “Whom It May Concern” unless the name of the recipient is known.
Employers don’t have much to go on when they hire people and are fearful of making mistakes. Strong references make them more confident. Some people even go so far as to say that the resume gets you the interview, but good references can get you the job offer.
Is there a difference between a reference and a recommendation?
After an employer has determined you have all the requirements for their opening, they’ll often ask you to submit a list of references for them to call. Reference checks are a common part of the hiring process and serve two main purposes –to verify
1) your previous employment and,
2) your past work performance including your skills, abilities, work ethic and integrity.
Recommendations are formal letters or evaluations written by your references that are submitted
as part of your application. They are used most commonly for applications to graduate school, but
are also occasionally requested for hiring.
Tips For Managing References
- Choose them wisely: You should only use business references unless the employer asks for personal or character references. Don’t use family members or friends unless they can truly speak to your work-related skills and qualifications. An ideal slate of references for a recent college graduate might include:
- At least one recent immediate supervisor (from a summer or part-time job or internship)
- At least one well-informed second-level supervisor or a club adviser
- At least one professor
- Get their permission/approval: You always want to get a potential reference’s blessing to use them so there are no surprises for you or for them.
- Share your resume: Each reference probably only knows one aspect of your experience–sharing your resume helps them to complete picture of you and your experience.Also, having your resume gives the reference something to refer to when they actually get a call, and helps him/her send a consistent message to the employer about your experience.
- Get their best contact info: You need to get the best phone number, address and email for each reference and continually make sure those are up-to-date.
- Protect them: Do not submit reference names until you are asked. If you give your references up too early or too often, you risk your references getting calls they are not prepared for. The fewer calls they have to take on your behalf, the more enthusiastic they will sound.
- Keep them informed: When you first ask someone to be a reference for you and give him/her a copy of your resume, you should also fill him/her in on the types of jobs and industries where you are focusing your job search.Sharing the job posting/description is helpful so that your reference can frame their comments around the skills and expectations for that particular job.
- Thank them: If you plan to use these positive references over the years, you need to give something back. For instance, each time your reference supports you with a new prospective employer, send them a personal thank you letter or (at minimum) an email.If you win a new position, call or email your references and thank them again for their support.
- Stay Connected: As the saying goes–out of sight, out of mind. As you move further up the career ladder in your profession or achieve new educational goals, make sure your references stay informed of your success. As you progress, a reference is more inclined to see you in a positive light. Finally, remember to ask your reference for updates on their own professional moves and changes.
- Never include references on your resume. Instead, prepare a separate sheet with the heading “Professional References” or something similar, and list three to five references under that heading.
- Be sure to include your name and contact info at the top of the page –just as it appears on your resume.
- Unless otherwise requested, use work addresses and phone numbers for your references. For each reference list the name, title, company or organization, company address and work phone number.
- If the person’s title or company does not indicate your relationship, include in parentheses after the name for g., the former supervisor.
- Your Professional References should not be sent in the mail/fax/email with your cover letter and resume unless the employer specifically asks for them at that time.
- Employers typically ask for references after an interview, so bring a copy of your reference sheet to your interviews.
- Your reference sheet should be printed on the same paper as your resume. As with any other job search correspondence, take the time to make sure your reference sheet is of the highest quality.
- PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, and PROOFREAD again.
- In general, the best letters of recommendation are from people who:
- Have worked with you closely (e.g., research supervisor)
- Have known you long enough to write with authority (e.g. academic adviser)
- Have relevant expertise (e.g., professors in the case of academic applications)
- Hold senior positions and are well known(e.g., departmental chair)
- Have a positive opinion of you and your abilities
- Typically, you will be asked for 3-4 letters.
- Choice of letter writers is important so it’s best to begin cultivating personal relationships with potential writers early on.
- Once you have 3-4 writers in mind, ask each person if they are willing and feel able to write you a strong letter.
- Give your writers plenty of time: A minimum of three to four weeks is customary and will allow you to check back a few days before the deadline to ensure the letter has been sent or faxed.
- Give your writers a well-organized, thorough packet of materials in a single envelope. Ideally, these elements should include some or all of the following items, depending on the letter’s purpose:
- A current copy of your academic transcript showing the courses you’ve taken and the level at which you’ve performed. This does not have to be an official copy.
- A copy of your academic vita or resume.
- A pre-addressed envelope for each letter with postage affixed if the letter is being sent via postal mail. If there are letters that should be returned to you in a sealed envelope, be sure to write your name and the school’s name on the outside of each envelope.
- Any forms that are supposed to be submitted with the letter. If there is a form, complete as much information as possible (everything except ratings, evaluative statements, signature, and date).
- A cover note briefly listing:
- Your contact info
- A table or list of deadlines covering all the letters you need
- Your career aspirations and type of position or graduate program you are applying for
- Information or points you’d like your writer to emphasize
- Summary of work/projects you did with or for your writer (including dates)
- Any other information you deem relevant
Waiving your access to letters of recommendation
Two reasons why you should always agree to waive that right:
- One –If you don’t waive the right, then whoever is reading the letter will assume that the letter isn’t being totally honest.
- Two –Many writers, by policy, do not write recommendation letters unless that clause is waived.
- Letters sometimes get lost, and people sometimes forget to write them. You should double-check that the letter has arrived, and if not, ask the writer to send another copy.
- After you have completed your application/interview/etc., tell your letter writers the outcome. The letter writers care about you and want to know whether their letter was effective. Furthermore, letter writers will often lobby directly on your behalf, but they will look silly (and you will look bad) if the letter writer isn’t aware that this is moot because you already either had an interview or did not get the job.
- Always remember to thank your letter writers for their time and effort on your behalf.