50+ Sample Reference Letter

What is a Reference Letter?

By definition, a reference letter is a document that serves as a positive endorsement of an individual’s skills and attributes, and it is written by someone who is familiar with their work, accomplishments, and who they are as a person. While other documents such as resumes focus on an individual’s professional qualifications, a reference letter is more personal and focuses on an individual’s characteristics that can help them perform well in a job. This document is most often used whenever a company hires someone to ensure that the candidate possesses the qualities that the company is looking for. Other situations that necessitate a reference letter include applying for internships, volunteer positions, college universities, and graduate school programs.

What are the Elements of a Reference Letter?

As stated earlier, a reference letter could make or break somebody’s career. So, here are some of the elements that you need to include if you aim to write an effective reference letter for your friend or colleague:

How you are related to the individual. This element is written at the beginning of the reference letter and states or describes how you know the individual on a personal or a professional level. An example of this would be describing that you have worked with them in the same company or you have served as that individual’s manager during his time in your company.How long you have known the individual. This element of the reference letter should clearly state how long you’ve known the individual in terms of months or years. The number should also be clearly stated, for example, “I’ve known XXXX for 3 years” or “I’ve worked with YYYY for 2 years”.The individual’s positive traits and qualities. This element of the reference letter should state the best qualities of an individual that can help them succeed in the position that they are vying for. Examples of positive traits include having dedication, having good time management, being compassionate, being disciplined, being ambitious, and having great communication skills. In addition to an individual’s positive traits, proof of their qualities being put to use can also be included.Final statement. The end part of the reference letter should be the writer’s statement of recommendation concerning the individual. This basically means that you, as a writer of the reference letter, are fully confident of the individual’s success in the institute/company that he or she is applying for.Contact information. This element can also be included and could come in handy should the employer/institute reach out to you for clarifications or additional information regarding the reference letter. You can write either your phone number, email address, or both.

Tips in Making a Reference Letter

Here are a few pointers to remember when writing an effective reference letter:

Mistakes in Writing a Reference Letter

The process of writing a reference letter can sometimes be prone to mistakes or can contain things that can be easily overlooked. Here are some examples:

Step by Step Process in Writing a Reference Letter

A reference letter, sometimes called a character reference or a personal reference letter, helps give the employers or recruiters an insight into a candidate or applicant’s personality and traits. It also helps them understand whether they would be a good fit for the organization or the academic institute. With that being said, here are the steps you can follow if you’re asked to provide a letter for someone:

1. Start with the salutations/greetings.

Begin writing the reference letter with a simple greeting and address the recruiter/manager with their full name, such as “Dear Mr./Mrs. Firstname Lastname”. If you do not know the manager’s name, you can simply write in place “Dear Hiring Manager”. If the individual you are writing for is applying at an academic institute, you can simply write “Dear Admissions Committee”. If for some reason the reference letter isn’t addressed to anyone, you can simply put “To Whom It May Concern”. You can also choose to skip the salutations and immediately proceed to the introductory paragraph, although having greetings is more recommended.

2. Write the introductory paragraph.

This element of the reference letter should clearly explain how you are connected to the person you are recommending. This includes how you know that person, how many years or months you have known them, and the reason why you are qualified to write a reference letter on their part. It is also important to include the name of the company or the academic institution as well as the job or the opportunity that the individual is applying for.

3. Write the main paragraph or paragraphs.

This is the main element of the reference letter. In writing this part, remember that it should contain the necessary information about the individual that you are writing about. This includes the reasons why they are qualified and the qualities that they could contribute to the company or institute. You can also provide more than one paragraph to further explain the details. You should also write about specific instances in which the individual has used the skills you listed that are relevant to the position being applied. An example would be listing an individual’s leadership excellence qualities if he/she is vying for a top job.

4. Write the closing part and signature.

In writing this element of the reference letter, you can reiterate that you fully vouch for the individual you are writing for. It is also recommended that you provide your own contact details in case the hiring manager or a member of the admissions committee decides to reach out to you for further inquiries regarding the reference letter. This is also recommended in case they want to contact you for verbal recommendations. Once everything is said and done, don’t forget to affix your full name and signature to the document.


What are the types of reference letters?

  • Employee reference – this reference letter recommends an individual for a job at a certain company. This letter serves as an assessment of the candidate’s skills and provides examples of how the candidate excelled in their prior positions or field of work.
  • Character reference – this letter is usually ideal for entry-level job applicants. This document highlights an applicant’s soft skills and explains why they would be a great fit for a potential company. This letter can be written by a friend, a mentor, or a neighbor.
  • Academic reference – this letter is written by a teacher, adviser, or professor. An academic reference letter provides an assessment of an individual’s scholarly skills and personal character.
  • Business reference – this letter is made in case you want to do business with professional contacts such as vendors, business associates, or clients. This letter also allows you to make an assessment of a contractor’s quality of work.

How long should a reference letter be?

Keep in mind that in writing a reference letter, the length should be more than one or two paragraphs at most. It is also important to keep it concise, so you need to try and fit every detail within a single page. A letter too short may suggest unfamiliarity with the individual being endorsed or an improperly written letter.

Who should I ask for a character reference letter?

Examples of individuals who can be great character references are coworkers, clients, customers, coaches, a business acquaintance, a personal or a professional mentor, and so on. It is important that the person you choose as a character reference is able to speak to your attributes that relate to the position or industry that you are applying for. Choosing a family member as a reference such as a spouse or an in-law is generally not recommended because their recommendations are considered objective and may not be taken seriously.

At a given point in your professional career, someone may task you with writing a reference letter. This article also provides examples of effective reference letters so when that time comes, you already know how to prepare one. Your support will make a massive difference, and as said earlier, a reference letter can make or break someone’s career, so ensure that you really know the applicant that you are writing the letter for, to ensure maximum effectiveness of the document.