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How to Write an Employment Reference Letter: Example

How to Write an Employment Reference Letter: Example

Reference, comment, instance—synonyms and your job for today. Write a reference letter that comments on candidate’s skills and experience and gives instances of their achievements.

Someone asked you to write a reference letter?

 

Yikes.

 

I’d love to help, but I’ve got so many other things… What should I do?!

 

Time’s of the essence, but don’t turn your back on them just yet!

 

Read the guide below and help someone get their dream job in no time.

 

This guide will show you:

 

  • A reference letter example better than 9 out of 10 others.
  • The step-by-step plan for how to write a reference letter for employees.
  • Tested scenarios for writing a professional reference letter.
  • A letter of reference template to help employees with their job applications.

 

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sample resume example
sample resume example

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Use the below list of contents to jump right into one of the guide’s chapters:

 

  1. Set Up Your Reference Letter Format
  2. Introduce Yourself to the Hiring Manager
  3. Evaluate and Describe the Candidate’s Strengths
  4. Recommend the Candidate for the Job

 

Reference Letter Template

 

Lara Grubb

Operations Manager

30 Ulomogo Street

SYDNEY NSW 2830

(01) 2345 6789

laragrubb@techcon.com

 

30 August 2021

 

Ellie Byatt

Head of Technology

Sicall

2 Grandis Road

SHERWOOD NSW 2440



Dear Ms Byatt,

 

Please allow me to prove that Summer Hislop is the person you need as a Senior IT Project Manager at Sicall. As an Operations Manager at TechCon, I was a direct manager to Summer for three years (2019–2021) when she held the role of IT Project Manager. She has been by far one of the best project managers I have ever worked with.

 

During her time at the company, Summer was a go-to person. She went by the motto, “Even great ideas can be improved.” Summer was resourceful and displayed excellent knowledge of agile methodologies, software development, and project management tools. 

 

It was the second project during her time at TechCon where Summer proved her true worth. The team was launching a localised version of the website, which would soon double their workload. Thanks to Summer’s analytical approach and problem-solving skills, she gathered and led a team of specialists, delivering a content optimisation tool that helped the SEO team cut lead times and boost their efficiency by 35%.

 

Summer’s approach to challenges is astounding, “You can solve everything with the right mindset”, she always says, and that speaks for itself. Summer is a team player with a highly positive attitude to the task at hand. I am fully confident she would be a perfect fit for Sicall. 

 

If you need any further recommendations or specific information, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to tell you more about Summer’s qualifications.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Lara Grubb

0123 456 789

laragrubb@techcon.com

 

Wow.

 

Summer must be an incredible employee!

 

But, uhm, do you know what a reference letter is?

 

A reference letter is a testimony of the candidate’s skills, qualities, and qualifications written by a person who worked with them in the past. Job seekers attach reference letters to their applications as evidence of the experience they’ve described on resumes and cover letters.

 

There can be various types of reference letters, e.g., a professional or character reference. For the sake of this article, we’ll deal with the latter, as it’s set in the job application realm.

 

Let’s see how to write a reference letter that moves the candidate two steps closer to a job:

 

1. Set Up Your Reference Letter Format

 

Writing letters can’t have been fun back in the day—heaps of scribbled and cow-chewed pages landing in the trash because they weren’t good enough.

 

What a romance.

 

Now, it’s not so different. But—

 

You don’t have to start from scratch all over again. 

 

You can create a letter format and save it for days. 

 

Let’s do it!

 

Professional Reference Letter: Format

 

  • Space out lines 1–1.15, margins 1” (2.5 cm) on each side, and paragraphs double.
  • Choose a formal font, Times New Roman or Calibri, and make it 10–12 points.
  • Align your content to the left margin.
  • Save your reference letter as a PDF file format and give it a professional title, e.g., JobTitle_Candidate’sFullName_ReferenceLetter.pdf.
  • Add a reference letter header to the top left corner with your contact information. But if you send the letter by email, add it after the signature, instead. 
  • Mention the date of writing below, although that’s unnecessary in an email format.
  • Address the recipient by their name and job title. Include the company’s name and address right under.

 

Use the below template of a header to copy and paste into your editor:

 

Reference Letter Template: Header

 

[Your Name]

[Job Title]

[Address]

[Address]

[Phone Number]

[Email]

 

[Date of Writing]

 

[Hiring Manager’s Name]

[Hiring Manager’s Job Title]

[Company’s Name]

[Company’s Address]

[Company’s Address]

 

You need to include details you may not have at hand (hiring manager’s name, job title, company info…). 

 

If the person who asked you to write the reference letter didn’t give them to you, ask ASAP. They’re essential for you to write the entire thing.

ProTip: Make sure you have the candidate’s current resume and the job ad, and that you’ve noted anything specific that they’d like to underline in their references. Otherwise, you’ll feel guilty for blowing their chances with a generic letter!

Take a look at the proper structure and outline of the reference letter to understand why it’d be counterproductive to draft it without context:

 

Letter of Reference Template: Structure and Outline

 

  • Header with contact information and formal address.
  • Salutation using the hiring manager’s last name.
  • Opening paragraph: a brief description of the relationship between the candidate and yourself, followed by a couple of facts, like their role and dates of employment.
  • Second paragraph: sound judgement of the candidate’s relevant soft and hard skills, personality traits, and achievements.
  • Third paragraph (if possible): a real-life example of how the candidate used one of those skills at work with success.
  • Fourth paragraph: a reason why the candidate is a good fit for the role they’re applying for.
  • Closing paragraph: an honest statement of willingness to provide more information upon request.
  • Formal sentiment and signature.

 

Your reference letter will help the candidate only if it’s relevant, which means you write about qualities and qualifications that the employer’s looking for. So—

 

Now you know. 

 

Moving on to the opening paragraph, then—

 

2. Introduce Yourself to the Hiring Manager

 

Although grandparents would give a perfect picture of the candidate, they might go a bit too far and thus not appear as reliable sources.

 

So to ensure the hiring manager you’re not a beloved grannie, introduce yourself in the first paragraph. Tell them about working together, for how long, the rapport between you two, and if you collaborated on something.

 

To set out the reference letter the right way, you also need to mention the exact job title the candidate’s pursuing and the company they’d like to work for. 

 

Close the opening chapter with a recommendation. 

 

See how Lara did it for Summer:

 

Reference Letter Examples: First Paragraph

RIGHT

Lara Grubb

Operations Manager

30 Ulomogo Street

SYDNEY NSW 2830

(01) 2345 6789

laragrubb@techcon.com

 

30 August 2021

 

Ellie Byatt

Head of Technology

Sicall

2 Grandis Road

SHERWOOD NSW 2440



Dear Ms Byatt,

 

Please allow me to prove that Summer Hislop is the person you need as a Senior IT Project Manager at Sicall. As an Operations Manager at TechCon, I was a direct manager to Summer for three years (2019–2021) when she held the role of IT Project Manager. She has been by far one of the best project managers I have ever worked with.

WRONG

Dear Ms Byatt,

 

Summer Hislop is a candidate for a Senior IT Project Manager position at Sicall, and I am to provide a reference as her former employer for the past three years.

Oh, my days!

 

The first example starts with a bang. Lara began the paragraph with a commitment to prove Summer is the one the company’s looking for. 

 

If that’s what her former direct manager feels about her, then wow

 

She can already start looking for her lucky pen to sign the contract.

 

3. Evaluate and Describe the Candidate’s Strengths 

 

Now’s the time to take measurements off of the job description.

 

Grab some pins and tag the strengths the company describes as desirable in the posting. They’ll serve you as references to when you set off to tailoring the next paragraphs.

 

Why?

 

If the employer wants a leader, you describe how well the candidate worked and communicated with the team, no matter whether you want to talk about their workflow mapping skills. 

 

But pin down skills that the candidate displayed for real.

 

Start with a list of skills you’re sure they have, and then choose one to elaborate on in the following paragraph.

 

Letter of Reference: Middle Paragraphs

RIGHT

During her time at the company, Summer was a go-to person. She went by the motto, “Even great ideas can be improved.” Summer was resourceful and displayed excellent knowledge of agile methodologies, software development, and project management tools. 

 

It was the second project during her time at TechCon where Summer proved her true worth. The team was launching a localised version of the website, which would soon double their workload. Thanks to Summer’s analytical approach and problem-solving skills, she gathered and led a team of specialists, delivering a content optimisation tool that helped the SEO team cut lead times and boost their efficiency by 35%.

WRONG

Summer Hislop is a hard worker and knows a lot about project management and its methodologies. She proved it countless times and never failed to deliver.

The second example is dreadful. 

 

If you’re saying she “proved it”, prove it yourself. There must’ve been “countless times” she “delivered”, so say how. And be explicit.

 

When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.

When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.

4. Recommend the Candidate for the Job

 

Who wins the race?

 

The one who saved energy for the end and took over the final straight.

 

The last paragraphs are for you to reinforce the words of recommendation by saying explicitly you believe someone’s good at their job.

 

Offering your time to say more about the candidate will guarantee you a gold medal.

 

Sample Reference Letter: Closing Paragraph

RIGHT

Summer’s approach to challenges is astounding, “You can solve everything with the right mindset”, she always says, and that speaks for itself. Summer is a team player with a highly positive attitude to the task at hand. I am fully confident she would be a perfect fit for Sicall. 

 

If you need any further recommendations or specific information, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to tell you more about Summer’s qualifications.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Lara Grubb

(01) 2345 6789

laragrubb@techcon.com

WRONG

Summer was a doer, and the team loved working with her. Her can-do attitude inspired everyone. I highly recommend Summer for a Senior IT Project Manager position.

 

If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Thank you,

Lara Grubb

Oh, wow…

 

The person from the second example had to probably write thousands of reference letters and created a copy-paste template. 

 

Don’t do that. 

 

It’s the worst thing for those who asked you for references. If you don’t want to write it due to some reservations about the person, just say no. You’ll do them and yourself a favour.

 

Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:

 

matching set of resume and cover letter

See more cover letter templates and start writing.

Key Takeaway

 

How to write a reference letter in a nutshell:

 

  • Get all the necessary information you need to write a relevant reference letter.
  • Present the candidate in a positive light. If you can’t do that or don’t have the capacity before the deadline, don’t agree to write the letter in the first place.
  • Confirm the skills and experience the candidate need for their future job. Stick to the job ad and their resume.
  • Format it business-letter-like.

 

And that’s it.

 

It’s wonderful you’re helping your ex-teammate get the job! 

 

What goes around, comes around.

 

Pray to tell whether:

 

  • You want more info on how to write a good reference letter? 
  • You’re wondering how your reference letter helps the candidate with their job application? 
  • You know more tips on how to write a professional letter of reference?

 

Leave a comment. We’ll be happy to reply!

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Katarzyna Furman
Katarzyna is an empathetic career expert dedicated to encouraging growth in job hunters through building perfect resumes, CVs, and cover letters. At Zety, she gives her Certified Professional Resume Writer advice to make you realize you have a successful track record that only needs to see the daylight.

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