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How to Write a Job or Work Reference (Sample included)

Updated on January 11, 2012

Reference Writing: How to Do It

Hi All

Remember the day when your employee asked you to be their referee, and you said yes without thinking too much about it? And you let them fill in your details on their CV? Well now the day has come when the employee now needs you to play the part, and provide a reference to their new potential employer. But you haven't done this before? No matter, simply follow these tips and you'll do a great job for the employee.

I will write this hub by first providing a sample reference letter, and then analyzing it with a few bullet points. 

Sample Reference Letter

Dear Mr X.,

I am Syed Ahsan, project manager at Wireless Solutions Ltd. I am writing this reference at the request of Sally Jones, who is applying for the graduate role with Widgets Inc. I currently act as her direct report.

Sally has been employed by Wireless Solutions Ltd since February 2005, progressing into various roles. Currently she acts as project co-ordinator under me. In this role her responsiblities include generating Gantt charts for projects and ensuring that the project life cycle is being adhered to within the company. 

Sally has been a great asset to our organisation as she proactively approaches her work with a clear focus, and has constantly delivered superb results. In particular, her strong analytical approach have helped her truly shine. In addition to these, Sally also displays a strong work ethic, and enjoys taking part in extra-curricular activities within the company.

A clear example of her pro-action and analytical approach is when she first entered the project co-ordinator role. I had tasked her with communicating with various departments on their processes. Sally not only carried the task out, she also analysed the various processes herself and recommended some changes in the inter-departmental process gates. We have since implemented these changes and have experienced a mean 10% reduction in project delivery times.

Sally would be valuable to the project management team of any organisation, and we at Wireless Solutions wish her all the best with her career. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further information. My contact details are available at the bottom of this letter.


Syed Ahsan - Project Manager

Wireless Solutions Ltd

Ph: 09-12332423


Analysis of reference letter

Ok let's now look at the letter, viewing each paragraph (since I wrote for a Sally I'll refer to her):

  • 1st paragraph: This should do a few things: a)Introduce yourself and your position, b) refer to the person you are writing the reference for, and c)briefly describe your relation to her.
  • 2nd paragraph: The factual paragraph. Describe who the person is, her role, responsibilities, how long she's been at your company. You may want to do this with the help of the person, either by viewing her CV, or by discussing beforehand.
  • 3rd paragraph: The judgement paragraph. This is where you say why the person would be suited for the role, and also describe her good skills and qualities. It's a good idea to also focus on one particular attribute. Try to also write it so that it suits the role being applied for e.g. if Sally was applying for a sales job, more appropriate things to mention are her communication skills and ability to influence.
  • 4th paragraph: The examples paragraph. In the 3rd paragraph you mentioned her skills and qualities, this is where you use concrete examples to illustrate them. This should be simple as everyone tends to have one stellar piece of performance. It's also good to present the examples in this format: a) the quality being described, b) the situation and what action the person took, c) the results of her action.
  • 5th paragraph: The conclusion. Finish off by summarizing her traits, or simply recommending her for the position such as 'I believe Sally would contribute greatly to your company, thanks to her strong mind and her energy.' After that, you can say if you're happy to take further questions, and leave your contact details here too (or at the end of the letter).
  • 6th paragraph: The signature. Finish the letter by using 'Sincerely', then your name, position, company, and contact details.

These tips will allow you to write effective reference letters for your employees. As always, preparation is also the key to success, and you can write such letters much more effectively if you are updated on your employee's current activities (ask them to briefly summarize what they're doing now just to refresh your mind).



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    • munirahmadmughal profile image

      munirahmadmughal 6 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

      Reference is a three way or three dimensional process. The referer, the referee,the subject matter.It is an aid to transparency. It is reposing of confidence. Over and under estimation spoil the very object of a reference. True and straight forward information is the requirement to give vlue to a reference. It should not be a backbiting, It should not be derogatory. It should not be a flattery. Fact as you know and beleive to be the fcts about a person are to be incorported while writing a reference. No dodging, no fraud, no misrepresentation, no mere surmise or conjecture should be even attempted. Most of the difficulties have arisen on account of wrong information, causing embarrassment on all sides. Clear, simple, based on verifiable facts are the qualites of a reference. Honesty of mind and expression bring out a graceful reference. Brevity and not verbasity, rationality and not philosophy, truth in all aspects and not falsehood even of th eremotest kind mut be adopted. It is in wone word appreciation of the truth.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I need to write a reference letter soon. Your hub was very helpful. Thank you.

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 6 years ago from UK

      Very useful, thanks, I will keep this bookmarked!

    • gadhka profile image

      gadhka 6 years ago

      I need to write a reference letter soon. Your hub was very helpful. Thank you.

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