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How to write a great reference letter

Updated on November 26, 2016

The letter of reference

It happens- you open your email and there is a request for a letter of reference. You know that a glowing recommendation letter can make or break a job application, but oftentimes when approached, you don't quite know what to say; here are some tips on how to write a reference letter, in case you ever receive such a request:

1. Start with a strong summary statement

2. Give detailed explanations and examples

3. Conclude with a comment on the person's potential.

Start with a strong summary statement

For example: "I have known Jane Smith for three years. She was hired as a clerk-typist by ABC Corporation on April 4th, 2008, and promoted to administrative assitant on August 1, 2008. I found Jane to be an intelligent young woman with excellent work habits and a strong knowledge of computer software".

Give details in your reference letter

Give a detailed explanation with evidence and examples in one or two paragraphs. Show and don't tell. Give some examples of how the individual demonstrated the positive skills and attributes you previewed in the opening.

For example: As an administrative assistant, Jane, handled routine duties such as time cards, ordering supplies and entering data. She also screened calls for two of our marketing specialists by answering some basic questions. In addition, she has compiled statistics I needed for my monthly reports and conducted research with very little direction. I need only to give her general instructions: she is fairly self-directed and can track down information quickly and summarize it accurately.

Remark on the person's potential

Give some concluding comments about the person's potential to be successful in his/her chosen career path based on your experience.

For example: "Jane has the potential either to become an executive assistant or to move into staff work, especially once she completes her degree. I feel she will be an asset to any organization she chooes to join" .


Writing a reference letter doesn't have to be difficult. If you remember these three key parts of the letter, the summary preview, the detailed explanation, and the concluding statement you can enhance the application of a worthy candidate and improve his/her chances of success. in a competetive job market.

business letter format

how to write a letter of reference


Submit a Comment
  • Rhonda_M profile imageAUTHOR

    Rhonda Malomet 

    7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    Structure is two thirds of the battle. If the person fails, it's because of their efforts. In the letter just try to represent their best qualities and positive traits without exaggerating.

  • jpcmc profile image

    JP Carlos 

    7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

    I sometimes fear writing reference letters as it may reflect my own judgement if the person fails in the position. It's nice to have a structure when writing such a letter and this hub of yours clearly outlines what must be included.


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