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What is a Reference Letter? (+ Template)

A reference letter is a formal business letter, like a cover letter or letter of recommendation, where you vouch for another person’s qualifications, skills and professional character. This type of letter usually refers a person for a professional or academic opportunity.

Why are reference letters important? Most employers who request a letter of reference have only met the candidate a few times. Reference letters allow them to gauge a person’s qualifications and potential through additional people with existing relationships with the candidate. Follow this formula to write an effective reference.

Reference letter template

[Your Name]
[Your Title/Occupation]
[Your Company/Organization]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]


[Recipient’s Name]
[Recipient’s Title/Occupation]
[Recipient’s Company/Organization]
[City, State ZIP Code]

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

After careful consideration, I’m referring [Candidate’s Name] for [specific purpose, e.g., job position, academic program]. I worked closely with [him/her/them] for [x] years and can attest to [his/her/their] exceptional skills, dedication and positive impact.

[Candidate’s Name] possesses a unique combination of [specific skills, e.g., strong analytical skills, effective communication and leadership abilities]. [He/She/They] consistently demonstrated the ability to [provide specific examples, e.g., meet tight deadlines, lead successful projects, collaborate effectively with diverse teams]. Notable accomplishments include:

  • [Specific achievements or accomplishments with quantifying information like data, percentages or time saved.]
  • [Specific achievements or accomplishments with quantifying information like data, percentages or time saved.]
  • [Specific achievements or accomplishments with quantifying information like data, percentages or time saved.]

I truly believe that [Candidate’s Name] would be a tremendous asset to your organization and company culture. If you have any questions or want additional information, please contact me at [email and phone number].


[Typed Signature]

Recommendation letter format tips

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  • Contact Information

    • Add your professional name, job title, phone number and email.
  • Delivery Date

    • Add the date you post, email, or hand deliver your referral.
  • Addressee’s Information

    • Add the recipient’s name, title and employment mailing address.
  • Greeting

    • Use a formal salutation like “Hello” or “Dear [Mr/Mrs./Ms] [Recipient’s Last Name].”
  • Introduction

    • Open your letter by introducing yourself, your relationship to the recommendation, and one or two key skills related to the position.
  • Body of Letter

    • Keep up the momentum with evidence. Add evidence and data to illustrate your recommendation’s potential.
  • Conclusion

    • Invite the reader to contact you for additional information.
  • Signature

    • Professionally close your letter with a salutation like “Best regards,” “Thanks,” or “Sincerely,” followed by a typed signature.

How to Write a Reference Letter

  • Understand the purpose: Is your referral applying for a new job, academic admission or financial grants? The purpose of your reference letter is to guide how you describe and hype your referral.

  • Do your research: Once you understand the purpose of the referral, research the purpose and company culture of the organization. Take some time to interview your friend and identify key accomplishments, skills or personal reasons for pursuing these opportunities.

  • Pick the right format: A reference letter is a formal business letter — it needs to follow the same formatting rules as cover letters or letters of intent. All our reference letter templates and samples use proper formatting and white space to look good on screen and in print.

  • Highlight key qualities and achievements: Add a quick mention of key resume skills to the introduction, but use the second and third paragraphs to elaborate on accomplishments. Use data or evidence to help hiring committees or decision-makers understand the context behind these numbers.

  • Add context: Sharing proof of your referral’s accomplishments won’t do much less unless you highlight connections to the job or academic program. For example, a referral with strong critical thinking, debate and research skills would excel in law or politics. Visit our work history article to learn how to share and contextualize this information.

  • Be professional and formal: Avoid overly personal examples or irrelevant details unless you can highlight how they connect to the job.


Use Professional Templates from Our Cover Letter Builder

Consider using one of our professional cover letter templates — these designs follow formal business letter formats to elevate your words and lend personality to your referral.

6 Reference Letter Examples

These example recommendation letters can help personalize your letter.

Personal reference letter

Rosella Lara
Student Body President
Blue Ridge Union High School

November 15th, 2023

Mark Jacobsen
Committee Member
Shippey City Scholarship
123 Heany St
Shippey, WV

Dear Members of the City Scholarship Committee,

I wholeheartedly recommend my childhood friend, Angelina Shaffer, for the city-sponsored scholarship. Having known her for 14 years, I am confident in her dedication, work ethic, and commitment to civil service.

Ms. Shaffer demonstrated an exceptional commitment to our city through her extensive volunteer work. Over the past four years, she has contributed 120 volunteer hours to various city-related events, including Independence Day parades, clean-up weekends, gardening initiatives, and charity fundraising events.

Through her volunteer work, Ms. Shaffer developed a genuine passion for civic engagement and community improvement. She has been inspired by the civil service experiences gained through these events, fueling her ambition to pursue a future career in city management. I am confident that Ms. Shaffer is well-suited for the city-sponsored scholarship, which will undoubtedly contribute to her pursuit of a public administration degree at the local state university.

I’m glad to provide this character reference and hope you consider her potential. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact me at rosella.lara.24@pusd.edu.


Rosella Lara

Character reference letter for court

Lorene Boyer
Property Manager
Indiana Realty

Jan. 1, 2024

Judge Bertram Osborn
Small Claims Court
1 W Superior St,
Fort Wayne, IN 46802

Re: Character Reference for Jaden Fleming

Your Honor,

I am writing this letter to provide a character reference for Jaden Fleming, who was my tenant at 123 W Elm Ln from September 2020 to May 2023. As his previous landlord, I want to attest to his positive rental history and character.

Throughout his tenancy, Mr. Fleming consistently demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and respect for the property. Rent payments were made promptly and without issue. I attached evidence of the regular monthly payments made by Mr. Fleming, demonstrating how out of character the defendant’s claim was regarding their lack of payment.

On top of their regular payments, Mr. Fleming maintained the property well and promptly reported any necessary repairs or maintenance issues. Based on my experience as his landlord, I find Mr. Fleming to be an honest and responsible individual. If you have any further questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at hi.lori.boyer@email.com or 555-555-5555.


Lorene Boyer

Email reference letter for employee

Jan. 1, 2024

Re: Reference for Rowan Dixon – Internal Transfer Application

Dear Benjamin Yoder,

I understand that the social media department is looking for a new social media manager. I wholeheartedly endorse Rowan Dixon for an internal transfer to the position. As her current supervisor and direct manager, I am constantly impressed by her marketing insights, awareness of generational trends and rapid career development these last two years.

What sets Rowan apart is her commitment to continuous improvement. Despite being a full-time professional, she devoted the last two years to completing a master’s in Marketing Management. This dedication to furthering her career skills and her ability to repeatedly ideate and launch email marketing campaigns with a steady 42-63% engagement rate convinces me that she would be an invaluable asset to the social media team.


Iqra Roth
Senior Marketing Manager
BlueBike LLC

Professional reference letter

Kenneth Frederick
Project Manager
Light Engineering

Jan. 1, 2024

Fern Reese
HR Associate
123 Alphabet Rd,
Suite 500
Austin, TX

Dear Mr. Reese,

I’m writing to provide a professional reference for Alanna Grant, a current engineering employee and an invaluable team member for the last two years. Ms. Grant consistently displays a high level of competence and commitment to her role as a light engineer within our projector division.

Her attention to detail, analytical skills, collaboration skills, and advanced engineering and light theory degrees make her an excellent candidate for your corporation. The limited resources provided to our department make it difficult for us to execute her proposed improvements.

With your reputation and resources in projector development, you’d be an ideal location to develop her advancement proposals.

Thank you for considering Alanna Grant — please contact me with any questions at ken.frederick@email.com.


Kenneth Frederick
Project Manager — Light Engineering

Landlord reference letter

Ellena Carver
Pinkerton Rental Management

Jan. 1, 2024

Noel Pace
Property Manager
Clipper Property Management
123 Alphabet Way
Suite 400
Article, LA

Dear Mr. Pace

Louis Valencia consistently met all the lease agreement terms, including making timely monthly rent payments. He maintained the property in excellent condition, promptly addressing minor issues and reporting necessary repairs. Louis Valencia demonstrated a commendable sense of responsibility and respect for the property.

During his tenancy, Louis Valencia has been a pleasure to work with. He communicated effectively, notifying me of any concerns or maintenance issues promptly. Mr. Valencia is cooperative and courteous in all written and verbal interactions.

I am confident that Mr. Valencia will be an excellent tenant for your property. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions at e.carver@pinkertonrentals.com.


Ellena Carver

Immigration reference letter

Elizabeth Lang
International Reporter
1111 North Capitol St NE
Washington, DC 20002

Jan. 1, 2024

Santiago Norton
Immigration Officer
5900 Capital Gateway Dr.
Camp Springs, MD 20746

Re: Reference for Ruairi Carr – Immigration Application for Permanent Residence

Dear Mr. Norton

I am writing to provide a reference for Ruairi Carr, a highly esteemed foreign press reporter currently holding an I visa as a primary foreign correspondent with NPR. I wholeheartedly support her application for permanent residency in the United States.

Ruairi Carr has been an integral part of NPR for the past six years, serving as the primary foreign correspondent in the Middle East. Her role has been crucial in providing insightful and comprehensive coverage of complex issues in the region. She has often been our first reporter on the ground for notable events, including the withdrawal of American soldiers, the earthquake in Bangladesh and southeast Turkey, the investigation into shoddy construction, and the rebuilding efforts during recovery efforts.

Ruairi Carr’s work requires a global perspective, and she is seeking permanent residency to facilitate her ability to travel and report in additional regions. Her dedication to objective reporting has the potential to enrich the American media landscape by providing diverse perspectives on global issues.

Thank you for your time and consideration of Ruairi Carr’s application. She will be an asset to the United States, and I wholeheartedly recommend approval of her permanent residency application.


Elizabeth Lang
International Reporter

5 Tips for a Better Reference Letter

  • Use professional accomplishments: Although personal anecdotes can reflect a candidate’s personality, focus on quantifiable professional achievements that hiring managers can use to calculate a person’s profitable potential.

  • Focus on interpersonal skills: Hiring managers, property managers and academic departments want highly skilled employees who can positively interact with existing staff. Your reference letter should reflect social soft skills like communication, critical thinking and leadership skills.

  • Be honest: A reference letter should accurately reflect the candidate’s abilities and your working relationship. Exaggerating their abilities will only set them up for future failure within the new role and negatively impact your professional reputation.

  • Write with an active voice: Most hiring managers must work through 118 applications for a single position. That’s a lot of reading — using engaging language like action verbs and power words to add urgency and interest to your reference letter.

  • Use a screen-friendly format: Most business letters use a specific format to create ample white space and avoid eye strain. Take it a step further with screen-friendly fonts and font sizes.

Reference Letter FAQ

How do you add references to a letter?

You should have a separate list of at least three references if a potential employer asks for them.

Your reference page should include the following information:

  • Name of reference
  • Title
  • Employer
  • Phone number
  • Professional email

What are six details you should add to a reference letter?

Each letter should contain the following information:

  1. How do you know the person?
  2. What are you recommending them for?
  3. What are some positive accomplishments?
  4. Share evidence related to these achievements.
  5. Highlight their work ethic and reliability.
  6. Show genuine enthusiasm for the person.