How to Write a Referral Letter With Template

Has an employee, friend or colleague asked you to write a referral letter for them? Are you unclear what that means and what form of words to use? Handwrytten is here to help!

Find out what a referral letter is and the key content that should be in one. We’ve also provided some useful examples, which you may use as a reference when writing your referral letter.

Keep reading for how to write a referral letter with examples.

What is a Referral Letter?

A referral letter is known by many names:

  • A letter of recommendation
  • A recommendation letter
  • A reference letter

It is a letter you write about someone, regarding your personal experience of them. Usually, a recommendation letter is written in the context of employment. Someone applying for a new job may ask you to write a referral letter for them, in order to strengthen their application.

Note that a referral letter is different from a reference, in that you are positively recommending someone for a position. It is something job candidates will use as part of their application process to help them stand out from the rest. In contrast, a reference is something that new employers will request from a previous (or current) employer. References are usually neutral in nature, including details of attendance, punctuality, sick leave, promotions, and similar quantifiable information.

If you are asked to write a letter of recommendation, it’s important that you feel able to comment honestly and positively on the person‘s work performance and your experience of them. If you don’t feel able to do this, it’s best not to write a recommendation letter. You may wish to provide a neutral reference instead.

It’s important to avoid saying anything overtly negative about an individual, particularly when they’re a former employee applying for a new job. Not only is it not helpful, but there is also a precedent for other employees, who have been given a negative reference or referral letter to sue!

Sections of a Referral Letter

Take a look at the recommendation letter headings you should include as part of your communication. Note that these are just a guide – there’s no reason why you can’t add additional information and/or examples of reference letters if you wish.

Background Information

This may include how long you’ve known the individual and in what context. You may also list the individual’s skills and qualifications.

Your Experience with the Individual

Include information such as contact details, the tasks and special projects they’ve completed, and the added value they bring to these tasks. Detail the attributes this individual possesses which make them such a great employee/co-worker/boss.

Anecdotes to Back Your Claims

Rather than simply stipulating someone’s good points, it’s helpful to use anecdotes to illustrate them. For example, “John Smith is an exceptionally hard worker. During a busy period last year, when we were short-staffed, he regularly took on additional work and completed it to the same high standard as everything else he does”.

Demonstrate How the Individual Fulfills a Job Specification

If the individual candidate is applying for a particular job, you may wish to link their talents and positive qualities to the job specification. This includes the applicant’s strengths and personal attributes that are listed as essential or desirable for the new role.

Referral thank you example for businesses

Outline of a Recommendation Letter

A letter of recommendation should be organized in the following format:

At the top of the page, include both your address (on the top left of the page), and that of the person to whom the letter is addressed (not the person you are writing about), if you have it. Typically that would be a representative from the organization to whom the person is applying for employment – ensure to include the recipient’s title.

Address your letter to the company or organization’s representative (Dear Mr. Smith, for example), or, if it is a general recommendation letter, simply write a brief introduction such as, “To whom it may concern.”

Follow this with an introductory paragraph.

The subsequent paragraph or paragraphs should go into detail about the individual applicant’s qualities, achievements, and why they’re the best fit for the job. Remember to include anecdotes to back up your statements.

Your final paragraph should provide a summary of what you’ve written in previous paragraphs.

The letter closing should be a formal one, details of which are provided here. If you are unfamiliar with writing formal letters, this covers the basics.

Ensure that the letter of recommendation’s recipient is taken into account; if it is meant to be a more formal referral, a closing like “with love” is not suitable.

Important Context to Keep in Mind When Writing A Letter of Recommendation

When you are writing, or are asking someone to write recommendation letters, you must keep in mind that hiring managers care more about who you are as a person than just your qualifications.

In any high-level job, there are going to be dozens of candidates who share the same enthusiasm and a similar skillset, meaning the core thing that sets you apart is your personality. A strong letter will focus on this point, and will point out how you stand out in the workplace.

Emphasizing that previous employers  consistently saw the positive impact you had in the workplace is key to writing an effective letter. This means focusing on things like your work ethic, how co-workers felt about working with you, and if you might be a good fit are important to note.

Reference Letter Example

This is an example of the wording that would typically be used when writing a referral letter. Remember to keep the content relevant and concise. Ideally, a recommendation letter should be a single side of the paper, and certainly no more than two sides. Aim to keep your content minimal, while communicating important information.

Dear [Organization Representative],

I am delighted to recommend [Individual’s Name] for the position of [position].

[Individual’s Name] worked as [job title] for [period of time]. [Name of individual] has a wealth of skills and knowledge, including [provide specific examples of relevant qualifications and key achievements]. As their [your position or relationship to the individual], I was very impressed by the [key qualities] [Name of individual] displayed.

A very valuable asset to any team, [Name] offers [a number of “hard” skills, such as extensive knowledge of a particular subject area, specific technical skills]. In addition, they are [list some soft skills here, such as a team player, friendly, empathetic, a good listener, innovative or similar].

[Name] demonstrates a formidable knowledge of [subject]. They were [now provide an example of where they used this knowledge]. An example might be: John demonstrates a formidable breadth of copywriting experience. Whilst with our team he wrote several e-books, numerous press releases, web content, and a series of marketing emails that boosted response rates for one of our clients by more than 97%.

Repeat this formula (state the person‘s skill or attribute then provide an example to illustrate this) for as many paragraphs as required.

In summary, I have no hesitation in recommending [Name] for the position of [position]. They are an accomplished [job title] as well as a fantastic [personal or soft quality].

Please get in touch if you have any further questions or insights. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]

Extra Sample Referral Letters

Here are a few generic sample referral letters you can use for specific situations. In between brackets are where you should be editing and putting specific, relevant terms to you and your situation.

Software Developer Referral Letter

Dear [Hiring Manager],

It is with great pleasure that I recommend [John Doe] for the position of Senior Developer at your company. [John] was an integral member of my team at [XYZ Corporation] for the past five years, during which time he consistently and effectively exceeded all expectations.

[John]’s technical skills and knowledge are vast and his attention to detail is impeccable. He has a wealth of experience in software development, including web applications, mobile apps, and databases, as well as a deep understanding of coding languages such as [C++, Java, and Python]. He quickly gets up to speed on new technologies and never hesitates to take on challenges. On top of this, he brings creativity and innovative solutions to complex problems while still adhering to tight deadlines.

[John] is also a great team player and always extremely hard working. His eagerness to learn, coupled with his strong work ethic, makes him a valuable asset to any organization. I am confident that [John] would be an excellent addition to your development team and will be a great resource for many years to come.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need further information about [John]’s qualifications or skillset – I’ve included my contact information below.


[Your Name  (Former Hiring Manager)  XYZ Corporation]

Lawyer Example Recommendation Letter

Dear Ms [Recipient],

I am writing to you to recommend one of my former colleagues, [John Doe]. I have known [John] for [four] years and worked with him as a lawyer at [ABC law firm].

[John] is an outstanding professional and his qualifications are excellent. He graduated from [XYZ Law School] with honors and has been practicing law for [seven] years, specializing in [corporate law]. His knowledge of [contract law] is exceptional; he was the go-to person when [complicated legal issues] arose in our office. Additionally, he is very organized and detail-oriented which allows him to complete tasks efficiently and competently.

[John] also possesses great [interpersonal] skills; [he’s incredibly friendly and always willing to help others]. He interacts well with clients, colleagues, and other legal professionals. He is able to explain complex concepts in an understandable way and is always willing to answer any questions that arise.

In short, I cannot recommend [John] enough for the position of a corporate lawyer at your firm. His skill set and qualifications make him an ideal candidate and a great asset to any team. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information.


[Your Name (Former Colleague) ABC Law Firm]

Financial Manager Letter of Recommendation

Dear [Organization Representative],

I am writing to you to recommend my former associate, [Individual’s Name]. I have known [Individual’s Name] for two years and worked with him in the financial department at [XYZ Corporation].

[Individual’s Name] has excellent educational qualifications; he graduated from [ABC Business School] at the top of his class and then went on to obtain a [Master’s degree in Finance] from [XYZ University]. He also has [seven] years of experience working as a [financial manager] in various industries. His expertise lies specifically in [budgeting, forecasting, financial analysis and project management].

[Individual’s Name] is highly organized and meticulous when it comes to managing finances. He pays close attention to detail and always seeks out potential areas for improvement or cost savings within the business. He is also highly efficient and adept at working with tight deadlines. On top of this, he has strong [communication] skills and can effectively collaborate with other members of the finance team.

On a personal level, [Individual’s Name] is an extremely reliable and dependable colleague. His enthusiasm for learning new skills and taking on challenging tasks makes him a great asset in any organization. I am confident that he would be an excellent addition to your team as a financial manager and will be a valuable resource for many years to come.

If you need any more information about [Individual’s Name]’s qualifications or skillset please do not hesitate to reach out to me. My contact information is included below.


[Your Name (Former Colleague) XYZ Corporation]

Market Research Analyst Referral Letter

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I am writing to you to recommend my former colleague, [John Doe]. I have known [John] for [three] years and worked with him as a [market research analyst] at [ABC Corporation].

[John] is an incredibly talented professional; he graduated from [XYZ University] with honors and has several years of experience in the field. He has extensive knowledge of various marketing tools such as [Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Adobe Marketing Cloud].

[John] simultaneously exhibits excellent [analytical] skills which allow him to quickly assess challenges and provide accurate solutions. He is very organized and detail-oriented; his ability to break down large amounts of data into meaningful insights helps inform key decisions. On top of this, he is a creative and innovative thinker which aids him in developing effective strategies.

On a personal level, [John] has always been an enthusiastic team player; his positive attitude and willingness to help others make him an asset in any work environment. He is also highly adaptable and can easily adjust to new situations or processes with ease.

I am confident that [John] would be an excellent addition to your team as a market research analyst and will be a valuable resource for many years to come. If you need any more information about [John]’s qualifications or skillset please do not hesitate to contact me.


[Your Name (Former Colleague) ABC Corporation]

Letter of Recommendation for a High School Teacher

Dear Hiring Committee,

I am writing to you to recommend my former colleague, Mrs. Jane Smith. I have known Mrs. Smith for four years and worked with her as a high school math teacher at XYZ High School.

Mrs. Smith is an incredibly talented professional; she graduated from ABC University with honors and has several years of teaching experience in the field. She has extensive knowledge of mathematics and is well-versed in curriculum development, classroom management and assessment strategies.

Mrs. Smith simultaneously exhibits a deep understanding of the subject matter as well as an ability to make complex problems more easily understandable for her students. She is also very organized with an eye for detail which helps her create engaging and effective lesson plans. On top of this, she is patient and encouraging with students, motivating them to work hard and reach their full potential.

On a personal level, Mrs. Smith has always been an enthusiastic team player; her positive attitude and willingness to help others make her an asset in any educational environment. She is also highly adaptable and can easily adjust to new situations or processes with ease.

I am confident that Mrs. Smith would be an excellent addition to your team as a high school math teacher and will be a valuable resource for many years to come. If you need any more information about Mrs. Smith’s qualifications or skillset please do not hesitate to reach out to me.


Your Name (Former Colleague) XYZ High School

Write a Formal Letter of Recommendation that Stands Out

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Reach out to contact the team at Handwrytten to find out more about the benefits of personalized, handwritten letters.

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