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 reference when writing your referral letter.
Keep reading for how to write a referral letter with examples.
A referral letter, sometimes called a letter of recommendation, is a letter you write about someone, regarding your personal experience of them. Usually, a referral 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 referral letter, 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 referral 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 applying for a new job. Not only is it not helpful, but there is also a precedent for employees who have been given a negative reference or referral letter to sue!
Take a look at the referral 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 if you wish.
This may include how long you’ve known the individual and in what context. You may also list the individual’s skills and qualifications.
Include information such as the tasks 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.
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”.
If the individual is applying for a particular job, you may wish to link their talents and positive qualities to the job specification. This includes the personal attributes that are listed as essential or desirable for the new role.
Your referral 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.
Address your letter to the organization’s representative (Dear Mr. Smith, for example), or, if it is a general referral letter, simply write, “To whom it may concern.”
Follow this with an introductory paragraph.
The subsequent paragraph or paragraphs should go into detail about the individual’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.
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 referral 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 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.
An 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 require any more information or insight. I look forward to hearing from you.
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