Employment Reference Letter Sample and Writing Tips

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When you are a manager, assistant manager, or supervisor, you will inevitably encounter employees who are ready to move on in their careers.

You will likely be asked to write an employee reference letter when a valued member (or former member) of your team is making a job change. If you feel that you can write a glowing recommendation, you should accept the opportunity to support your colleague.

Before you agree to a reference request from a current employee, check with your manager or human resources department for company guidelines on providing employment references. Some employers only permit an HR representative to provide references in order to avoid legal liability.

How to Provide a Reference for an Employee

An employee reference letter can be an important asset to a candidate during the hiring process.

You can attest to the hiring manager that the candidate was successful in their previous position under your management and that, as their supervisor, you are willing to endorse them.

Ask for Information and a Resume

When an employee asks if you will provide a letter of reference for them, ask them to give you a copy of their resume and, if possible, copies of the job advertisements to which they are applying. These documents will give you additional information you can use to write a strong and effective letter of reference.

Not only will you have more information about the employee’s specific skills, training, education, and work history, but you’ll also then be able to focus on the specific skills and details that closely match the qualifications the employers are looking for.

How To Send an Email Reference

An email should begin with a subject line that reads "Joe Smith Recommendation" so that the employer immediately understands the purpose of the email. You don't need to include the date.

The body of the letter will be the same, but you should include your contact information after your typed signature instead of at the top of the letter.

Declining a Reference Request

Sometimes you may be asked to write a recommendation for an employee who you feel did not work to their potential or fulfill the requirements of the job. In that case, the best answer is to say no. Be kind, and politely decline the request.

You can tell them that you don't feel qualified to speak to the skills required in the new position, or that you don't have time to give the letter the attention and effort it deserves.

What to Include in a Reference Letter or Email

When writing your letter of recommendation, remember to do the following:

Provide specific examples. Don’t just tell the hiring manager that your employee has a given skillset. Give an example of a time when they used it to the company’s benefit. These anecdotes help illustrate your testimonial supporting the employee’s qualifications for the new position.

Include the proper information. Make sure your letter contains your contact information, date, and the contact information of the hiring manager at the top of the page. Use a business-appropriate salutation, and then begin your letter with an introduction explaining your relationship with the candidate, how long you have known them, and why you are qualified to endorse them.

Close your letter the right way. End your letter with a professional closing, and your written and/or typed signature.

Reference Letter Template

This is a reference letter example. Download the reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word).

Screenshot of an employment reference letter example

Reference Letter Example

The following is an example of a reference letter written for an employee by a manager.

Joe Smith
123 Main St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
555-555-5555
joe.smith@reference.edu

July 11, 2022

Mr. Michael Regner
Manager
Acme Company
456 Main St.
Philadelphia, PA 12345

Dear Mr. Regner,

It is my pleasure to recommend John Applicant. I have known him for two years in my capacity as Assistant Manager at Main St. Company. John worked for me on various projects as a consultant, and based on his work, I would rank him as one of the best consultants we have ever had. John distinguished himself by consistently submitting exceptionally well-researched and well-written reports for our clients.

John is highly intelligent and has superb analytical and communication skills. If his performance in our company is a good indication of how he would perform in yours, he would be an extremely positive asset to your program.

If I can be of any further assistance, or provide you with any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address listed above.

Yours Sincerely,

Signature (hard copy letter)

Joe Smith

Key Takeaways

  • Only agree to write a reference letter for a colleague if you feel that you can enthusiastically endorse their skills.
  • Be sure to check human resources policy before writing a reference letter, as some employers prohibit detailed recommendations.
  • Ask the employee for a resume and information about which qualifications will make the best impression on the hiring manager.

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