How To Write a Reference Letter for a Friend

Reference letter for a friend

Ashley DeLeon / The Balance

Do you need to write a reference letter for a friend or acquaintance? Someone you know may ask you to submit a personal (or character) reference for them. If you're job hunting, you may want to consider using a friend as a reference in addition to, or in place of, professional references.

character reference is a reference from someone you know personally, rather than a former employer. You might be asked to write a personal reference for a neighbor, acquaintance, advisor, or someone you volunteer with.

Review information on when to use a personal reference, what to include when you're asked to write one, writing tips, and examples.

When to Use a Personal Reference

People often use character references in addition or as an alternative to employment reference letters. However, if you're applying for jobs, unless an employer requests a personal reference, it makes the best sense to use employment, professional, or academic references if you have them. Those references may be better able to speak to your qualifications than a friend or family member.


People might choose to use a character reference if their work record is not perfect, or if it is their first job.

Below are tips on how to write a character reference for a friend, as well as a sample reference letter, and a template to download.

Before You Write the Letter

  • Collect information: Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter for a copy of his or her resume or CV so that you can speak to the person’s experience.
  • Think carefully about saying yes: Make sure you only agree to write the letter if you can write a positive recommendation. If you don’t think you can, tell the person you are not comfortable writing the recommendation. Here’s how to turn down a recommendation request.

What to Include in the Letter

  • Focus on the particular job: Ask your friend for information on the job they are applying for. This way, you can focus on the requirements of the position. Try to include language from the job listing, if your friend shares the listing with you. Even if you are writing a more general recommendation, you can still ask your friend about the types of jobs they will be applying for.
  • Explain how you know the person: In the introduction, briefly explain how you know the person, and for how long you have known him or her. You do not have to give details about how you met; you can simply say that you have known the person personally for however many years.
  • Include specific examples: In the letter, provide specific examples of ways in which the person has demonstrated various qualities. Try to use examples that fit the job for which the person is applying.
  • Remain positive: State that you think this person is a strong candidate for the position. Emphasize this both at the beginning and end of the letter. After all, you want to help this candidate stand out.
  • Share your contact information: Provide a way for the employer to contact you if they have further questions. Include your email address, telephone number, or both at the end of the letter.

Tips for Writing a Reference Letter

Review Samples and Templates

It is a good idea to review letter of recommendation samples before writing your letter. Along with helping with your layout, examples can show you what kind of content you should include in your document.

You might also look at letter of recommendation templates to get a sense of how to lay out your recommendation, and what to include (such as introductions and body paragraphs).

Follow Formatting Guidelines

There are also useful guidelines for formatting recommendation letters, including length, format, font, and how to organize your letter.

Tailor Your Letter to the Applicant

While examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point for your letter, you should always be flexible. You should tailor a letter example to fit your friend’s experience and the job or program to which he or she is applying.

Follow the Requester's Guidelines

  • Follow the submission guidelines: Ask the friend for whom you are writing a letter how to submit it. Make sure you follow any requirements, especially about where to send it and when, as well as the format (for example, PDF, physical letter, etc.).

Reference Letter for a Friend Template

This is an example of a reference letter for a friend. Download the reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for a text version.

Screenshot of an example of a reference letter for a friend
©TheBalance 2018

Reference Letter for a Friend Example

Xena Smythe
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345

July 14, 2021

Alexandra Clement
Designs by Alex
123 Business Rd.
Business City, 54321

Dear Ms. Clement,

I am writing to you regarding Suzanne Element. I have known Suzanne personally for over ten years, and have always known her to be an organized and responsible individual. I believe that her skills and experience make her an excellent candidate for office manager in your organization.

When I met Suzanne, she had just left an administrative position in a busy Fashion House, where she was responsible for bookkeeping, answering phones, and making appointments. She took such pride in her work there and even developed strategies for making her bookkeeping more organized and efficient.

During the time I have known her, Suzanne has been active in our community, serving on the Library Board and the Historical Society. She has taken many responsible roles in both of these organizations; her contributions include acting as Secretary of the Library Board and heading the Historical Society's Annual Fund Drive. She achieved multiple successes in both of these positions. For example, as head of the Historical Society’s Fund Drive, she helped raise 28% more funds than the previous year. Much of this had to do with her success in getting and organizing dozens of volunteers. Her passion, combined with her organization, makes her an asset to any organization.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me by phone or email.


Signature (hard copy letter)

Xena Smythe

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  1. CareerOneStop, "References." Accessed Oct. 12, 2021.

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