Reference Letter for Employment Example and Tips

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Have you recently been asked to write a letter of reference for a former employee, colleague or student? Job seekers will often ask a contact to write them a reference letter for employment.

Some employers require references when considering candidates for a position, while others may give preference to potential employees who can provide this evidence of satisfactory performance in a previous role.

If you are asked to write a reference letter, keep in mind that your goal is to prove that the person is a strong candidate for the job.


Simply expressing your admiration won’t be enough; the letter should focus on specific examples that show that the employee is a high performer.

The letter should also be professional in appearance, and be written in business letter format and edited well.

To learn more about how to write a reference letter for employment, see the tips and sample reference letter below.

Advice for Writing a Reference Letter

  • Think carefully before saying yes. Only say “yes” to writing a reference letter if you can write a positive letter for the person. If you do not know the person well or do not think you can confidently recommend the person for the job, you should say no. Remember that you’re never under any obligation to provide a letter of reference and that you have options for doing so tactfully. You might say, for example, that you aren’t familiar enough with the person’s work to offer a reference, or cite an employer’s policy about not providing references. (If, in fact, one exists. Don’t lie, or you’ll run the risk of getting caught and embarrassed in front of your colleague.)
  • Use business letter format. Follow business letter format for your letter. Include your contact information, the date, and the employer’s contact information. Address the job to the employer, or, if you don’t know to whom to address the letter, you can say “To Whom it May Concern,” or simply begin with your first paragraph.
  • Focus on the job description. Ask for a copy of the job description from the person you’re recommending. This way, you can focus on the specific requirements of the position. Try to include keywords from the job description in your letter. Even if you are writing a more general recommendation, you can still ask the employee about the types of jobs they will be applying for.
  • Include specific examples. In the cover letter, provide specific examples of times in which the employee demonstrated various traits or skills required for the job. If possible, use numbers to quantify their successes. For example, you might explain how much money the person made for your company, or how many customers the person interacted with on a daily basis.
  • Remain positive. State that you think this person is a strong candidate. You might say something like “I recommend this person without reservation,” or “I would hire this person again if I could.” Remember, 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 in the letter.
  • Follow the submission guidelines. Ask the employee how to submit the letter. 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.)

Customize and Format Your Letter

  •  Use a sample or template as your guide. It is a good idea to review letter of recommendation samples and letter of recommendation templates before writing your letter. Examples can help you see what kind of content you should include in your document, while templates can help you get a sense of the best layout and what sections to use (such as introductions and body paragraphs).
  • Make your letter easy to read. When formatting your recommendation letter, use single-spaced type with a space between each paragraph. Align your text to the left, and use 1-inch margins all around. Choose a traditional font such as Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Shoot for at least a page in length. If your letter is too short, it will look like you don’t know enough about the candidate to make a recommendation.
  • Customize your recommendation. While examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point to your letter, you should always tailor a letter example to fit the candidate’s work history and the job for which he or she is applying.

Reference Letter for Employment Example

This is a reference letter for employment example. Download the reference letter for employment template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Screenshot of a reference letter example
@ The Balance 2020 

Reference Letter for Employment Example (Text Version)

Jane Smith
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345

July 21, 2020

Hiring Manager
ACME Insurance
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to recommend Sharon Doe as a candidate for a position with your organization. In her position as Staff Assistant, Sharon was employed in our office from 2015 - 2020.

Sharon did an excellent job in this position and was an asset to our organization during her tenure with the office. She has excellent written and verbal communication skills, is extremely organized, can work independently, and is able to follow through to ensure that the job gets done.

During her tenure with our company, Sharon was responsible for supervising the department office assistants. These assistants, under Sharon's management, were responsible for many of the office's basic administrative and clerical functions.

Sharon effectively scheduled and managed several assistants to maintain efficient office operations.

She developed a training program for these assistants that led them to become well versed in office operations in half the time they used to.

Sharon was always willing to offer her assistance and had an excellent rapport with the many constituents served by our office, including clients, employers, and other professional organizations. Her ability to effectively communicate with all these people via email, on the phone, and in-person made her such an asset to our office.

She would add value to any company, and I recommend her for any endeavor she chooses to pursue. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Yours truly,

Jane Smith

Review More Reference Letter Examples

Here are more reference and recommendation letter samples for a variety of circumstances.

The Bottom Line

Only Provide a Reference if You Have Good Things to Say: If you can’t honestly vouch for the requester’s work, it’s best to decline.

Provide Specific Examples: Demonstrate that the person you’re recommending is an excellent candidate for the job.

Be Professional: Use business letter format and edit and proofread your final document before sending.

Follow the Submission Guidelines: Use the requested format and submission process, e.g. through an online application or via email.

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