You may be asked by a relative, friend or former employee to write a reference letter at some point in time. This may be necessary for the requester in searching for work, applying for an academic course, or even finding housing (many landlords require a letter of reference). You should only write a reference letter if you feel comfortable doing so, if you know the requester quite well, and can write a positive letter describing their skills, qualifications or other positive aspects of the individual. If you know the requester is not dependable or qualified, writing a reference letter would likely do more harm than good, as it would be difficult for you to write a letter that appears sincere and convincing.
1. Gather the information you will need before you begin. If you agree to write the reference letter, ask the requester for a list of skills, accomplishments, qualifications and other information necessary to write a compelling letter. If you are a former employer, this step won’t be necessary.
2. Format your reference letter in a professional manner. You will find a sample outline below; always write your letter using simple fonts that are easy to read. Use white or cream colored paper, and leave plenty of white space around the edges so that your letter looks clean and professional. If you are a business owner or former employer, write the letter on business stationery containing your business letterhead.
3. Proofread and edit. Once you have completed your letter, proofread it several times for spelling and grammar errors. Make any necessary changes before mailing the letter or giving it to the requester.
Sample reference letter
Title (if applicable)
City, State, Zip
City, State, Zip
Dear (Mr./Miss/Mrs./Ms.) followed by last name,
Introduce yourself in the first sentence and explain that you are providing a reference for the requester. Briefly describe your relationship with the requester of the letter, such as how you know them or how long you have been acquainted with them.
In the body of your reference letter, offer the details that you know about the person you are recommending. Include skills, relevant qualifications, characteristics or traits that make them a good candidate, etc. Include examples such as accomplishments in past employment, how the requester was a good tenant who paid on time each month, etc. The information you include here will vary depending on the reason you are writing the letter (housing, school application, employment, etc.).
Close your letter by thanking the recipient for their time; express your gratitude for their consideration of the requester.
Sign your letter by hand directly above your typed signature. Always keep your reference letter brief and concise so that it looks professional and can be read quickly by the recipient. With the information above, you will be able to write a reference letter that makes a good impression and may help the requester in achieving their goal.