Take Your Reference Letter Seriously
Being asked to write a reference letter is a serious commitment. A reference letter has the ability to make or break a candidate’s job prospects or chances of entering the university of their choice. It is the same as a recommendation letter. The only difference is that while the recommendation letter is sent to a known employer or institution, the reference letter is sent to an unknown employer, university or other organization. A character reference letter is a slightly different beast and if that’s what’s your looking for, you can check out our free template.
Those requesting a reference letter should do so only from people who know you and your skills. For example, your former professors, employers, community leaders and influential friends are all good choices. As they are likely busy people and also need time to evaluate your credentials, be prepared to give them a minimum of 7 days to write the letter.
During your conversation with those you’ve selected to write a letter for you, tell them everything about your accomplishments and goals. This information will help them write the right kind of letter for you. If you would like them to include any specific phrases or sentences in the letter, mention that too. It is not inappropriate to offer them a sample template letter for them to use. It is however inappropriate to insist that they use it if they wish to write their own unique letter. Make sure that they are aware of your deadlines. If you do not receive the letter within 10 days, don’t hesitate to visit them in person and give them a polite reminder.
How To Write a Letter of Reference
If someone asks you to write a reference letter for her, it is indeed a honor but also an important responsibility. Before accepting the request, ask yourself if you can honestly write positive things about the requester. If not, you should politely decline the request. On the other hand, if you believe that you are the right person to write the letter, discuss with the requester what she would like you to write in the letter. Are there any special skills or personality traits that the applicant would like you to highlight? Ask the applicant to give you a copy of her resume so that you can learn more about her accomplishments and educational or career history. Be sensitive to her deadlines.
How to Write a Reference Letter
Here are some good guidelines for writing letters of recommendation:
- Explain how you know the applicant and in what ways you believe that he or she stands out from the rest.
- List the applicant’s skills and qualities that you have knowledge of that would make them a good candidate for the position they have applied for. For instance, you can write about their competency in a specific field, their organizational and communication skills, relevant experience, etc.
- Do not write about the applicant’s weaknesses.
- State your own qualifications. If you don’t list enough of them, the reader may not be impressed with your reference letter. List your own contact information.
- Choose your words carefully. Words can have positive and negative connotations. Here are a few adjectives that leave a positive impression: exceptional, honest, sincere, articulate, impressive, commendable, superior, intelligent, effective, sophisticated, efficient, able, dependable, confident, significant, mature, observant, imaginative and innovative.
- Avoid adjectives and adverbs that leave a mediocre impression. Examples are: good, decent, nice, fair, fairly, enough, adequate, reasonable and satisfactory.
Take a look at some our free reference letter templates for specific types of letters such as a Letter of Recommendation For a Student.
Sample Character Reference Letter
A character reference is often requested for use in a job application, a court appearance or other situation requiring a third party to attest to the character of the individual concerned. It’s important to understand the circumstances and reason the letter is being requested before you begin to write. Below is a good example of a character reference letter written for a court appearance.
To Whom It May Concern
I have known [FULL NAME] as a [Colleague/Employee/Family Friend] for [X] years. During that time, I have always known him/her to be honest, sincere, dependable and a good family man (use suitable wording for the individual circumstance). I have never known [NAME] to be anything other than a man of integrity and to find himself in his current situation is completely out of character.
I am a [ 'local businessman', 'Managing Director', 'Community Leader' etc] in [town or city] and am writing this reference in support of [NAME] of my own free will and in the hope that the Court will take into account [NAME]‘s previous good character.
Check out our other free letter templates