A reference letter (a.k.a. letter of reference) is a letter in which the writer makes a general assessment of the qualities, capabilities and characteristics of a person.
The other usage of the reference letter (or letter of reference) is confirming details about that individual’s situation or circumstances.
There is a confusion between the terms “reference letter” and “recommendation letter“. They are different from each other.
The main difference is, reference letters are usually more general in nature and are not normally addressed to a specific requester.
Letters of reference are addressed as; “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.
You will almost certainly have to write a reference letter for someone at some point in your life. It might be a former employee, or a former student, or even a friend.
Keep in mind: a reference letter is a formal document. It is crucial that you don’t lie or fudge the truth in it. If so, it would be not ethic and there could be legal repercussions.
How to write a reference letter
- Start with a business letter format. Write the date and salutation ( ‘To whom it may concern’, or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’).
- It’s a good idea that introducing yourself with a few sentences. But keep this section short: just give a short brief explaining your position and your relationship to the candidate.
- Confirm that the person’s qualities and capabilities. If you are writing a reference for a job applicant, these details may be appropriate:
- The person’s job title and role within the company.
- When they were last employed by your organization, the person’s leaving salary
- From and until dates which the person was employed in your organization.
If the letter is for an academic course, confirm the person’s academic grades.
- State that you would willingly re-employ the person if the opportunity arose.
- If possible, use a paragraph to give a couple of concrete examples of times when the candidate excelled.
- Letter should be closed with a positive note. Don’t forget including your contact details.
- Never mention any weakness of the candidate.
- Keep a formal tone.
- Do not include unnecessary personal information.
- Avoid even minor spelling and grammar mistakes.