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How to write effective reference letters?

This article contains lucid information and tips for writing effective reference letters. Read the given points under the heading “6 Points to remember when writing reference letters”, and also go through the given 11 sample letters for better understanding.

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Reference letters can be best defined as those letters that are specially written for giving reference of a person to the recipient. Generally in includes lucid information about the qualities, characteristics, capabilities of a person, or confirms details about that person’s situation or circumstances.

It must be noted that reference letters are different from recommendation letters in the sense that recommendation letters are always addressed to a specific requestor but references letters are not generally addressed to a specific requestor and is addressed like “To Whom It may Concern”.

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6 Points to remember when writing reference letters.

  1. When writing a reference letter, you should not include any negative remarks/criticism or defamatory comments about the person for whom you are writing the reference as this could constitute libel. If you have nothing good to say about a person, it is better to simply decline to write a reference letter or say anything at all.
  2. Everyone has at least one or two good qualities; while writing reference, mention those qualities.
  3. If your company has systems/policies for managers or senior executives to write reference letters for employees or ex-employees, follow the procedure adopted by the company. Most such companies, for instance, require reference letters to be approved by the HR department.
  4. If you need a reference from your employer, it sometimes helps to draft one yourself for your manager or the HR department. Many managers do not have the time or are unsure about what to write, so ask if a draft reference letter would be helpful.
  5. If the addressee is not known or the reference letter is required for general purposes, use ‘To whomsoever it may concern’, instead of ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. Obviously, if the addressee is known, then use the full -name and address as this will increase the professionalism, and thereby, the credibility of the letter.
  6. Character reference letters should always be dated and to the point.

The overall quality of the reference letter reflects directly on the person that the letter refers to. Ensure you are acting within your authority if you are writing on behalf of an organization using the official letterhead. If, as a manager, you wish to give a reference but are not permitted to do so by your organization— which is very unusual—you might consider providing one in personal capacity on your own, private letterhead.

For all requests for writing reference letters, remember the maxim, ‘If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything bad’. The extent, to which you praise the person in a reference letter, depends on your own personal feelings. If you want to help the person a lot, then do so. Well-written, positive reference letters can be very helpful indeed.

Format of a Reference Letter

If you know the name and address of the company/person to whom you are to send the reference letter then write its/his (addressee’s) name and address. Write date also.

  • Use the salutation; Dear Sir, Dear Madam or Dear….. (Surname), if the person is known to you.
  • Use ‘To whomsoever it may concern’, if the reference is being written for general purpose or the person (addressee) is not known to you.
  • Write dates (tenure of employment) and capacity (post) of the person for whom you are writing reference.
  • Write about the person’s (subject’s) performance and attitude towards work in general; whether satisfactory/ exceeded expectations.
  • Also, mention the person’s responsibilities in the job.
  • Write in short, his/her skills, qualities, strengths and his overall impression upon you.
  • You can also offer to provide more information, if needed.
  • Use ‘Yours sincerely5 if writing to a named addressee, otherwise ‘Yours faithfully’.

11 Sample Reference Letters

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1. Reference letter for Employment purpose-template

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I confirm that Mr. /Miss/Mrs…… (Name) is/was employed as…… (Position) with our organization from…… (Date) to…… (date/the present day), [optional – and was/is paid Rs…………………… (salary) as basic salary].

His/Her job of…… (Position) carried the following responsibilities (describe briefly the responsibilities). Mr. /Ms. /Mrs…… (Name) is skilled in…… (Details of skills) and is also…… (Other attributes that you would like to add, e.g., reliable, dependable, a good communicator, etc).

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I consider him/her to be a valuable member of the team, (optional—who consistently achieves/achieved well results and delivers/delivered all expectations). I wish him best of luck and bright career in his future course of life.

Yours faithfully

Your Name

(General Manager)

2. Character reference letter

(Letterhead address to come here) Date: ……

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I have known Mr ./Miss/Mrs./…… (Name) for…… (Number) years. He/She has been associated with me…… (State how has he/she been associated).

As per my observation, he/she is …… (Mention attributes/ characteristics; e.g.,-reliable, hard-working, honest, peace- loving, courteous, etc. so as to be as helpful as possible. Think about what the reader will prefer to see, in terms of satisfying concerns, or seeing evidence of relevant required skills or characteristics).

Mr. /Miss. …… possess good character and I wish him/ her bright future.

Yours faithfully/Sincerely (as the case)

3. Trade reference letter

Sometimes, trade reference letter is needed to be written, for establishing someone’s creditworthiness and reputation in the eyes of other business people. Use a letterhead and mark the date on it. Write the name of the business firm for whom you are writing reference letter as—’Subject/Reg’.

Letters like this are usually begun with ‘To whomsoever it may concern’, which enables the reference letter to be used with different business people.

Such reference letters are usually written on letterhead. For Example:

Sample-Trade reference letter:

Address

Date…………………

To Whomsoever It May Concern

Reg: …… (name of the firm/company, in who’s favor the letter is

being written)

Regarding M/s… (name of the firm/company), I confirm that I have/had business association with them since … (year)/ for … (number of years). I found the dealings of the firm / company quite satisfactory/excellent/straight forward. They have always provided our business healthy support and kind help.

M/s. ……. are surely a solid and reliable suppliers of software spares and an expert in their field in my opinion and belief.

Yours faithfully

Your Name

4. Sample reference letter template for Creditworthiness of a firm

Date

To Whomsoever It May Concern

Reg : ……… name of the company/firm

Regarding M/s —————, I hereby confirm that this company/ firm has been dealing with us for the last —years and we found their dealings quite satisfactory. They are always prompt in payment and book clearance. In my opinion, the company/ firm is quite reliable, straightforward and creditworthy.

This information is being submitted without any risk and responsibility on our part.

Yours faithfully

(Name and title)

5. Reference Letter from a Manager with whom you have worked

It is usually typed on the letterhead of the company.

To Whomsoever It May Concern

…………………………………… (Employ Name) has worked with me as Sales Supervisor for three years. While working here, his responsibilities included marketing the goods and monitoring the sales figures for the district.

He established cordial rapport with our retail outlets, wholesale dealers and other personnel involved in sales and marketing of our products in the district. His ability to get work done through the network of retail and wholesale dealers has been outstanding. ………………… (Employ Name) is highly respected by the people who work under his supervision. He is a well organized person, thorough in his paperwork, and is always punctual.

………………… (Employ Name) has done an excellent job here and I would highly recommend him for a position with your organization. I wish him bright future. Please let me know if I can provide you with any further information.

Name

6. Positive Recommendation Letter

Sub: Letter of recommendation for Mr. ……………………… (Name)

To Whomsoever It May Concern

Mr. ……………………… (Name) has worked under my supervision as a Composer cum Assistant Editor from ……………… (date) to ………………(date). His responsibilities included compositional supervision, checking, writing briefs and assisting the senior editor. During the course of his employment, Mr. ……………………… (Name) proved himself a very capable, hard working and intelligent employee.

Mr. ……………………… (Name) always completed the work assigned to him on time if not before time. His compositional supervision was always fine and immaculate. We sometimes allowed him to write some briefs, he being an assistant editor; he was so accurate and perfect in his work that it prompted us to assign him more briefs to write. He has good writing skills and his writing work is clear, concise and realistic with a good command on language and no spelling mistakes.

In my opinion, Mr. ……………………… (Name) is a sincere, dedicated and hardworking employee. He has a good character. I strongly recommend for him an editorial position in a publishing company.

Name

7. Negative Recommendation Letter

Sub: Letter of recommendation for Mr. ……………………… (Name)

To Whomsoever It May Concern

Mr. ……………………… (Name) has worked under my supervision as a Composer cum Assistant Editor from …………(date), to ………………(date). His responsibilities included compositional supervision, checking, writing briefs and assisting the senior editor. During the course of his employment, Mr. ……………………… (Name) showed himself to be less than an ideal employee.

Although much of the work completed by Mr. ……………………… (Name) was satisfactory, but most of the assignments given to him were finished after the given time. Many of the compositional works prepared by him contained multiple errors. When we tried to mend him for his mistakes, he showed little desire to improve and demonstrated an overall resistance to any sort of critique of his work. Mr. ……………………… (Name)’s attitude at the workplace appears to be a major shortcoming.

Mr. ……………………… (Name) may have the potential to handle the job of an assistant editor but his reluctance to accept criticism prevents him from becoming a good editor. I would hesitate to recommend him for any such job where he might be required to accept commentary on his performance.

Your Name

8. Reference letter from an Erstwhile Boss/Supervisor

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I have known ……………………… (Name) for the last three years while she worked as a Junior Assistant in the Company’s Accounting Office. I have been consistently impressed by ……………………… (Name) attitude towards her work and her performance on the job. Her interpersonal and communication skills have allowed her to develop productive working relationships with our clients and the colleagues. She has the listening and interviewing skills necessary to extract information from our clientele while doing financial assessments.

She also possesses excellent writing skills and peculiar analytical skills to diagnose problems and devise their viable solutions. Her ability to remain unflustered and unperturbed during the busy and hectic schedule of working proves her ability to work well under pressure.

……………………… (Name) has a good character. I recommend her for employment in a better and more responsible position and wish her very bright future. Please let me know if you need any further information.

Your Name

9. Academic Recommendation Letter

Recommendation letter for admission to a college:

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I am glad to write a recommendation letter for ……………………… (Name), whom you are considering for admission to …….. College. I was ……………………… (Name) English teacher during her school days.

……………………… (Name) is an intelligent and energetic student, who was in the good books of all of her teachers. She also earned great respect, admiration, and popularity among her student peers. While maintaining a high grade point average throughout her school career, she also was constructively involved in numerous extracurricular activities. She also worked as the editor of the school’s monthly newspaper for three years.

I am confident that her outstanding skills as a writer, speaker and sincere worker will prove to be of great value to your college.

Please feel free to contact me if you need further information.

Your Name

10. Sample letter for Character Reference or Personal Reference

Character reference letter written by an acquaintance: ……………date

To Whomsoever It May Concern

I have known ……………………… (Name) for the last seven years. He has been my son’s physical instructor for the past seven years.

……………………… (Name) is a well organized, efficient and an extremely competent person. He can maintain good rapport with people of all age groups. He possesses good communication skills, both written and verbal.

……………………… (Name) is an intelligent guy and bears good character. He will prove to be a valuable asset for any organization.

Your Name

11. Personal Reference Check

——————– (Name of person, from whom the reference is required)

——————— (Address)

Sub: ……………………… (Name)

Dear Sir

The person named below has applied for the position of Sales Executive with our company and has named you as a reference. You are requested to answer the questions as mentioned below. Any information given by you, will be held in the strictest confidence.

……………………… (Name)

Address:

……………………

Reference queries:

1. How long have you known the applicant? ———–

2. Your relation with the applicant: —————-

3. Why do you think that ……………………… (Name) would be a good choice for this position? ——————

4. Are you aware of any reasons that could have a negative impact on his personality? —————

Signature

(Designation)

Date..

(Such letters are usually written on letterhead and in that case, name and address at the end of the letter are not required.)

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