How to Write (Format) a Reference Letter (with Samples)

A Reference letter or a Letter of Recommendation serves the purpose of validation from a person’s acquaintances about their characteristics, capabilities, strengths, qualities, skills, experience, accomplishments and traits suitable for taking up the desired job or task. The reference letter explains to the reader as to why should you be hired to their organization, Why should you volunteer for a cause, or take up an internship or even get admission to a decent school or college. A reference letter is usually written by a colleague, family friend, teacher, professor, principal, vendor, ex-employer and the like. The document could be as elaborate as two pages and as concise as one page. It is definitely required at some point in a person’s career and instead of formatting and jotting down a reference Letter, it is only good to keep a draft handy which can be altered according to the requirement.

Sample Letters

Download sample reference letters given below and increase your chances of creating a compelling reference letter. These sample letters provide many technical benefits, such as saving time and ensuring a well-structured format.

Sample Reference Letter from Employer

Free Sample Reference Letter for a Friend

Reference Letter for Employee Word Sample

Reference Recommendation Letter Template Word

    Types of Reference Letters

    There are three main types of reference letters or letters of recommendation wherein your near ones vouch for your expertise, character and interpersonal skills. The three types are personal, academic and employment. Gone are the days when people were asked to assess the candidates on different parameters and write a long 2-page reference letter. A paragraph would suffice in today’s time but a common draft would be just near-perfect. For the dream job, for a scholarship, internship, school, college, etc., a reference letter is a must.

    The Actual Purpose

    The testament of adjectives describing a person for securing a post is the purpose of a letter of recommendation. The ultimate and primary purpose of writing a recommendation letter is either performing a certain task, securing an internship, successfully completing graduation, traveling to a country, etc. The purpose is enough reason for a person to keep a draft of a reference letter at all times.

    Elements of a Professional Reference Letter

    An informative and ideal professional reference letter is the one that focuses on elements such as the candidate’s description, a brief paragraph on experience and track records, future prospects, expectations, traits, qualities and accomplishments of the candidate. The writer mustn’t go overboard praising the candidate or be exaggerating certain accomplishments that are mentioned differently in the resume. Needless to say, these elements are the foundation stone of a sound reference letter without which the understanding of the qualifications and traits is limited.

    Steps to format a Reference Letter

    The reference letter should highlight the sender’s name and receiver’s name and address, subject, the contact information of both the parties and signature besides stating the purpose of writing the recommendation letter. Each paragraph encompasses important summary about the candidate which can be best described this way:

    1. Salutation and Contact Information

    It is important to mention the Contact Information in the top right corner of Letter Head so that the Letter doesn’t get misplaced. If there’s no particular person you wish to address this to, start off with “To whomsoever, it may concern”. The salutation and greeting should be short and sweet.

    2. First Paragraph

    The first paragraph essentially includes a first-person account by the writer about his/her relationship with the candidate and how they know each other. The paragraph must educate about the many reasons the writer is qualified enough to write the letter, vouching for the candidate’s accomplishments and traits.

    3. Second Paragraph or the main content

    This paragraph includes the details of the candidate which includes their professional experience, their accomplishments in the relevant field, their characteristics, expectations, and prospects according to the writer on the professional front, strengths and weaknesses, qualities educational qualifications, certifications and general background of the candidate who is writing the letter.

    The writer should be specific and accommodate as many important details as possible in one or two pages. The writer must share anecdotes and instances about the candidate from the relevant field and explain how they handled the situation or performed beyond the expectations of the employer. There should be enough information that the reader is left with no questions to ask but simply consider the application for the purpose. However, it should be concise and short at the same time. No one from a senior position has the time to waste it reading unimportant things about the candidate.

    For preparing a generic draft, use blanks and pointers which can be filled later as and when required for a particular purpose. Just slight changes and alterations here and there, and you’re good to go. The paragraph can be split into 2 or 3 for ease of formatting and reading.

    A quick tip: explain why the candidate wants to secure the post or get admission and the primary purpose of the reference letter this one will help the person reading this to understand the content of the letter.

    4. Last Paragraph

    In the last paragraph, the writer can suggest to furnish more information and provide contact details so that the reader can reach out for discussing it in person to check the authenticity and depth of information so provided. The
    writer can give the reason for writing a reference letter for the candidate and that the writer has no personal interest whatsoever in helping a friend in securing a job or applying to a college, initiating to volunteer, seek an
    internship, travel to a country, etc.


    The reference letter is a comprehensive resume for a prospective candidate written by a friend, colleague, previous employer, mentor, teacher, etc. The idea is to give out all the necessary information while acquiring a limited space. A quick recap to recount the steps of writing a reference letter include salutations, greetings and contact information followed by a second paragraph which encompasses the details about the candidate, their aspirations, achievements,
    background, qualifications, qualities, traits and ideal answers to how’s and why’s of the employer.

    The last paragraph should state the contact information of the writer so that the reader can contact them for cross-verification. The writer must mention and recommend candidate selflessly. It cannot be emphasized enough that use the aforementioned steps generically would save you a lot of time and energy used in creating a new reference letter each time you apply somewhere.

    About This Article

    Zhaniece Hill
    Authored by:
    Human Resources Specialist | Masters of Business, MBA, BAS Operations Management and Supervision
    Zhaniece Hill, an accomplished author, and writer, possesses an extensive 9-year journey as a seasoned Human Resources professional. With a Master's degree in Business Administration, Hill's profound insights into human capital management have been shaped by a diverse background spanning public and private sectors. Expertise in talent acquisition, onboarding, employee engagement, and benefits define Hill's remarkable HR acumen. With an unyielding focus on results, Hill's legacy is characterized by innovative HR solutions that elevate employee satisfaction, retention, and overall business performance. Continuously seeking fresh challenges, Zhaniece Hill utilizes her expertise to create a lasting impact in the realm of HR.

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