Reference Letter for Employment Example and Tips

Man signing a letter
Junophoto / Getty Images

Employees will often ask a former employer to write them a letter of reference for employment. If you are asked to write a reference letter, the letter should focus on specific examples that prove the person is a strong candidate for the job. Moreover, it should be written in business format and be well edited.

Below is advice on how to write a reference letter for employment, as well as a sample reference letter written by a former employer.

Also see below for more reference letter examples.

Advice for Writing a Reference Letter

  • Think carefully before saying yes. Only say “yes” to writing a reference letter if you can write a positive letter for the person. If you do not know the person well, or do not think you can confidently recommend the person for the job, you should say no. Here is advice on how to say “no” to someone who asks for a letter of recommendation.
  • Use business letter format. Follow business letter format for your letter. Include your contact information, the date, and the employer’s contact information. Address the job to the employer, or, if you don’t know to whom to address the letter, you can say “To Whom it May Concern,” or simply begin with your first paragraph.
  • Focus on the job description. Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter for a copy of the job description. This way, you can focus on the requirements of the position. Try to include language from the job description in your letter. Even if you are writing a more general recommendation, you can still ask the employee about the types of jobs they will be applying for.
  • Include specific examples. In the cover letter, provide specific examples of times in which the employee demonstrated various traits or skills required for the job. If possible, use numbers to quantify their successes. For example, you might explain how much money the person made for your company, or how many customers the person interacted with on a daily basis.
  • Remain positive. State that you think this person is a strong candidate. You might say something like “I recommend this person without reservation,” or “I would hire this person again” if you could. Remember, you want to help this candidate stand out.
  • Share your contact information. Provide a way for the employer to contact you if they have further questions. Include your email address, telephone number, or both in the letter.
  • Follow the submission guidelines. Ask your former employee how to submit the letter. Make sure you follow any requirements, especially about where to send it and when, as well as the format (for example, PDF, physical letter, etc.)

How to Use a Reference Letter Example

It is a good idea to review letter of recommendation samples before writing your letter. Examples can help you see what kind of content you should include in your document.

You might also look at letter of recommendation templates to get a sense of how to layout your recommendation, and what to include (such as introductions and body paragraphs).

There are also useful guidelines for formatting recommendation letters including length, format, font, and how to organize your letters.

While examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point to your letter, you should always tailor a letter example to fit the candidate’s work history, and the job for which he or she is applying.

Reference Letter for Employment Example

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to recommend Sharon Doe as a candidate for a position with your organization. In her position as Staff Assistant, Sharon was employed in our office from 20XX-20XX. Sharon did an excellent job in this position and was an asset to our organization during her tenure with the office. She has excellent written and verbal communication skills, is extremely organized, can work independently, and is able to follow through to ensure that the job gets done.

During her tenure with our company, Sharon was responsible for supervising the department office assistants. These assistants, under Sharon's management, were responsible for many of the office's basic administrative and clerical functions.

Sharon effectively scheduled and managed several assistants to maintain efficient office operations.

She developed a training program for these assistants that led them to become well versed in office operations in half the time they used to.

Sharon was always willing to offer her assistance and had an excellent rapport with the many constituents served by our office including clients, employers, and other professional organizations. Her ability to effectively communicate with all these people via email, on the phone, and in person made her such an asset to our office.

She would add value to any company and I recommend her for any endeavor she chooses to pursue. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Yours truly,

Signature (hard copy letter)

Jane Smith

More Reference Letter Examples
More examples of reference letters written for friends, co-workers, clients, employees, students, vendors, and professional connections.

What Else You Need to Know: How to Write a Reference Letter | Background Checks Character and Personal References | Will Employers Check Your References