Reference Letter Template

Employers Can Provide a Reference Letter That Follows These Guidelines

A reference letter template provides a guide for you to follow when you write a reference letter.
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Reference letters have become a staple in a society where employees move frequently, may know no one in a new region, and may live far from relatives and friends. The general guidelines for a recommendation letter apply to a reference letter, including knowing your employer’s policy about reference letters and following it.

No matter your relationship to the employee requesting the reference letter, if the common factor is your employment, you need to follow your employer’s guidelines.

Your employer's guidelines will generally cover who can write a reference letter. In the case of employment verification for a potential new employer, a bank loan, and so forth, the Human Resources department will take responsibility for responding.

In a reference letter for a potential new employer about the employee's skills and experience, or to attest to an employee's character, the reference letter is most often requested by the employee's manager or supervisor.

In any case, it is likely that the Human Resources office will want to review the reference letter and maintain a copy in the employee's personnel file.

Never, ever, write a reference letter for an employee unless you are comfortable recommending the person with few, if any, reservations. Your recommendation letter is a reflection of you. This applies equivalently to the practice of recommending people on LinkedIn.

Reference Letter Template

Here is a template for you to use as you write your own reference letter for an employee.

Address the Reference Letter: The reference letter is a formal document that should be printed on company stationery. If you know the name and address of the individual or company who will receive the reference letter, start with the name and address and Dear Mr. or Ms. and use the recipient’s last name.

If the reference letter is generic, address the reference letter to: “To Whom It May Concern.”

Start the Reference Letter: The first paragraph of the reference letter should explain who you are, why you are writing the reference letter and your relationship to the employee for whom you are serving as a reference. You may also, in certain circumstances, state why you are qualified to write the reference letter.

Confirmation of Employment Details: Generally, this section of the reference letter is the responsibility of the Human Resources office. With their support and complying with your company guidelines, provide the employee’s job title, salary, and dates of employment.

Write the Body of the Reference Letter: In the main section of the reference letter, describe the key responsibilities that the employee carried out in his or her job. This provides an overall description of the employee’s experience and areas of expertise. Your goal is to highlight key strengths that the employee demonstrated. Additionally, you want to describe significant contributions and deliverables that the employee provided your organization.

Then, provide your overall assessment about the employee’s contribution and value.

The statements should reflect that your assessment is for the employee’s performance at a certain point in time when you were familiar with the employee and his or her work performance.

This section of the reference letter is for statements of fact and evidence that your assessment is appropriate. Avoid over-flowery comments such as, “Mary was a terrific employee.” Or, “You’ll never regret hiring Mary.” (Crystal ball, anyone?)

Instead, say, “Mary was effective in building strong working relationships with other departments. She assumed the leadership role on teams that produced well-thought-out projections for product sales. Forward thinking, Mary contributed to the strategic plan of the department and assumed responsibility for monitoring and leading the assessment of the team’s progress on implementing the plan.”

Rehire Statement in the Reference Letter: It is helpful for a prospective employer when you state your intentions regarding the employee for whom you are writing the reference letter. Simply state that you would gladly rehire the employee you are recommending if circumstances and available openings allowed. The prospective employer or other interested entity will find this statement reassuring and affirming.

Reference Letter Closing: Finish the reference letter on a positive note. Example, “I am pleased that you are considering Mary for your open position.” State that the potential employer or other entity can contact you if he or she needs additional information. This statement is also reassuring and affirming for the entity receiving your reference letter and supportive of the employee for whom you are writing the reference letter.

Finish the Reference Letter: Sign the recommendation letter in ink and include your name, job title, phone extension, and email address.

These are the appropriate components of an employee reference letter.

What Not to Include in a Reference Letter

Observe certain guidelines when you write a reference letter for an employee. When you write a reference letter, you will want to avoid statements that:

  • Provide details that you may not know for sure. Provide anything other than factual information that you can directly, with personal experience, report. If aspects of the employee’s performance were outside of the confines of the employee’s employment with your firm, in your department, in areas with which you are personally familiar, make no statements. The state only what you know personally and for sure.
  • Predict the future. The only performance that you can remark on is the performance that you experienced while the employee worked for you. Anything else is crystal ball gazing and inappropriate for a reference letter.
  • Provide personal, protected, or confidential personal information of any kind such as social security number, race, religion, marital status, family composition, medical problems or age.

A copy of the reference letter, after a review by Human Resources staff, should be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

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