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Reference Letter Format

Format for Writing a Reference Letter


Signing document with fountain pen
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This reference letter format shows a typical reference letter. Your letter should provide information on your connection with the person you are recommending, why they are qualified and the skills they have.

The following format is appropriate for an employment reference, as well as a reference for graduate school. Use this as a guide for writing your own personalized reference letters (review samples), making sure all relevant information is included.

Reference Letter Format

If you are writing a personal letter of reference, include a salutation (Dear Dr. Smith, Dear Mr. Jones, etc.). If you are writing a general reference letter, say "To Whom it May Concern" or simply don't include a salutation.

Paragraph 1
The first paragraph of the reference letter explains your connection to the person you are recommending, including how you know them, and why you are qualified to write a reference letter to recommend employment or graduate school.

Paragraph 2
The second paragraph of the reference letter contains specific information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified, what they can contribute, and why you are providing a reference letter. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to provide details.

Paragraph 3
When writing a reference letter referring a candidate for a particular job opening, the letter will include information on how the person's skills match the position they are applying for. Ask for a copy of the job posting and a copy of the person's resume so you can target your reference letter accordingly.

This section of the reference letter contains a brief summary of why are you are recommending the person. State that you "highly recommend" the person or you "recommend without reservation" or something similar.

The concluding paragraph of the reference letter contains an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number within the paragraph, also include the phone number and email address in the return address section of your letter or in your signature.


Signature (hard copy letter)

Writer Name

Reference Letter Samples
It is helpful to review reference letter samples to see how reference writers have incorporated their recommendations into the reference letter template.

Reference Articles and Advice

Please Note: This sample is provided for guidance only. The provided information, including samples and examples, is not guaranteed for accuracy or legality. Letters and other correspondence should be edited to fit your personal situation.

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