How to Write a Reference Letter

If you have ever been asked to write a reference letter, you know it can be a challenging task, even when the letter is for someone you are particularly fond of. Reference letters can be professional or personal. They are often requested from people who have supervised, worked with, taught, or collaborated with someone who is trying to get hired for a job or participate in a club or event. If you are asked to write a reference letter, take some time to think about whether you want your name linked to the subject of the letter. If you are uncomfortable giving someone your stamp of approval, it is better to pass on writing the letter, instead of trying to come up with nice things to say and risking your own reputation.

Personalizing the Letter

Once you decide writing the letter is a good idea, find out where you will be sending the letter. Some people only want a general letter they can use for all purposes, but when you can, provide a letter that has been personalized. This shows you took the time to speak with the subject of the letter and it shows that the subject is taking the current opportunity seriously. A personal letter has more credibility than a general piece of work. The name and address should be placed in the upper left hand corner of the letter below the date.

Content of the Letter

Begin your letter by mentioning how long you have known the subject and how the two of you met. This establishes credibility because it gives some background information to the reader. The longer you have known someone the more opportunity you have had to see their behavior and determine how they handle difficult situations. You can also include a few details about your self at the beginning. This lets the reader know you are a respectable member of society and they can use your word to help them make their decision.

Next, name a few of the qualities that make the subject of the letter stand out. He or she might be particularly suited for a position because of previous work they have done or experiences they have had. You can list characteristics of their personality or work they have done if it applies to the current situation. Usually no more than five qualities are enough to make a powerful impact on the reader.

In most cases, you will want to avoid mentioning the race, religion, national origin, gender, or marital status of the subject of the letter. There are some instances in which these facts would apply, so do not assume these things can never be mentioned. Think carefully about the situation and speak with your friend about any concerns you might have. If she is trying to gain a position on a church committee, obviously mentioning her faith and dedication to her religion might be appropriate.

Length of the Letter

If you can, limit the length of the letter to no more than a single page. You are not trying to go into elaborate details or give a complete history. The goal of a reference letter is to point out the best things about a person. If you rattle on and give unnecessary information, your letter will lose credibility. Sign your letter and include your contact information so the reader can reach out to you if he or she has any questions. Finally, make sure you proofread the letter so there are no mistakes.