Reference Letter Examples

Samples and Templates for Writing Good References

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Have you been asked to write a reference for an individual or a business? Obliging is more than just a nice thing to do. It’s a helpful networking move, for both the recipient and the sender.

If you ever want to get a new job, apply for graduate school, or join a coop board, you’ll need people who’ll be willing to write you sterling letters of reference and recommendation. The best way to make sure that you have such people lined up is to be generous with your own time and write references for others.

Sold on helping out, but not sure where to start? Use these ideas and templates as a springboard to write your own reference letter for a friend, colleague, or business. Review academic recommendations, business reference letters, personal, and professional references and more below.

Reference Letters Examples

Business Reference Letters

You may be asked to write a reference for a business reference for a business associate, client, vendor, or other professional contact. These letters encompass many different kinds of endorsements. Depending on the circumstances, you may be asked to recommend a business or professional service, or attest to the quality of the work supplied by a contractor.

Business Reference Letters: Find out what to include in your business reference letter and see example letters that can help you guide your work.

Professional Reference Letter: Need another example of a professional reference letter? Look here for both hard-copy and email versions.

Professional Services Reference Letter: This letter provides a reference for a current or former contractor who’s seeking to sell their services to another organization.  

Character Reference Letters

Character reference letters are most appropriate for applicants seeking their first job; those who have little formal work experience; and for people who can't obtain references from a previous job for a variety of reasons. This type of recommendation is much less formal and can be written by a teacher, a coach, or a mentor. College and high school students who've done odd jobs like babysitting and dog walking can consider asking their employers for a reference letter.

The letter should highlight the skills and attributes that the writer knows firsthand and state why they'd recommend the person to a potential employer.

Important abilities to highlight include: motivation, dedication, honesty, responsibility, diligence, helpfulness, loyalty, and discipline. A character reference should be timely, relevant, and concise.

Character Reference Letter: This guide outlines the purpose of a character or personal reference letter and helps you decide whether it’s appropriate to write one. Includes a sample, as well.

Character Reference Letter: Find another sample letter and tips about writing an effective letter here.

Personal Reference Letters: Includes specific reference letter examples for character references, personal recommendations, letters for friends, etc.

Email Reference Letters

These days, you’re likely to send your reference letter by email. Learn how to format your letter for maximum effectiveness by reviewing these examples.  

Email Reference Letter Example: Find all kinds of email message formats for job searching, including reference letters, in this piece.

Email Reference Request Message: These samples will help you ask for a reference from an advisor or professor.

Email Message Requesting a Reference Example: Need to request a professional or personal reference for yourself? This sample email message will help you structure your request.

Employee Reference Letters

A solid employee reference letter consists of several parts: an introduction stating your position and relationship to the candidate; confirmation of his previous job title and salary; your assessment of the candidate's skills and qualities; and some specific examples of ways in which he excelled.

Employee Reference Letter: Get tips on how to write an employee reference letter and review a sample.

Employment Reference Letters: Reference and recommendation letters for just about every situation, including employees who’ve been laid off, summer employees, and general recommendations.

Employee Reference Letter from a Manager: Need to write a reference for a current or former report? Start here.

Former Employer Reference Letter: Provide a reference for a past employee with these tips and examples.

Layoff Reference Letter: Layoffs claim even the best employees. Help them get back on their feet with a new employer with this sample.

Letter Sample Asking for a Reference: Need to ask for a reference from a former boss, teacher, or coach? These tips and example can help workers who are just starting out.

Letter of Recommendation for an Employee: Help a former employee land a job with these tips and example.

Manager Reference Letter: Here are three examples of reference letters from managers to guide you in recommending a former report. 

Co-Worker Recommendation Letter: Want to help a current or former co-worker land the job of their dreams? Get guidance and a recommendation letter example here.

Letter Requesting Permission to Use a Reference: Many jobs ask for references during the hiring process. Line up yours ahead of time by sending requests based on this sample.

Positive Recommendation Letter: These samples will help you craft the kind of glowing recommendation that gets hiring managers’ attention.

Promotion Recommendation Letter: Help a colleague or direct report land a promotion, with these tips and examples.

Negative Recommendation Letter: Not all recommendation letters will help you get the job. Learn how to spot lukewarm or negative recommendations before you pass them along to a prospective employer. (Or: make sure the letter you’re writing doesn’t fall into this category.)

Academic Reference Letters

An academic recommendation letter highlights both scholarly strengths and personal character and will focus more. It paints an overall picture of the student's personal traits, performance, experience, strengths, and professional promise. This letter can also be used to explain a weakness or issue with a student's record.

Graduate School Reference Letter: Get a sample graduate school reference letter or thank a professor for providing one, with these tips and samples.

Academic Reference Letters​: Includes all kinds of academic reference letters, from college recommendations to grad school references.

Summer Employee Reference Letter: Write a reference for a seasonal worker using these tips and sample.

Teacher Reference Letter: These tips and sample letter will help you write a reference for a teaching position.

Online Contact Letter

LinkedIn Recommendations: Learn what makes a good LinkedIn recommendation with this guide.

Reference List Examples

It’s no longer necessary to include a line on your resume stating that “references are available upon request” – but that doesn’t mean that references are any less useful than they ever were.

You should always have a prepared list of references in your back pocket before embarking on any interview process. (This is also valuable information to share if you’re helping a colleague, report, or friend with their references and recommendations.)

Professional References Format: Here’s how to format a list of references so that a hiring manager can contact them during the process.

Sample List of References: Learn what to include in a list of references and when to send references with a job application, in this guide.