Reference Letter Samples and Writing Tips

Sample References, Reference Lists, and Letters Asking For a Reference

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Do you need to request or write a reference? Both tasks can be difficult. If you're asking for a reference, you have to know who you can ask, and how to word your reference request. If, on the other hand, you are writing a reference letter, you'll need to know how to format it, and what information to include. 

Unlike the rest of an application, a reference letter provides information about the candidate from an outside source, providing details about qualifications, skills, traits, and abilities, as well as listing achievements, and giving a somewhat personal perspective of the candidate. A well-written recommendation letter endorses the candidate's qualifications for an internship, job, college, graduate school, or other employment, experiential or educational experience.

Reference letters can be required for many different reasons:

  • Companies sometimes ask for reference letters for candidates under consideration.
  • Schools often require a reference as part of an application
  • Certain professional organizations may require a reference, as well as lenders, landlords, or coop or condo boards. 

There are four different types of references:

  • Academic references are from teachers, professors, academic advisors, or someone else who knows you in an educational capacity.
  • Employment references are from previous employers, co-workers, clients, vendors, or someone else affiliated with your past or current employment.
  • Personal references are from someone who can attest to your skills and attributes.
  • Professional references are business references from someone who knows you in a professional capacity.

How to Write a Reference Letter

Review guidelines for how to write a reference letter, including what to include in each section of your letter and the best way to format and send or upload it.

Reference Letter Template

Review an example of a reference letter written by an employer and download a template (compatible with Google Docs and Microsoft Word). Also see below for more samples of recommendation letters based on position and relationship, as well as information on how to format reference letters and more templates you can download.

Reference Letter Example

Jane Williams
Pacific Corp
47 Ocean Street, Suite 12
Los Angeles, CA 90001
(555)456-7890
jane.williams@email.com

January 5, 2019

Andrew Lee
Atlantic Operations, Inc.
41 East 14th Street, Fourth Floor
New York, New York, 10001

Dear Andrew,

John Wilson has worked for me here at Pacific Corp. for four years. He started as an intern and quickly rose to an administrative position while still attending classes at Ocean Community College.

He quickly became one of our most valued employees, the person everyone went to with questions and special projects. His dedication and willingness to work long hours to get the job done have made him a favorite team member for everyone on staff.

I highly recommend John for your assistant position. In his time at Pacific, he has shown the technical, organizational, and interpersonal skills that make for a truly exceptional administrative assistant. In particular, I know that you’re seeking someone with exceptional customer service and telephone skills, as well as the ability to get up to speed quickly with proprietary software. John offers all these skills, plus adaptability and grace under pressure.

We will miss having John on our team, but our loss can be your gain. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Best regards,

Jane Williams (written signature)

Jane Williams (typed name)

Reference Letter Samples

Review the sample reference letters here - including academic references, personal references, and letters asking for a recommendation - to help you write your own. Plus, review guidelines and tips for requesting and writing reference letters. There is also information about how to create lists of references.

Character / Personal Reference Letter Samples

Use these examples if you need to write a personal reference letter.

For this type of letter, include information on how you know the person, their qualifications and characteristics, and whether you'd recommend them.

Academic Reference Letters

An academic reference letter will highlight a student's strengths. Information on grades, attendance, and class participation, as well as any specific examples of strong papers or research, is relevant to include in this type of letter.

Letters Requesting a Reference

Asking for a letter of reference can feel intimidating. Learn how to politely request a reference, as well as what information to pass along to the person writing the recommendation.

Sample Reference Lists

During a job interview, you may be asked to provide references. See examples of how to format your list of references, and who to include on the list.

Reference Checking Letter Example

Are you an employer who needs to check a candidate's employment references? Use this sample letter to help you format a request to check an applicant's references.

Article Sources

  1. CareerOneStop. "References," Accessed Nov. 15, 2019.