Whether you are a student who needs a letter of recommendation for an application or a reference writer who is not sure how to format the letter or what to include, the following samples can help.
Below, you'll find examples of academic recommendations, personal recommendations, letters asking for a recommendation, and lists of references. Also review what to include when you request a recommendation letter from a teacher or professor, and tips for writing a reference letter for a student.
Requesting a Recommendation Letter
When you request a letter of recommendation (sometimes also called a letter of reference), be sure to remind potential letter writers how they know you, and give them information on why you need the letter (for example, tell them the types of job you will be applying for).
You might also provide the person with your most up-to-date resume or CV. These details will make it easier for them to write a personalized and targeted reference letter.
You should also provide all the information the person needs regarding how to submit the letter, what to include (if there are any requirements) and when it is due.
Finally, if the person agrees to write you a letter, remember to follow up with a thank-you letter.
Reference Request Examples
- Sample Letter Requesting a Reference
- Reference Request Email Example
- Letter of Recommendation Request for a Professor
Writing a Recommendation Letter
When writing a reference letter, be sure to explain how you know the student, and describe some of the qualities that make him or her a good candidate for the job or school. Use specific examples to demonstrate how the person has shown those qualities.
Focus on the specific job or school the person is applying for. Try to include qualities and examples that will help them get that position or get into that school.
Finally, feel free to ask the person for whom you are writing the letter for more information. You might ask to see the job listing, their resume, or a list of their related coursework.
What to Include in a Recommendation Letter for a Student
If you’re writing a formal printed letter, include your contact information, as well as the recipient’s information, at the top of the letter.
If you are writing a personal recommendation letter, include a salutation to start your letter (Dear Dr. Smith, or Dear Ms. Jones, for example).
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Explain why you're writing and how you are connected to the person you are recommending, including how you know them, and for how long.
Paragraph 2/3 – Why You're Writing
Share information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified and what they have to offer. It's fine to include more than one paragraph to provide details of the student's academic and work performance. Including examples of how they have excelled is a good way to show how the person is qualified.
Paragraph 4 – Summary
Write a brief summary of why you are recommending the person. Mention that "highly recommend" the person or that you "recommend without reservation" or something similar.
Paragraph 5 – Conclusion
Offer to share more information and let the reader know how to contact you (phone, email, etc.) for a follow-up conversation.
End your letter with a formal letter closing and your name and title. If you are mailing a printed letter, include your signature underneath your typed name:
Signature (for hard copy letter)
Email Recommendation Closing
If you’re sending an email, include your contact information in your signature:
Need more help? Here's advice on what to include in a letter of recommendation that showcases the student's skills, explains how they are a good match, and why you're endorsing them.
How to Use Letter Examples and Templates
It is a good idea to review letter examples and templates before you write a recommendation letter or a request for a letter. They can help you decide what kind of content you should include in your document.
A letter template also helps you with the layout of your letter, such as how many paragraphs to include, and how to sign the letter. Templates also show you what elements you need to include in your letter, such as your contact information.
While recommendation letter examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point, always tailor a letter to fit the particular situation.
Review Student Recommendation Letter Examples
School/Academic/Job Reference Letter Samples
Academic reference letters are generally written to help students get into graduate school or get internships or jobs. When writing an academic reference letter, focus on the skills, qualities, or experiences the person has that make them a good fit for the specific school or academic program.
- Academic Reference Letter
- Sample Reference Letter for a High School Student
- Sample Reference Letter from a Teacher
- Sample Reference Letter for a Teacher
- Sample Recommendation Email for a Summer Internship
- Sample Reference Letter for an Employee
- Sample Reference Letter for a Student Employee
- Reference Letter Sample for Business School
- Reference Letter Sample for Employment
- Reference Letter Sample for Graduate School
- Graduate School Reference Letter
- Law School Reference Letter
Character/Personal Recommendation Letters
A character reference is a recommendation written by someone who can attest to one’s character. These letters may be needed for people applying to join an association or purchase property.
They can be used as an alternative to a professional reference for someone who doesn't have work experience, and they may also be required for jobs that require a high level of trustworthiness.
Who to Ask for a Character Reference
If you have limited work experience (or worry you will get a negative reference from your former employer), you might ask someone to write you a character reference. This might help balance out a negative employer reference.
Consider asking a friend, neighbor, volunteer or club leader, colleague, or other people who may never have employed you, but can speak to who you are as a person.
What to Include in a Character Reference
If you are asked to write a character reference, focus on the person’s character traits and abilities. You can provide examples from personal interactions with that individual.
Sample Character References
Review examples of personal and character reference letters, with free templates you can download:
- Character Reference Letter
- Character Reference Letter With Writing Tips
- Personal Reference Letter Samples
Reference Letter Template
Download the reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Reference Letter (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
March 9, 2021
72 Dock Street
Pacifica, Oregon 97233
Dear Ms. Johnson,
Daniel Williams worked as a server and manager at Central College’s student café under my supervision for seven semesters, beginning in Spring 2015.
Over that time, I was consistently impressed with his customer service and people management skills as well as his dedication and good humor. I’ve often said that if I could clone Daniel, I’d never have to worry about staffing problems again. He’s a truly gifted server, fast on his feet and able to remember complicated orders without using an order pad.
He’s also an innovator. Thanks to his suggestions, we revamped the café menu last year to focus on the most popular dishes and dropped some expensive, time-consuming menu items. The result was a 10 percent increase in profits.
Our customers love him. More than one has suggested that Daniel become a “super senior,” so that he can stay with us next year. Alas, he’s graduating on schedule, with highest honors and a boatload of references to attest to his skill, hard work, and talent. I’m honored to be one of them.
I enthusiastically recommend Daniel for the position of server/manager in your café. If you have any specific questions about Daniel’s experience and skills, I’m happy to help. Please call me at 555-555-5555.
Central College Café
A reference list is a page with a list of your references and their contact information. Send this letter as part of your job application if it is requested. Employers who ask for a reference list might call or email the people on that list, and ask them for more information about you.
When creating your reference list, be sure to first ask permission of each person on your list. Not only is this polite, but this will give each person time to prepare a response for the employer. Make sure you provide all necessary contact information for each person.