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How to Write a Letter of Reference

If a friend, student, or colleague asks you to write a letter of reference - do not fear! It is apparent that the requester values the relationship that he or she shares with you, so think of the request as a sign of appreciation and respect. Writing a reference letter is a great way to showcase how well you know and work with the requester, but it can also be a challenge.

Here are some tips on how to write a letter of reference.

Know for who and for what your are writing the letter of reference.
Is it for a graduate school application? Or for an apartment rental application? Is a colleague looking for a new job? Whatever the case may be, make sure that you know what you are writing a letter of reference for and for whom.

Get the correct contact information.
Most times a reference letter is not given to the person requesting it, but sent directly to whom ever is ultimately requesting it. Clarify with the requester on whether you are giving the reference letter directly to them or are mailing it. If you are mailing the reference letter, then check and double check the addressee's contact information.

Get a due date.
Make sure you know when the reference letter is due. If the reference requester is asking you to write a reference letter in less than a week or is a very short amount of time and you are very busy and may not be able to complete the task, then let the requester know.

When you begin to write a letter of reference, you should brainstorm some ideas. Think about how you know the requester, in what capacity, for how long, and what you admire about their work.

The beginning.
At the beginning of the letter of reference, it is customary to write how you know the person, for how long, and in what capacity. There are some exceptions to the rule. If you are a professor and have only known the student for one semester, then it is not necessary to state the length of the working relationship.

Keep it short and simple.
A reference letter should be one page, maximum. If you have additional information that you would like to share, then make a point to offer your contact information for the recipient of the letter in the event that they would like more information.

Be specific about your praises.
The more specific you are about the accomplishments and personal qualities that you see in the person, the better. General and vague praises may do more harm than good.

Stumped on what to write?
Don't be afraid to speak to the person about the reference letter if you are stuck for ideas. They can give you some direction by letting you know about the position or program they are applying for. Sometimes they may have a job description that can help you to tailor your praises. Remember, you do not need to write exactly what they want, it is still your letter and should remain genuine.

If you have the time, let the letter sit unread overnight so that you can read it again with fresh eyes in the morning. Proofread your spelling and grammar, as the reference letter is also a reflection of who you are.

Print and Post.
Print out the reference letter on nice linen or resume paper if sending via mail. This will add bonus points for the reference letter presentation.

Save it.
Save a copy of the reference letter just in case you may need it again.



Jun 15, 2009 7:26am
I like this in your article
Be specific about your praises.
The more specific you are about the accomplishments and personal qualities that you see in the person, the better. General and vague praises may do more harm than good.
Oct 21, 2010 12:18am
Nice post... check out my blog to get sample letters of reference:

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