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How to Write a Reference Letter

By Edited Jan 31, 2016 1 0

Have you been asked to write a reference for an employee, but you're not sure how to get started? You want to write a reference that is going to help the person in his or her professional career, so the importance of this task can create a sense of pressure on you. However, this does not need to be an overwhelming task if you are writing a letter for an employee you really respect.  Follow these steps to write a reference that is helpful for your employee.
  
Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
•    Quality paper

Instructions

Step 1
The easiest way to write a reference is to ask your employee to write it for you! This might sound odd or even unethical. However, if you have a good relationship with your employee, letting them write a reference for his or herself assures that they will be satisfied with the letter and that it includes all the points that they feel are imporant. You might ask your employee to write the whole letter or to simply provide a bulleted list of points they would like you to include in the letter.  Obviously you will need to read it carefully afterwards if they write a reference for themselves to be sure you agree with everything they included before you sign it for them. Use your judgment if you feel you can trust your employee to be realistic about his or her abilities if you ask them to write a reference for themselves. If you have doubts, simply move on to step 2 below.

Step 2
Think of things your employee has done that has helped you, a coworker, or the company.  Turn these examples into 3 vignettes that demonstrate how this person is a valued asset, because when you write a reference you want to paint a picture, but not overdo it on the length.  Each vignette should explain your point clearly in about 4 sentences.

Step 3
Write some adjectives that you can add to the introductary sentence for each of the examples you thought of in step 2 when you write a reference in its first draft form. As you do, think of positive character traits you know about the person as you plan to write a reference letter. Match these to the vignettes you thought of in step one. When you go to write a reference in the next draft you can find synonyms that are more specific if you need to.

Job application letter(48802)
Step 4
Write a reference letter draft that is about 3 paragraphs long, or up to 5 short paragraphs. When you write a reference three of the paragraphs should have a topic sentence with a quality adjective, a short vignette about how wonderful your employee, and a closing sentence with another great adjective. It is up to your writing style if you want to add an opening and closing paragraph when you write a reference.

Step 5
Be sure to print the letter on company letterhead so it looks official.  After you write a reference be sure it is in business letter format with "To Whom It May Concern," the current date, and "Sincerely."  Then sign it at the bottom and proofread your writing.  Don't just rely on spellcheck as opposed to manual proofreading, since the editing program does not pick up on homophones, similarly spelled words, omitted words, or awkward sounding phrases.  Finally, before you consider your task finished, as a courtesy you should let your employee look it over. This way if they have a reasonable request about something they would like you to add, you can do so.  Good luck in your effort to write a reference letter!

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