How to Write a Letter of Reference
You need to write a letter of reference. How do you write a powerful letter of reference? What do you include?
First, only write an honest character reference letter. Don't exaggerate someone's abilities or make someone sound worse than the person is. If you cannot truthfully write a winning letter of reference, suggest that the person ask someone else.
Before you write a reference letter, learn details about its purpose. What can you write that other letters of reference won't include? Ask for the name of a person you can address in the letter. If the personal reference letter is for college, ask about activities, volunteering, and honors or awards. If the reference letter is for a job or graduate school, ask for a resume and a copy of the cover letter or personal statement.
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A letter of reference ought to be addressed to a specific person, if possible. If this is not possible, then address the reference letter to an appropriate committee or position. For example: Dear Admissions Committee (for a college recommendation letter), or Dear Human Resources Director (for a reference letter).
Start by writing about how long you have known the person for whom you are writing a letter of reference. Write how you know the person—were you a teacher, a boss, a co-worker? This part of the reference letter demonstrates how well you know the person.
Opening paragraph before WhiteSmoke:
Dear Whoever Reads this letter:
Jane is a good person and a good worker. She desserts the best. Please give her a job. She worked here 5 years and that was a little while ago but we had a good time. She comes to work on time.
Dear Dr. Lieber:
It gives me great pleasure to recommend Jane Wyatt to you. Ms. Wyatt worked with me at Aleph-Bet Company for five years, three of them under my supervision. We remained in contact professionally since she left Aleph-Bet two years ago on good terms. In that time, she's completed her Master's degree in Business Administration.
Next, write a few well-chosen facts that convey skills, abilities and experiences. Most experienced writers of reference letters don't express an opinion without such details. This is the heart of the letter of reference and may take a few paragraphs. A letter of reference should not be more than two pages, though.
Conclude your winning letter of reference with a brief summary. Mention specifically the college, graduate school, job place, or other recipient of the letter in the summary. Offer to be available to discuss your reference.