A reference letter refers to a letter that is written to act as a testimony of a person’s or the company skills, their character and their achievements as well. It could also be referred to as a recommendation letter. This document should be treated as a formal letter and it should thus be written and typed in a professional manner.
How To Use Reference Letters
Reference letters are used in a number of situations which include but are not limited to the following;
- In a situation where a person applies for a job, a reference letter may be required to support their job application
- An interviewee who has been given a job offer may be required to submit a reference letter before the contract can be signed.
- Most of the students who apply for various academic courses may be required to submit a reference letter to support their course application.
- Students who are applying for funding may be required to supply a reference letter to testify that they are the most suitable candidates
- Some companies can use reference letters to act as a testimony of their trustworthiness and abilities to execute a given job well.
- For pieces of rented properties prospective tenants may at times be required to provide their landlords with reference letters which will testify that they are of sound financial status. This letter can be written by a former landlord/landlady or a current employer.
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Who are the rightful people who can write reference letters in different scenarios?
In case one approaches you to write for them a reference letter you need to assess the situation and see if you can legally do so to avoid landing in any legal problems. Since a reference letter is a formal document, you need to be sure that what you include in it isn’t a lie or an alteration of the truth since this may attract legal penalties. There are some qualities and rules that you must possess or stick to, respectively before proceeding to write a reference letter. These crucial items include;
- The person you are writing about should be someone that you know very well either from a personal experience as is the case for a letter of reference for a friend, or from the existing records in your school or institution. A good example of a person who can’t write a reliable reference letter is a lecturer who writes a reference letter for student who barely attends his/her lecturers.
- You should know the person in question in a capacity which gives you a suitable ability to draft a meaningful reference letter. This can be the case for someone who has worked with the candidate in question for a long time as they would have some reliable and meaningful information about the subject in question that the prospective employer can rely on.
- You should be in a position of providing an honest and yet positive reference letter. The rule is if you have nothing good to say don’t write a reference letter. In case you rubbed shoulders or have some personal feuds with the subject in question it is best to decline writing a reference letter about them. You can advise them to ask someone else to write the reference letter instead.
What should be included in a reference letter?
There is no rigid structure that all reference letters should stick to tightly, the structure will be altered and this will be highly determined by the authority seeking the reference letter or the reason why it’s being written. There is however a basic outline that a reference letter should reflect with slight modifications, this is outlined below:
- For an academic application reference letter you will need to confirm the subject in question academic grades from your institution.
- In the next paragraph you need to talk about the candidate. Proceed to confirm and explore any facts about the subject in question that you know and these should be in line with what the candidate will be supplying the recipient along with the reference letter you are writing. For instance if the reference letter is demanded for a job application some suitable details would include you;
- Describing the person’s job title and the role they play/played in your institution
- Stating the person’s leaving salary at the time when they were last employed by your institution.
- State the dates when the person was employed till the present working date.
- You need to introduce yourself in the first lines in your letter. While doing this it is good to note that the recipient is not interested in knowing your life history, just write a couple of lines that will help explain your position in a given institution and your relationship to the subject in question.
- Start the letter following the normal business letter format. First start with your address and then put the recipient’s name and address if these are known. It is best to address them as Dear ‘name’. For the case where the recipient is unknown as might be the case for an academic application you have the option of addressing them as ‘Dear Sir/ madam’ or simply write the phrase ‘To whom it may concern.’
- As you proceed to write your third paragraph, you need to give your positive opinion about the skills of the person in question as well as their positive qualities. If it’s a job application reference letter it would be quite appropriate for you to state that you would readily reemploy the individual. For an academic application reference letter you can mention that there academic achievements were unmatched and pretty much valued in your institution. This is also the time that you need to single out the exceptional or rather unique qualities of the candidate, you could state that the person is self-driven with lots of enthusiasm in what they do. Just mention the desirable qualities needed for a particular situation or job that the individual possesses.
- You can give concrete and real life examples of the astounding nature of the subject in question. It is always good to inquire from the candidate situations in which they excelled be it in academics or in various extra-curricular activities, you can also ask them to chip in on what they would wish to be included in the reference letter.
- Remember to close your letter on a positive note. Always mention that you are willing and readily available to receive any further correspondence about the application being submitted by the candidate. It will be quite appropriate to include your relevant contact details.
- Just as is the case for other business letters, remember to end your letter in the right and most appropriate manner, you can use ‘Yours sincerely’ if writing to a recipient who is known, ‘Yours faithfully’ will be appropriate for a recipient who is not known.
Things that you need to avoid when writing a reference letter;
To increase the chances of a given individual being considered for a job application or academic application you need to make sure that the following information doesn’t appear in the reference letter;
- Avoid mentioning any weaknesses that the candidate has
- Avoid saying anything that would be considered as libel
- Avoid writing the reference letter using an informal tone. You need to be as formal and business-like as possible. There is no room for the use of jokes, slang language or any casual language as these might reduce the chances of the candidate being considered for the applied job or course.
- Avoid including any of your personal information that would not be appropriate or otherwise be deemed as irrelevant to the reference letter. It is also very inappropriate for you to include information touching on the candidate’s race, political stance, religion, marital status, nationality, his/her age or health information as this is quite irrelevant for a reference letter.
- Avoid any spelling mistakes, sloppy handwriting or any typos. You should make sure that you have proofread the letter as it is quite important to the subject in question. Avoiding these will make the letter to appear to be as professional as possible.
Personal reference letter
A personal reference letter is a bit different compared to the normal typical reference letter. The reason why this is so is that a personal reference letter is from a person who knows the subject in question personally as opposed to having merely a professional relation. They are normally used when one is job hunting and they mostly focus on the qualities that make the candidate most suitable for a given job position. This reference letter also has more personal and less formal tone as opposed to a typical reference letter that has to maintain strict formal tone. These differences mean that special consideration need to be taken before one writes a personal reference letter.
Things that one ought to know about a personal reference letter;
- The most appropriate time for writing a personal reference letter is when the character rather the professional skills of an individual are being sort for. This is the case for most volunteer job applications, for clubs or some private society’s membership qualifications.
- There are some principles that need to be abided by when writing reference letters;
- You need to write the letter with a positive tone if you feel that you can’t handle this it is best to avoid writing one.
- When approaching one to write you a personal reference letter, always inquire if they would need a personal reference letter sample. It is not that easy to come up with a personal reference letter and the sample might provide a useful guide. This site offers you with personal reference letter sample to ease your job or give you a rough idea on how to go about it.
- For the case of a personal reference letter being written for purposes of court proceeding, there will be need for a referee to appear in court and testify as a witness. The writer of the personal reference letter should thus be comfortable with the idea of appearing before a court of law.
Writing a reference letter is an important task as the chances of an individual being considered by the recipient of the letter will be partly determined by the nature of the reference letter. This site offers valuable information, guides and sample reference letters and reference letter templates that you could make use of.
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