How To Write a Reference

At times you may be called upon to provide or write a reference letter for people you know. Typically this would happen once you're in a significantly high position in your career or life, or else you've gained a certain placement which puts you in a position where you can analyze or comment on other people working with you or for you. The reference letter you write is an important document in that it provides corroboration of the referee's abilities and qualities and may make the difference between getting and not getting to the desired objective of the referee - a new job, admission to an institution, etc. Some simple steps to writing a reference letter are described below.

Step 1

Discuss and agree on objective with the requester. When asked to provide a reference, you need to know what purpose you're writing the reference for. Discuss and agree on this with the person who's asked you to provide the reference, covering the information to be provided, to whom it is to be addressed and by when it should be completed and sent.

Step 2

Writing guidelines. Provide information on how you know the person for whom you're writing the reference, and for how long. Mention the special qualities and talents that make this person an outstanding candidate. Avoid providing negative information, highlight positive qualities such as attention to detail, team-work, communication skills, etc, but only if they are true. A mention of your own qualifications and the circumstances under which you've been able to evaluate the individual in question will help in providing qualitative confirmation and add weight to the reference. Other points to remember - keep the reference to the point, crisp and succinct, it should be neither too brief nor too long-winded.

Step 3

Format and appearance. The reference letter should look professional; hence it is better to type it out rather than writing it by hand. Also pay careful attention to the wording and phraseology, taking care to use just the right amount of jargon and avoid overloading the letter with fancy words. Use positive adjectives avoiding terms such as ‘fairly', ‘decent' ‘adequate', etc. Be very specific about the positive attributes you are describing.

Step 4

Describing intangible or latent qualities. It is not easy to describe intangible attributes such as imagination, emotional quotient, conflict management, etc. In such cases, it is always preferable to elaborate a little in terms of actual instances where such qualities were on display.

Providing a good reference for any candidate, plays a very important role in the hiring and recruitment process, often making the crucial difference between scoring and losing the job opportunity. A reference is probably the only way, a future employer can get an idea of the actual skills and practical applications of those skills in real-life situations; and the ability of the candidate to put to good use his talents and qualities. Hence, writing a fair, comprehensive and positive reference is an important activity and you should take due care and diligence to ensure it comes out just right.


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