Wishes and Messages

Personal letter of reference format

  1. Home
  2. 1st Anniversary Wishes
  3. Personal letter of reference format
Personal letter of reference format
November 18, 2018 1st Anniversary Wishes 3 comments

Sample Recommendation Letter Written by Supervisor (Text Format) Writing a character reference (or personal letter of recommendation) for.

How to Write a Reference Letter

Sample Reference LettersFormatting the Reference LetterDrafting the Reference LetterFinalizing the Reference LetterShow 1 more...Show less...Article SummaryQuestions & AnswersRelated Articles

This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 19 references. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article meets our high standards.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has over 364,128 views and 82% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. Learn more...

If you are in a supervisory position, whether at work, school, or within a nonprofit organization as a volunteer, you may be asked to write a reference letter for someone. People often need reference letters when they are applying for a job or seeking admission to a particular school or course of study. Your reference letter should be formal in both format and tone, and describe the positive characteristics or skills that the candidate brings to their work.[1][2]


Part 1

Formatting the Reference Letter

  1. 1

    Type your letter using a word-processing application. Although it may seem more personal to write your letter by hand, typing it is more professional. A type-written letter also will be easier for the recipient to read.[3]
    • Use a word processing application rather than the basic text application on your computer. Basic text apps lack the formatting options you'll need for your letter.
    • If the candidate tells you the letter should be submitted through email, you still should type out a separate letter and attach it to your email as a PDF after hand-signing it, rather than simply typing your letter in the body of the email.
  2. 2

    Find a business letter template. The word-processing application you use typically will have templates available that will allow you to easily format your letter. A traditional business letter template comes with pre-set margins and settings so you don't have to do this manually.[4]
    • Most word processing applications have several letter templates. Choose the formal business letter template, not one for a casual or personal letter.
    • Use a standard, readable font such as Times New Roman or Helvetica.
    • Typically the body of the letter will be set up so there is a double-space between paragraphs with no indentation. If you choose to indent your paragraphs, there's no need to double space between them.
  3. 3

    Enter names and addresses. On the top of the first page of the letter, you'll type your name and address in the top right-hand corner of the page. The name and address of the recipient follows on the left side of the page.[5]
    • You also should include any additional contact information, such as your direct phone number or email address.
    • If you have letterhead that includes your contact information, there typically is no need to include your name and address a second time. However, you should include it if your letterhead refers to your employer as a whole and not you personally.
    • Following the addresses, there will be a line for the date. Depending on the template you use, there also may be a subject line. For the subject, you can simply state "Reference Letter for" with the name of the candidate.
    • In most cases you want to address the letter to a specific person. If the letter will be reviewed by several people, address it simply to "hiring committee" or "admissions committee." Speak to the candidate to find out what address is appropriate.
  4. 4

    Use letterhead if you have it. If your employer has letterhead, or if you have personal letterhead, it will make the letter look more professional. Regardless, make sure you have high-quality paper to print the letter.[6]
    • The presentation of the letter reflects on you as well as the candidate. For this reason, you want it to look as formal and professional as possible.
    • Plain white paper is fine. Stay away from cheap copy paper. You can find good letter-writing stock at any office supply store and at most large discount stores.
  5. 5

    Create a basic outline. Generally, it's a good idea to organize your thoughts about the candidate before you sit down to write your letter. Brainstorm qualities you want to include, and select the strongest of them for your letter.[7][8]
    • Keep in mind that your letter typically should be no more than one page long. Academic reference letters may extend to two pages.
    • This gives you room for about three short paragraphs in the body of your letter. Because space is at a premium, you need to be able to write efficiently so that every word counts.
    • You may want to talk to the candidate while you're working on the outline of your letter. Find out more about the job or academic program to which they're applying, and what traits or skills are valued by the person who will evaluate the letter.

Part 2

Drafting the Reference Letter

  1. 1

    Introduce both yourself and the candidate. Your letter will open with a line that begins "Dear" followed by the name of the person who will receive the letter. Then your opening sentences will provide your name, the name of the candidate, and the reason for your letter.[9][10]
    • Explain your relationship to the candidate and how long you've known them. If you have any special qualifications that make your reference more valuable, you should include those as well.
    • Confirm details that are relevant to the candidate's application. If you've been their supervisor at work, you'll want to state the company where you've worked and your position, as well as their position (if relevant), how long they've worked at the company, and how long you've supervised them.
    • For example, you might write "My name is Bob Brass, and I am a managing supervisor at Button Factory. I am writing as a reference for Joe Johnson, who has been under my supervision at Button Factory for the past five years."
  2. 2

    List at least three exceptional skills or traits the candidate has. Immediately after your introduction, include a sentence that lists the skills or traits you will discuss in greater detail in the body of the letter.
    • The type of skills or traits you include here depends both on your relationship to the candidate and the purpose for your letter. Character reference letters should focus exclusively on character traits, while employment reference letters should focus on particular skills the candidate has that make them a good fit for that particular job.
    • Academic reference letters are to some degree a hybrid of these two types of letters. In addition to skills that make the candidate well-suited to that particular course of study, you also might include character traits, such as their intelligence or their inquisitive nature.
    • This should be the last sentence of your first paragraph. Simply list the skills or traits – you'll discuss them in the next paragraph. For example, you might write "In my experience, Joe Johnson has the stamina, organization, and communication skills to be a tremendous asset to your firm."
  3. 3

    Provide supporting examples. In the second paragraph of your reference letter, you will go into greater detail about each of the skills or traits you listed at the end of your introductory paragraph.[11]
    • Keep in mind that space is at a premium, and you don't want your letter to be too long. For this reason, it's best to find a concrete example that shows at least two, if not all three, of the traits or skills you mentioned in the introduction.
    • A concrete observation of the candidate that displays the skills or traits you mentioned is the most efficient way to get your point across.
    • For example, you might write "Joe Johnson showed me he was capable of multi-tasking and performing several different button-pushing or button-turning operations simultaneously. For example, one day he volunteered to take on additional work when he anticipated there would be a slow-down in production because several other employees were sick. He frequently accepted additional responsibility and worked overtime while also maintaining an active role in his community and family."
  4. 4

    Write your concluding paragraph. In your third and final paragraph, end on a positive note by summarizing and restating the skills or traits you highlighted in the body of the letter, and indicate that you believe the candidate is well-suited for the job or academic course of study to which they've applied.[12]
    • This paragraph doesn't need to be more than two or three sentences long. Write one sentence summarizing the body of the letter and recommending the candidate. You also may want to include a sentence relating the example in your second paragraph to your future work.
    • For example, you might write "To this day, I evaluate the work of my other employees in comparison to Joe Johnson. With his stamina, organization, and communication skills, Joe would be a tremendous asset to your firm."
  5. 5

    Invite follow-up questions. The final sentence of your letter should include the easiest way to contact you if the recipient has any questions or would like to further discuss the information in your letter.[13]
    • Provide a specific way to contact you directly, including any limitations on the days and times you are available.
    • For example, you might write "If you have any questions or would like to discuss my experiences with Joe further, please don't hesitate to call me at 555-555-5555. I am generally available at that number Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m."

Part 3

Finalizing the Reference Letter

  1. 1

    Proofread your letter carefully. A letter with sloppy grammar and punctuation reflects badly on the candidate as well as on you. Depending on the type of job or course of study to which the candidate has applied, a poorly proofread letter could backfire.[14]
    • Your word-processing application probably has spelling and grammar checking functions, but you shouldn't rely solely on these.
    • Print a draft of your letter and read over it carefully. Going through it backwards can help mistakes come to light that you might've missed simply reading the letter.
    • You also can read your letter out loud. This can help you find grammatical errors, as well as awkward phrasing or sentence structures that are confusing or difficult to read. If you find yourself stumbling over something as you read aloud, consider revising it so it's easier to read.
  2. 2

    Sign your letter. Your letter should close with a formal closing line such as "Sincerely," followed by space for your signature. You then should type your full name as you plan to sign it. You also may want to include contact information below your typed name, but this isn't necessary.[15]
    • After you've proofread your letter and are certain it's error-free, print a copy on your letterhead or quality paper stock.
    • Sign your letter using blue or black ink.
    • Make a copy of the signed letter for your own records, as well as another for the candidate's personal records. If you're writing the letter in your official capacity as a supervisor of the candidate, you may also need a copy for the business's records.
  3. 3

    Submit your letter. Find out from the candidate how the letter is supposed to be sent to the recipient, and follow those instructions. If you're sending the letter using email, you may want to send an additional paper copy through the mail as well.[16]
    • Particularly if you're writing an academic reference letter, or a reference letter for a professional license, there may be additional requirements for the submission of the letter.
    • In some cases you can simply give the letter to the candidate and they will pass it on to the recipient, but in others you must send it directly to the recipient and it cannot pass through the candidate's hands.
    • Regardless, it typically looks better if you send your letter to the recipient directly, rather than through the candidate. This way the recipient knows the candidate has not altered the contents of the letter.
    • Pay attention to the due date. You don't want your letter to arrive late or be disqualified. This could reflect badly on the candidate or cause them not to get the position for which they've applied.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question

    Can my last employer state in my reference I was sacked and be derogatory about me to my new employer?

    This depends on where you reside -- in some places this is okay, in other places it might be against the law. In general, your last employer can write anything they want provided they do not defame you. You may want to talk to them and try saying, "I would like you to write a reference letter for my next job. I realize what has happened in the past, but can we let bygones be bygones and focus on what I did right? That would mean a lot to me. It's okay if you don't feel like you can do that, just let me know and I can arrange other references." Only use an employer that has fired you as a last resort when you do not have any other employers to ask -- otherwise it is a big risk.

Ask a Question


  • Stay positive, and avoid mentioning any weaknesses or challenges the candidate might have.
  • If you don't believe you can come up with enough positive things to say about the candidate, you should decline to write the reference letter for them.[17]
  • Keep in mind that you're putting your own reputation on the line when you write a reference letter. Avoid writing a reference for someone unless you're confident about their ability to succeed in the job or academic course for which they've applied.[18]
  • Don't mention the candidate's gender, race, age, disability or other physical or cultural status. These are traits that the recipient of your letter shouldn't consider when deciding whether to hire or admit the candidate.[19]

This guide to writing recommendation letters offers helpful tips and a list of things to include in a letter of recommendation.

Everything You Need to Know on How to Write a Reference Letter

personal letter of reference format

Table of Contents

  1. Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples
  2. Template Library 2: Employment Related Samples
  3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?
  4. Format – Content Sections, Font, and Margins
  5. Important Steps Before Writing
  6. How to Write a Letter of Recommendation in 9 Steps
  7. Characteristics of a Strong Letter
  8. How to Ask For One
  9. When to Reject a Request

1. Letter of Recommendation Template Library 1: Student, College, and Teacher Samples

Click Here to View All Student and Teacher Templates

2. Letter of Recommendation Sample Library 2: Employment Templates

Click Here to View All Employment Related Templates

3. What is a Letter of Recommendation?

A letter of recommendation (or reference letter) is a document designed to add extra weight and merit to a job or college application. They are usually written by a supervisor, colleague, teacher, or friend.

There are various different types of recommendation letters, but the three main ones are those for employment, for university applications, and character references.

Who Needs Letters of Recommendation? Why Do They Need Them?

Below we’ve outlined all the various types of people and reasons a person might require one, as well as who to ask for one.

#1. Students Applying for University, Grad School, or Scholarships

Almost all universities and scholarship programs require at least two recommendation letters as part of the application process. These reference letters should ideally be written by previous teachers or professors who are familiar with your academic achievements and abilities.

Students need references because admissions officers and scholarship organizations want to get a better understanding of who they are as a person. Recommendation letters help to shed light on the “full package” that is difficult to fully convey in a resume and personal essay.

For more details on who you should ask to write your recommendation, check out our detailed guide on how to ask for one.

It is also acceptable to have your letter written by a coach, guidance counselor, or academic adviser who can speak to your strengths.

#2. People Applying for Jobs That Require Strong References

For most job applications, a well-written resume and cover letter or letter of interest are more than sufficient. However, certain industries or companies may require a letter of recommendation in addition to these basic essentials. Teachers and physician assistants are two such examples of jobs that often need a written reference as part of the application.

Generally speaking, the most convincing reference letters will be those written by a supervisor. In cases where this is impossible (or undesirable), a recommendation from a coworker who is intimately familiar with your work is also acceptable.

#3. People Who Want to Beef Up Their Job Application

If you feel as though your resume and cover letter aren’t particularly strong, a letter of recommendation can help you land a job when it otherwise might be impossible.

A character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

This usually occurs when you have little or no work experience. In situations like these, a character reference from a friend, teacher, or family member can make all the difference when it comes to job hunting.

On the other hand, if you’re applying for a particularly competitive job, a strong reference from a previous employer can turn the tide and help you stand out from the crowd.

4. Format — Content & Page Layout (Font, Margins)

Now that we know what a recommendation letter is and who needs one, let’s go through exactly how to structure the content of your letter, as well as the best page formatting and fonts to create a professional look.

Content Format Guide: 7 Basic Sections

No matter who it’s for, including these seven basic parts in your letter will ensure it hits every point needed to write a strong and compelling letter of recommendation.

Part 1. Contact Information and Letterhead

Ideally speaking, your own name, address, and contact information should go in a letterhead at the top of the page. If you don’t have a letterhead, place this information above the date on the top-left side of the page.

Otherwise, the first thing on the top-right side of the page should be the current date, followed by the addressee’s name, title, company or school name, and then address.

Part 2. Salutation

As with any letter, the first line should address the person or body of people you are writing to by name and title. Avoid vague salutations such as “To Whom It May Concern:” unless there are no other options available to you.

Check out the first step of our letter of recommendation writing guide for a more detailed explanation of how to craft the perfection salutation.

Part 3. Introduction: How you know the applicant

Start by expressing your sincere recommendation of the applicant, explain who you are and your relationship with the person you are recommending, including how long you have known them.

Part 4. The Academic, Personal, or Professional Achievements of the Applicant

The second paragraph outlines the relevant academic or professional strengths of the applicant. Include one to two specific and detailed examples that demonstrate the applicant truly does possess these strengths.

Part 5. Personal Traits and Characteristics

The third paragraph is all about personality. Include details of the applicants positive personality traits and examples that clearly showcase them.

Part 6. Explanation of Applicant’s Departure [Optional]

This optional section is only used when writing letters of recommendation for employment. It should also only be included in cases when the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous or current company is either neutral or positive. Such as relocating for family reasons, or outgrowing the opportunities at the company.

Part 7. Conclusion: Call-to-action

Reiterate your wholehearted recommendation of the applicant and encourage the reader to contact you with any questions they may have.

Page Format Guide: 5 Basic Rules

While the content of your letter is the most important element, the appearance of the page still requires some consideration. The alignment, font size and style, and margins can all impact the impression you give the reader.

The following simple guidelines will ensure your recommendation letter looks professional:

  1. Don’t exceed one page in length unless the extra paragraphs and details you are including legitimately strengthen your recommendation. That being said, anything over two pages is definitely too much.
  2. Use a 12-point font to maximize readability and economical use of space. Using an 11-point font in order to maintain a one-page length is acceptable but should be avoided when possible. Anything lower than 11 points is too small.
  3. Stick to basic font stylessuch as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, and Garamond. Avoid any overly stylistic fonts that could affect readability.
  4. 1”–1½” is the sweet spot for margins. You could arguably go slightly over or under these limits to fit everything onto one page, but it’s best to avoid anything too excessive.
  5. Maintain a left alignmentthroughout the entire page to ensure an organized appearance. 

For more specific details on how to format a letter of recommendation, check out our comprehensive business letter format guide.

5. Three Important Steps Before You Begin Writing

Before you stretch your typing fingers, there are a couple of things you must do to ensure your reference letter is as compelling as possible.

Step 1:Ask the Applicant for Information

Ask the applicant for a copy of their resume, cover letter, personal essay, or any other such documents they are submitting as part of their application. Read through them thoroughly and avoid repeating any of the information mentioned unless it is particularly important.

Ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

It’s also a good idea to ask the applicant if there are any particular points or examples they’d like you to mention.

Step 2:Conduct Your Own Research

Do some research on the company, university, or scholarship the applicant is targeting, and customize your letter based on their requirements. If you’re writing a letter for a job application, reading through the job description is a great way to get an idea of the specifics you should emphasize.

Step 3:Think About the Type of Letter You are Writing

Depending on the type of recommendation letter you are writing, the tone and contents will differ. If you’re a manager writing for an employee, the tone will be much more formal and contain a lot of detail regarding an applicant’s professional achievements.

On the other end of the spectrum, a character reference from a friend will be written in a more casual tone and focus more on an individual’s personal strengths and characteristics.

If you’re pressed for time, ask the applicant to do all the research for you and then provide a summary of all the important information.

6. How to Write a Compelling Recommendation Letter — 9 Step Guide

Now that we’ve gotten all the little nitty-gritty details out of the way, it’s time to put pen to paper. Following these steps will help you create a convincing letter of recommendation that is sure to be an invaluable part of any application.

Step 1: A Polite and Personable Salutation

The way you greet someone when meeting them for the first time has a huge impact on their first impression of you. The way you address someone in a letter is no different. As such, it’s important to use a polite and personable salutation to start your letter off strong.

A proper salutation should be structured as follows:

Dear+ Title+ Name of Recipient

The title will vary depending on the individual you are writing to. For example, if you are addressing a hiring manager, you would use a general title such as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.

Example #1:

Dear + Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. + Hiring Manager’s Last Name

On the other hand, if you were writing to a Professor or someone with a Phd, you should use their professional title such as Dr. or Professor.

Example #2:

Dear+ Professor+ Professor’s Last Name

Ideally the applicant requesting the letter should provide you with the name of the person who the letter should be addressed to. If not, a bit of quick research on linkedin, or the company/university website should yield some results.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Know the Name of the Recipient?

When you don’t know the name of the recipient, you should still make your salutation as personable as possible. This means avoiding weak openings that make no attempt to directly address the reader.

Even if you don’t know their nameyou should never use “To Whom it May Concern” when addressing the recipient.

Here’s What You Should Do Instead:

Dear+ Titleof Recipient

For example, if you are addressing a university’s dean of admissions whose name you don’t know, write Dear Dean of Admissions. Whereas if you are writing to the hiring manager of a company, write Dear Hiring Manager.

How Should I Address a Letter to a Body of People or an Organization?

When addressing a body of people such as an admissions committee or board of directors you should follow the same principles as those outlined above. The only difference is that the title of the recipient should be replaced by the name of the group or organization.

Here is the exact formula:

Dear+ Name of Group or Organization

The following examples give you a better idea:

  • DearAdmissions Committee
  • DearBoard of Directors
  • DearRhodes Trust

Step 2: Start Your Introduction With a Punch

The first sentence of your recommendation is arguably the most important because it sets the tone for the entire letter. The best openers are those that immediately express the heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant.

Here are some useful phrases you can use to write a strong first sentence:

  • It’s my pleasure to recommend…
  • It’s my pleasure and honor to…
  • I couldn’t be more pleased to…
  • I have absolutely no reservations about recommending…
  • I wholeheartedly recommend…

In comparison, a generic sentence that lacks enthusiasm such as “I am writing with regards to the recommendation for…” is both boring and weak.

Step 3: Establish Your Relationship

The remainder of your introductory paragraph should be devoted to describing who you are and your relationship with the applicant. This is an essential step because it establishes the relevance of your letter.

If you have known the applicant for a good length of time — and are in a good position to evaluate their strengths — then the potency of your letter multiplies. When establishing your relationship, you should include the following points:

  • Your position and company/school
  • The capacity in which you know the applicant
  • How long you have known the applicant

By including these details in the very beginning of your letter, the reader understands the foundation of the relationship that your words are coming from. This context makes everything you say afterwards much more powerful.

Including some anecdotes about your relationship will help strengthen this important foundation.

Step 4: Give Words of Praise

Finish your introduction with a sentence or two highlighting some of the applicant’s key strengths or personality traits.

The following examples will give you an idea of how you should write yours:

  • During that time, I watched Zach grow into an exceptional individual who excels in both his academic and personal pursuits.
  • Gregory was always an outstanding member of our team, and I have always been impressed by his professionalism and admirable personal qualities.

Don’t worry about going into detail. The purpose of these sentences is to round out the first paragraph, while simultaneously serving as a sneak peak of what’s to come in the body of your letter.

Step 5: Showcase the Applicant’s Professional/Academic Strengths

Your first body paragraph should start by mentioning 2–3 of the applicant’s specific skills, talents, or experiences that are relevant to their target job position or college program.

It is essential that these points are then followed up with detailed and descriptive examples of the applicant’s accomplishments that prove the aforementioned abilities.

Take a look at the difference between the following two examples from a reference letter written for a project manager:

No details:

  • Zach is great at managing projects.

Specific and detailed:

  • Zach’s in-depth knowledge of Scrum Methodologies helped increase the amount of projects completed on-time and within budget by 23%

Not only is the second example far more compelling, but it also showcases the professional accomplishment the applicant has that would benefit her target job. When the reader sees these kinds of examples, they think to themselves, “This is the kind of performance I need at my company.

Whenever possible, include interesting anecdotes about the applicant that demonstrate the strengths and abilities you described. This will create a more personable tone that makes the reader feel as though they are getting to know the applicant — one of the key aspects of a strong recommendation letter.

Make sure the achievements you mention are ones that you personally witnessed. Otherwise, they will carry far less weight for the reader.

Step 6: Highlight the Applicant’s Best Personal Qualities

The next body paragraph should focus on 2–3 of the applicant’s positive personality traits and characteristics — particularly those that would be beneficial or desired by their target company or school.

One of the chief reasons universities and certain companies request letters of recommendation is because they want to get a more holistic understanding of the applicant as a person. Thus, only including their academic or professional achievements is not enough to create a persuasive letter.

Much like with the previous step, include relevant and specific examples or anecdotes to backup your claims. Let’s take a look at some examples:

No Details:

  • Joyce is a selfless and compassionate person.

Specific and Detailed:

  • As a member of habitat for humanity, Joyce demonstrated her compassion and selfless nature by providing invaluable tutelage and mentorship to countless underprivileged children.

In case you’re having trouble thinking of compelling ways to describe an applicant’s personality, we’ve created a table containing some of the best personal qualities to include in a letter of recommendation:


Just be sure that you prove that the applicant possesses the personal qualities you mention with specific and detailed examples.

Step 7: Explain Why the Applicant is Leaving [Optional Paragraph for Job References]

This paragraph is only relevant if you’re writing a letter of recommendation for employment purposes. That being said, you should only include this section if the reason the applicant is leaving your current company is either neutral or positive.

The following are a few examples of the types of reasons that would be acceptable:

  • Relocating for family reasons
  • Outgrowing opportunities available at current company
  • Medical reasons
  • Skillset would be put to better use at another company

After reading through a letter describing how amazing an applicant is, it is quite normal for a hiring manager to think to themselves, “If this candidate is so great, why are they no longer at the company?” By including the reason for an applicant’s departure, it helps to assuage some of these doubts.

If you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

However, if you’re unsure whether or not the reason might be seen in a negative light, then it’s safer to exclude this section altogether.

Step 8: Encourage the Reader to Accept the Applicant

Begin the concluding paragraph by reiterating your complete, unreserved, and enthusiastic recommendation of the applicant. Follow this up by emphasizing the value of the applicant as an asset.

Use strong, authoritative, and confident language when writing this sentence. Take a look at the following examples:

  • I am confident that Jon will make an outstanding member of your university’s community.
  • There is no doubt in my mind that Allison would quickly become an invaluable asset for your team.
  • It is my strong opinion that Matthew would be a tremendous addition to the University of Virginia’s graduate program in Theoretical Physics.

Finally, conclude by encouraging the reader to contact you if they have any questions about the applicant.

Step 9: Politely Sign-off

Your letter closing should be formal and polite. Sincerely, Regards, and Best regards are all great examples. Sincerely is widely considered to be the best sign-off because not only is it undeniably polite, it also carries a warm, friendly tone. In cases where the closing is more than one word, only the first letter of the first word should be capitalized.

Ready to get started? Save yourself some time and effort by downloading and customizing one of our free templates or samples:

Templates and Samples for Students & Teachers

Templates and Samples for Employment & Jobs

7. The Six Characteristics of a Strong Recommendation

Regardless of what kind of content you end up including, keeping these six characteristics in mind throughout the writing process will help take your recommendation to the next level.

#1. It Is Personable:

Your letter should sound like it was written by a real person. The chief reason why colleges and employers request reference letters is because they want to get an idea how an applicant’s qualifications and personal qualities are perceived by another person.

#2. It Comes from a Credible Source:

If your mom writes you a college recommendation letter outlying how you are such a good, nice boy” it is unlikely to be very convincing to the admissions board. It needs to come from an authoritative source and be written in a strong, confident tone.

#3. It Uses Supportive, Positive, and Enthusiastic Language:

A powerful recommendation needs to be enthusiastic and sincere. If the reader feels like you don’t wholeheartedly recommend the applicant, your letter will be weak and unconvincing.

When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

Using adverbs such as “sincerely” and “wholeheartedly” will inject some passion into your words. When describing the applicant’s strengths, enhance them with adjectives such as “exceptional,” “outstanding,” and “superb.”

#4. It is Specific and Detailed:

You should avoid empty cliches such as, “Mollie is the best student/employee I’ve ever had.” Everything you say needs to be specific and backed up by evidence. If Jim really was the best student you ever had, then you need to describe exactly how and why that was the case.

#5. It Contains a Narrative:

By the end of the letter the reader should feel like they have gotten to know both you and the applicant better. Your relationship with the applicant, and your description of their strengths, should feel like a story. Also be sure to include anecdotes demonstrating the applicant’s abilities and traits whenever possible.

#6. It Is Relevant to the Applicant’s Goals:

A strong recommendation should focus on the strength’s an applicant possess that are relevant to their pursuits. For example, in the case of a student applying to a mechanical engineering department, avoid writing about their exceptional literary masterworks and focus on their achievements in science.

8. How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Asking for a recommendation letter can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re not sure whether or not the person will accept. This guide will show you exactly how to properly ask for a reference letter, as well as who and when to ask.

If you’ve been asked to write a recommendation and you’re not sure whether or not you should accept, go to the next section for details on exactly when and how to reject a request.

When Should I Ask for One?

You should only ask for letters of recommendation when an application specifically calls for one, or when you believe your application would be weak without one.

The following are examples of when a reference letter would be required or useful:

  • Applying for University
  • Applying for Graduate School
  • Applying for a Scholarship
  • Applying for a job that request ones
  • Applying for an entry-level job with little or no work experience
  • Applying for a job as a teacher
  • Applying to work at a volunteer organization

Who should I ask?

Generally speaking, you should ask someone you have a solid relationship with who can also accurately speak to your strengths from a position of authority. That being said, the best person to ask for a recommendation will depend on the type of application you are making.

Tips on who to ask if I’m a…

a. Student Applying to College or Scholarship:

Pick a teacher who has taught you for a long period of time and whose classes you performed particularly well in. If you are applying for a specific major, consider asking a teacher who taught you a subject related to your target field.

b. Student Applying to Grad School:

Ask a professor with whom you have had extensive interaction, such as one from a course which involved a lot of discussion. Even if you performed exceptionally well in a certain professor’s course, if there were 300 people in the class they would be unable to write an effective letter for you.

If you wrote a thesis paper as an undergrad, your adviser is likely the professor most well-equipped to write your recommendation.

c. Teacher Applying for a Job at a New School:

Ideally, you should ask the principal of your previous school because they can write you a letter from a position of authority. However, if you’d rather not ask the principal or feel they don’t know you well enough, asking the head of your department is a great alternative.

d. Recent Grad Applying for a Teaching Job:

If you specifically studied to become a teacher in college, then you will have already taught some courses under the guidance of a professor or two. One of these professors is by far the best candidate to ask to write your recommendation.

e. Applying to a Job with Little or No Work Experience:

Ask a friend or extended family member to write a character reference for you. A reference from a direct family member will be seen as “too close to home” and will not be taken seriously by any potential employer.

f. Applying to a Job with Experience:

The ideal writer would be someone who has directly supervised your work such as a manager. In cases where asking your manager is not ideal, a colleague who you have worked with closely is also acceptable.

If you’re still not sure who to ask, use the following formula: pick the person in the highest possible position with whom you have the strongest relationship.

How Should I Ask? (6 Expert Tips for Proper Etiquette)

In many cases, how you ask for a letter of recommendation can be the difference between a person saying yes or no. These six tips for proper etiquette will help you ask in a way that makes it hard to decline.

#1. Ask in Person:

Whenever possible, always ask for a recommendation in person. The person you ask will appreciate that you took the time to make a personal, face-to-face appeal.

#2. Explain Your Situation:

Don’t jump straight into asking for a reference. Start by explaining exactly what you are applying for so that they understand why you are asking in the first place.

#3. Use Polite Language:

Use indirect turns of phrase to ensure your tone is as polite as possible when asking someone for a recommendation, even if you know the person very well.

Don’t say: “Hey can you write me a recommendation letter?

Do Say: “I was wondering if it might at all be possible for you to write me a letter of recommendation.

In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

This is by far the most important tip, so pay extra attention to it. In almost all cases, politeness is the most important factor in convincing someone to accept your request.

#4. Give Them an Excuse to Say No:

In case they are unwilling or unable to write your letter, always follow up your request with a statement that allows them to easily decline. Don’t put them in an awkward position where they have to directly refuse.

Example: “If you’re too busy with other tasks to write it, I perfectly understand and please don’t hesitate to decline.

#5. Emphasize Why You’re Asking Them:

Explain why you chose to ask for a recommendation from them. Many times this will help convince them to accept your request even if they are busy.

Example:I understand that you might not have time, but since you have taught me for 2 years and are familiar with my work, I believe that no one is more qualified to write my recommendation than you.”

#6. Express Your Gratitude:

Tell them how appreciative you would be if they would take the time to write your letter. However, don’t give them the impression that you expect them to accept (as outlined in tip 4).

Example: I would really appreciate it if you were able to write a letter of recommendation for me, if you are unable to do so, however, I completely understand and please don’t worry about it.”

In the end, as long as you ask with a polite and sincere attitude, most people will be more than happy to write a recommendation for you.

How to Ask via Email (with Template)

If you are in a situation where you can’t ask for a recommendation in person, write a request via email. Simply follow the same guidelines outlined in the section above and your request will be golden.

If you’re still unsure of yourself however, we’ve created a professional template for writing a letter of recommendation email request below. Simply copy and paste the template and then fill in your own details.

Subject Line: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Dear [Title + Name of Person You are Asking]

First of all thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope that this request does not cause you any inconvenience.

I am applying for [university program/job position] at [target school/company] and was wondering if it would at all be possible for you to write a letter of recommendation for me.

As my [relation with requestee], I sincerely feel that no one else is more suited to writing me a recommendation and I would truly appreciate any kind words you might be willing to say on my behalf.

That being said, I know that you are extremely busy and if you are unable to find the time to write a letter I would completely understand.


[Your Name]

What Information Should I Provide to the Person Writing My Letter?

Once your writer has accepted your request, you need to provide them with as much useful information as possible. This will not only make things more convenient for your writer, but also ensure that they write you the best recommendation possible.

Here’s a list of some of the info you should provide:

  • Your resume & cover letter
  • Your personal statement (if you’re a student)
  • The name of your target university or company
  • A link to the description of your target job or program
  • Personal strengths or characteristics you’d like them to focus on
  • Specific achievements you’d like them to mention

9. When and How to Reject a Request for a Recommendation Letter


Of course, there are always times when you may be exceptionally busy and finding the time to write a letter can be difficult. In these situations accepting or rejecting a letter is completely up to you.

There are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

Other than that, there are two situations in which you definitely should reject a request for a reference letter.

#1. You don’t know enough about the applicant to write them a strong recommendation.

Even if you are aware that an applicant has exceptional abilities and personal qualities, you may not be familiar enough with the specifics of their accomplishments to write a proper letter.

#2. You know a lot about the applicant but can’t think of enough positive things to say.

It sounds harsh but there are times when an applicant’s performance at your company or school has simply not been ideal. If you’re struggling to come up with a way to portray them in a positive light, it’s better to decline the request and let someone who is more familiar with their strengths write their recommendation.


Of course, if you want to just flat out reject a request, that is completely acceptable. However, if you’d like to soften the blow a bit, coming up with an excuse is remarkably easy.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Simply apologize to the student and tell them that you are too busy, and feel as though you lack the time required to write them the letter they deserve.

Now that you know everything there is to know about recommendation letters, feel free to check out our professional templates and samples. Our experts have created a comprehensive library of examples for both studentsand employment.

If you need more inspiration for writing your letter, we also have extensive guides for writing cover letters, business letters, and even letters of resignation.

Written by Matthew Kerr

Matthew Kerr is a career adviser at Resume Genius, where he reinvigorates client's careers and saves resumes from the trash heap. His career expertise has been quoted on countless publications across the web, including... more

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: How to List References
letter to losing bidder
Meeting invitation wording
pay raise thank you note
Free samples of business thank you letters
tone letter essay
Free referral letter template
thank you for support
Concise sentences definition

Writing a Reference Letter (With Examples)

personal letter of reference format

Having a personal letter of recommendation is important especially when you are looking for a new job, internship or even seeking to gain admission in a school. It may be called a character reference letter because it attests to a person’s character. The personal Job recommendation letter sets out to credit the applicant’s personal attributes in addition to the applicant’s professional skills or abilities. You may also see Letter Templates.

Sample Restaurant Employee Personal Recommendation Letter


File Format

  • Google Docs
  • MS Word
  • Pages

Size: A4, US


Personal Recommendation Letter Template


File Format

  • Google Docs
  • MS Word
  • Pages
  • Editable PDF



Personal Reference Letter for Neighbour Friend Word Doc

livecareer.com | If there’s a neighbor who needs help of recommendation, personal reference letter for neighbor friend is what you need. It has all the personal information details a neighbor can provide.

Free Download

Example of Nurse Personal Letter of Recommendation Word Format

livecareer.com | If you are a nurse by profession, this nurse personal letter of recommendation gives you the detailed personal letter summary that a doctor from hospital would provide for future recommendation.

Free Download

Editable Personal Letter of Recommendation for Employment

best-job-interview.com | If you need to make a character reference to an employer for someone, editable personal letter of recommendation for employment will give you the detailed letter format you can edit.

Free Download

Free Download Personal Letter of Recommendation Character

prepscholar.com | This personal letter of recommendation character has a complete comprehension that your loved ones would make for you and your character and nature. It’s detailed, simple and easy to use.

Free Download

Printbale Personal Letter of Recommendation for College

prepscholar.com | If there is a school student you want to recommend for college, printable personal letter of recommendation for college is the comprehensive letter that you would give as personal recommendation.

Free Download

Download Personal Letter of Recommendation for a Friend

jobsearch.about.com | When your friend needs an immediate personal reference from you, this personal letter of recommendation for a friend will help you immensely with a ready letter at your complete ease.

Free Download

Personal Letter of Recommendation for High School Word Format


Free Download

Personal Letter of Recommendation for College PDF Download


Free Download

Sample Cover Letter with Personal Recommendation


Free Download

Recommendation Letter from the Personal Associate Template


Free Download

Personal Recommendation Letter Request Student Profile


Free Download

Personal Letter of Recommendation for Rhodes Scholarship

Free Download

Company Recommendation Letter to Immigration Office


Free Download

Sample Personal Character Recommendation Letter Form


Free Download

How to Write a Personal Recommendation Letter for a Friend?

While you are writing a personal recommendation letter for a friend it is highly recommendable to write it on a letterhead and if you don’t have a letterhead then you may go ahead and download some of the sample personal letterhead templates from the web.

There are many of them available and in addition to this, you can write the details about your friend and his work. It is important for you to mention when your friend worked for you. The most common example of such a letter is Personal Letter of Recommendation that is a writer by the person.

What to Write a Recommendation Letter?

Writing a Recommendation Letter Templates in Doc is quite simple as it has a simple format which is more like the format of a formal letter. The first paragraph of a personal letter of recommendation general contains the information about yourself and your associated with the person whom you are recommending.

In the next paragraph, there is information about the person whom you are recommending and the information also contains the details of the work that he did for you and you must make it a point to highlight his qualities and you must mention your new address in case of personal change of address letter.


To write a Promotion Recommendation Letter Templates, you may go ahead and check out some of the personal resignation letter templates as it will help you in giving you a rough idea about what to write in the letter. In addition to this, ensure that the letter is structured properly as it will help the reader in understanding the letter properly.

While writing an individual sponsorship letter, it is also important to check the content of the letter as it should only concentrate on the achievements and the goals as the person on the other side of the table would be keen in knowing your caliber before proving any sort of sponsorship.


There are many benefits of writing the letter in a proper structure and to begin with, the first and the most important benefit is that when you write a structured letter, it is easy for the person to understand the same and the chances of acceptance of the letter become really high. This is especially true in the case of recommendation and resignation letter.

If you follow Academic Recommendation Lettersbefore writing one then there are good chances that your resignation will be accepted as the letter written by you will be detailed, structured, properly written and properly formatted. It is brief but weighty and usually tips the scale in favor of the applicant.

An individual who has had personal dealings with the applicant and can attest to the applicant’s personal and professional abilities should write it. You can save recommendation letter file in word, pdf or excel format.

You may also like

  • Recommendation Letter - 9+ Free Word, PDF Documents Download ...

  • 5+ Immigration Reference Letter Templates - Free Sample, Example ...

  • 6+ Job Reference Letter Templates - Free Sample, Example, Format ...

  • Free Reference Letter Template – 25+ Free Word, PDF Documents ...

  • 12+ Reference Letter Templates - Free Sample, Example, Format ...

  • 2239+ Free Google Docs Letter Templates

  • 5+ Adoption Reference Letter Templates - Free Sample, Example ...

  • 8+ Letters of Recommendation for Internship – Free Sample ...

  • 2238+ Free Word Letter Templates

  • 89+ Free PDF Letter Templates

  • 2238+ Free Apple Pages Letter Templates

  • 7+ Bank Reference Letter Templates - Free Sample, Example ...

We prepared 40+ AWESOME Personal Reference Letter Samples and Templates Start the letter following the normal business letter format.

Employee reference letter sample

personal letter of reference format

A personal recommendation, also known as a character recommendation or a character reference, is a letter of recommendation written by someone who can speak to the job candidate’s personality and character. A person might ask for a personal recommendation if they do not have much work experience, or if they feel their employers cannot write positive references.

A recommendation letter should provide information on who you are, your connection with the person you are recommending, why they are qualified, and the specific skills they have that you are endorsing.

A personal recommendation focuses on the personality and soft skills of the candidate and uses examples from the candidate's life outside of work.

When Are Personal Reference Letters Used? 

These letters of recommendation are written by people who know job candidates outside of work, and can speak to their character and ability on a personal level. While companies typically request letters of reference from co-workers, sometimes hiring managers will request a personal reference letter as well.

Personal reference letters are often required for a big purchase, such as a condominium, or for education-related applications. As well, lawyers who seek to be admitted to the bar must submit a personal reference; the letter is also often required for other professional associations and guiding bodies.

When high school or college students without professional work experience apply for jobs, volunteer opportunities, or scholarships, they will typically need to present character references in lieu of professional references. These can be solicited from teachers, club leaders, pastors, guidance counselors, or other adults who are familiar with the student’s personality and accomplishments.

Guidelines for Writing a Personal Reference Letter 

As with all recommendation letters, you should only agree to write a personal reference letter if you feel comfortable supporting the person and will be able to write a positive and enthusiastic note. In your letter, include information on how you know the person. As well, share details about the person's morals and values, experience, or background as is applicable to the situation. If, for example, you are writing for a college student applying for a fellowship, you’ll want to emphasize their academic talents.

If writing for someone seeking their first-ever retail sales job, concentrate on detailed descriptions of their “people skills,” work ethic, and personal charisma.

Personal Reference Letter Samples

This is a sample personal reference letter. Download the letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Download the Word Template

Sample Personal Reference Letter #1

Mary Smith 
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345

September 1, 2018

Andre Lewis 
City Manager 
Town of Smithtown 
123 Business Rd. 
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Ms. Lewis:

I am writing to recommend Ariel Jones for a position with the Town of Smithtown. I have known Ariel since she was a child, and she is a highly qualified candidate for a position in town government. She has lived in Smithtown for most of her life, and she is deeply involved in her local community, her church, and her children's schools.

Ariel has shown her commitment to the town as a Member of the Board of Appeals and as an active participant in many community endeavors, including the annual fund drive for the Downtown Shelter for the Homeless, Meals on Wheels, and our public library’s bi-annual book sale.

Ariel would be a tremendous asset to the town and I recommend her to you without reservation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Mary Smith

Sample Personal Reference Letter #2

Michael Smith
123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 12345 · 555-555-5555 · michael.smith@email.com

September 1, 2018

Jessica Jones
Sales Manager
Acme Sales
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321

Dear Mr. Jones:

I'm writing this reference in support of Jason Craden. Jason was my college roommate, and we have been friends for the past ten years. If you are looking for a smart, talented, and diligent candidate, Jason is the perfect match.

As a student, Jason was always engaged in classes — he studied not just to get good grades, but also out of a desire to truly understand the material. It was no surprise when he displayed similar characteristics once he joined the world of work. As a friend, Jason is supportive and caring. When my father passed away shortly after our graduation, Jason was one of the first people I told. Not only did he fly out to be with me during this difficult time, but he also absorbed the burden of communicating the news to our other college friends. Jason has a knack for building and maintaining strong, enduring friendships.

These relationship-building skills would enable him to excel as a salesman for Acme Sales.

Jason would be an asset to any company, and I wholeheartedly recommend him. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any further questions.


Michael Smith 

Personal Recommendation Letter Template

If you are writing a letter, follow the proper business letter format. Begin with your contact information at the top of the letter, followed by the date, and then the contact information of the employer.

If you are sending the letter as an email, you do not need to include this heading. However, you will have to come up with a subject line for the email. In the subject, briefly include the purpose of your letter and the name of the person you are writing about. If you know the job the person is applying for, you can put that too. For example Subject Line: Recommendation for Firstname Lastname, Account Analyst

When writing a recommendation letter, include a salutation (Dear Dr. Joyner, Dear Ms. Merrill, etc.). If you are writing a general letter, address it "To Whom it May Concern" or simply don't include a salutation and start with the first paragraph of the letter.

Paragraph 1
The first paragraph of the personal recommendation letter explains how you know the person you are recommending (and for how long you've known them) and why you are qualified to write a letter to recommend employment or graduate school. With a personal letter, you are writing a recommendation because you know the person and their character.

Paragraph 2 (and 3)
The second paragraph of a recommendation letter contains specific information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified and what they can contribute. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to provide details.

Be sure to provide specific examples of times the person has demonstrated specific qualities. It is fine if these are not work-related examples – after all, you do not know the person from a work setting. Focus on examples from your relationship with that person.

When writing a letter referring a candidate for a particular job opening, the recommendation letter should include information about how the person's skills match the position they are applying for. Therefore, ask the candidate for the job listing ahead of time, or at least ask what types of jobs the person will be applying for (if it is a general recommendation letter).

Conclusion with Summary
This section of the recommendation letter contains a brief summary of why are you are recommending the person. State that you "highly recommend" the person or you "recommend without reservation" or something similar.

Conclude the letter with an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number within the paragraph or another form of contact (such as an email address).

End the letter with a sign-off such as “Sincerely” or “Best.” If you are mailing this letter, conclude with your handwritten signature, followed by your typed signature.

If this is an email, conclude with your typed signature. Below your signature, include any contact information.

How to Use a Letter Template

A template helps you with the layout of your letter. Templates also show you what elements you need to include in your letter, such as introductions and body paragraphs.

You should use a template as a starting point for your recommendation letter. However, you should always be flexible. You can change any of the elements of the template to fit your own needs. For example, if a letter template only has one body paragraph, but you want to include two, you should do so.

A character reference letter is also known as a personal reference letter. It is a document written by an Character Reference Letter Format (for a Friend).

personal letter of reference format
Written by Grot
Write a comment