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 Writing a reference letter, also known as a recommendation letter, can be more than a little daunting. That’s because you know the stakes are high, and that it’s not even you who they impact (talk about pressure!). The character reference you write could make the difference between your friend or colleague getting their dream job — or not. And that’s just one example of a reference letter’s use.

What is a letter of reference?

A character reference testifies to a person's—you got it—character. It can be written by an employer, or more commonly, a friend or acquaintance. Since this letter is meant to speak to the subject's qualities and personality, you should know the person fairly well if you agree to write it.

Perhaps the person asking this favor of you needs a character letter for a prospective landlord or co-op board, or maybe they’re seeking a financial loan that requires references. If it's for work, it could mean your report or colleague gets the job—or she doesn't. Whatever the reason, these business letters certainly aren’t ones to be taken lightly, and thus, you need to make sure yours is perfect. Similarly, you should give a good bit of thought to the subject before even agreeing to write a reference letter in the first place. It’s called a “character reference letter” for a reason. Is this person someone you could comfortably put your own reputation on the line for? Because by agreeing to serve as a job reference for them, that is what you’re essentially doing.

Starting to feel a wee anxious? We hear you. But really, writing a reference letter doesn’t have to be so intimidating if you’re simply smart about who you recommend and know the right rules and conventions to follow. Check out some effective reference letter samples and templates below, and whip up a letter that will result in a hire, new apartment, or loan for your colleague or friend. Who knows—maybe one day they’ll be the ones returning the favor and a job reference for you.

Letter of reference vs. letter of recommendation

While they might sometimes be used interchangeably, a letter of reference is a bit different from a letter of recommendation—although the recommendation is a type of reference letter. A reference means you're vouching for the person in one of several possible capacities, such as financial purposes or legal matters. A letter of recommendation is generally specific to applying for a job; you're discussing how the person can contribute to the position and company.

What is a bank loan recommendation?

When someone applies for a bank loan for a costly purchase such as a home mortgage, business, or education, the lender may request references to attest to your character and ability to pay it back. Someone who knows that your committed to your obligations and financial situation can attest to your likelihood of paying back the loan. Your financial means aren't the only consideration; the lender also wants to know that you're responsible and care about fulfilling the expectations of you.

What is a commercial letter of recommendation?

In a commercial letter of recommendation, you're vouching for someone's services. A professional might need a testimonial to recruit new clients or sell them to prospective buyers. If the professional asks you to write one, it probably means you were a past client who can attest to the high quality of service she gave you. Your recommendation can help others decide if they want to use the service, too.

Examples of letters of reference

Sample 1: Reference letter for a new job

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra line of space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2017” as opposed to “1/1/17”)

(include extra line of space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra line of space here)

To Whom it May Concern: (Format this similarly to a business letter. If you do know the recipient’s name and it’s not a general letter, you could say “To Ms. Smith” or “To Mr. Smith;” however, gender-neutral salutations are increasingly becoming best practice. Either way, be sure to end with a colon and not a comma.)

It is with pleasure that I recommend (candidate’s name) for the position of X (if known) within your company. While working for (your company name) from 20XX-20XX, (candidate’s name) truly proved herself to be an asset, and it is with no hesitancy that after X amount of time knowing (candidate’s name), and as a longtime professional within this field myself, I enthusiastically recommend them for this role.

(Note: Paragraph 1, above, should explain how you know the person you’re writing the letter of reference for, how long you have known them, and why you are qualified to make this recommendation.)

During her time as a (previous title) at our company, (candidate’s name) repeatedly demonstrated her value in XYZ ways. As a take-charge person, not only did she excel at taking the lead on X projects, but she did so with a positive attitude that truly made her an asset to the team. Her contributions of XYZ were indispensable to our success, and she added to our overall value in XYZ ways.

(Note: Paragraph 2, above, should go into detail about the qualifications and achievements of the person asked you to write a reference letter. What made them so great to work with? What value can they offer to the recipient of this letter? Be specific, and use more than one paragraph if necessary. This is the most crucial part of the employment reference letter, after all! Ask for a copy of your colleague’s resume or cover letter, if possible; these can be helpful reference tools in formulating your praise.)

In short, I can assure you that (candidate’s name) would make a truly valuable contribution to your team thanks to their XYZ skills/qualities, and I recommend them to you without reservation. Thanks so much, and if you need any further information from me, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

(Note: Paragraph 3 of the recommendation letter, above, can be short, as it simply reiterates the candidate’s most standout qualities. Think of it as a sort of summary.)

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your title)

 

Sample 2: Reference letter for a landlord/head of housing

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra line of space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2019” as opposed to “1/1/19”)

(include extra line of space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra line of space here)

To Whom it May Concern: (More likely than not, you won’t know the name of the landlord; perhaps you were given the contact information of the realty company to write to. In this scenario, it makes the most sense to stick with the generic, gender-neutral greeting.)

Please consider this letter confirmation that I highly recommend (applicant’s name) as a future tenet within your building.

(Note: Paragraph 1, above, can be super simple, as this is most often a personal reference. Cut to the chase!)

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with (applicant’s name) the past X years in Y industry, and we’ve gotten to know one another quite well. Throughout the course of our professional relationship, she has repeatedly proven to be trustworthy, reliable, and XY other qualities.

(Note: Paragraph 2, above, should state the nature and length of your relationship with the person who requested you to be a reference. The landlord wants to hear that you’ve known this person for some time, and that you know them well. You don’t have to be as detailed as you would be to a prospective employer here, but sufficiently express that the potential tenant is reliable, trustworthy, orderly, and whatever other landlord-friendly qualities are applicable and relevant. As an aside: Now’s probably not the time to mention how fun they are at happy hour.)

Again, I’m happy to highly recommend that (applicant’s name) become a tenet within your building, and I can do so without reservation. Thanks so much, and if you need any further information from me, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

(Note: Sum it up! Drive the point home—and the apartment keys into your pal’s hand.)

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your title)

 

Sample 3: Reference letter for a bank/money lender

(Note: A relatively similar-style letter could also work as a character reference for graduate school, or for an MBA recommendation letter.)

Your name

Your address

Your phone number

Your email address

(include extra line of space here)

Date (type out the date in full: “January 1, 2017” as opposed to “1/1/17”)

(include extra line of space here)

Recipient name

Recipient title

Recipient company name

Recipient address (or company address)

(include extra line of space here)

To Whom It May Concern: (Or if you happen to know their name, “Dear Ms. or Mr. Smith” is also acceptable. However, you likely will not know their name. Don’t forget the colon!)

I’m writing to recommend that (applicant’s name) be a recipient of a loan from your institution to go toward their schooling. In the X amount of time I have known (applicant’s name) in Y capacity, they have repeatedly demonstrated a strong worth ethic and sense of discipline, and that directly informs my ability to recommend them to you highly and without reservation.

(Note: Keep Paragraph 1, above, short and sweet. If the loan your acquaintance is seeking is a student loan, as is the case with this example, be sure to emphasize right away that the intended use of this loan is, indeed, for school. Plus, as with the examples above, state the length of time you’ve known the applicant, and in what capacity.)

In my many conversations with (applicant’s name) regarding their future, I have seen the foundations of a strong plan unfold. (Applicant’s name) intends to go to X school to become Y profession, and already they are investigating internships and other work-study programs to help them achieve this mission. I have repeatedly been impressed by XYZ values of (applicant’s name), and I know them to be a mature, driven, and hardworking person.

(Note: Paragraph 2, above, is where you go into detail about the qualities that make your acquaintance an ideal loan recipient. Of course, say whatever qualities are true and relevant, but know that the qualities a bank or financial loan lender wants to hear aren’t dissimilar from the one a landlord is interested in hearing — trustworthiness, reliability, hardworking, etc.)

Given how practical (applicant’s name) is, we have also had many conversations about the average salary of those in their intended field — (list average salary). That combined with (applicant’s name’s) good judgement and sense of responsibility assures me, as it should you, that they are perfectly capable of taking and staying on top of a loan. Again, it is with unreserved enthusiasm that I recommend them to you. Thanks so much, and if you need anything further from me, feel free to reach out.

(Note: In Paragraph 3, it’s important that you bring up the applicant’s understanding of finances. The more details you know to slip in regarding their financial track record/ability to save and spend wisely, the better!)

Sincerely,

(Your name)

(Your title)

If you're asked to write a reference letter...

Other examples—including both personal letters of reference and professional letters of reference—that you may be asked to write, include: an adoption letter of reference. immigration letter of reference, scholarship recommendation letter, sorority recommendation letter, law school recommendation letter, medical school recommendation letter or teacher recommendation letter.

All in all, the formats of these don’t differ too significantly. You'll briefly explain your relationship with and how you know the person before delving into their accomplishment and suitability for the role at hand. What’s absolutely essential in every kind of reference letter, though, is selling the person on whose behalf you’re writing as confidently and enthusiastically as possible. And if, try as you might, you’re not able to muster up much genuine enthusiasm over helping this person get what they’re after—kindly let them know they should seek someone else to be their reference. It’s better for both parties that way.

Hopefully, these character reference letter samples and recommendation templates have given you the toolset you need to write a letter that’s big on impact with little anxiety.

 

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What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document you may be asked to prepare for someone who is applying for a job, internship, college application, leadership position or volunteer opportunity. The purpose of a recommendation letter is to validate what the employer has learned about the applicant and get answers to outstanding questions about their performance or habits.

An honest recommendation provides the recipient with a personalized account of your experiences with the applicant. You should, therefore, have at least some knowledge of how the candidate acts and performs in a work environment. Consider the following before you accept a request for a recommendation:

  • Have you worked with or directly observed the applicant?
  • Do you know relevant strengths and skills you can personally elaborate on?
  • Do you have specific examples of the individual’s work?
  • Can you provide positive feedback about this individual?

It’s important that to consider whether or not you can provide a quality recommendation letter before accepting a request. If you do not have enough experience with or positive stories to tell about the applicant, let them know quickly and respectfully that you are unable to meet the request. This way they have plenty of time to find an alternative solution.
 

Recommendation letter format: what to include

Your letter of recommendation should include four items:

  1. A brief introduction that states who you are, your relationship to the applicant and your personal experience or expertise.
  2. An overview of the applicant’s strengths as you’ve experienced them and as they relate to the recipient.
  3. A personal story that elaborates on one to two traits the applicant possesses.
  4. A closing statement that summarizes why the individual you are recommending would be a good fit for the opportunity.

If the candidate hasn’t provided you with an up-to-date resume and the job description, ask them to send those so that you are fully prepared to write the recommendation. You can use their resume to get a full understanding of their experiences and achievements.

Related: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Reference: Email Examples

You should review the job description to understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Use the description to decide what you should include from their resume and your personal experiences working with them.
 

Letter of recommendation template

When writing a letter of recommendation for students or working professionals, your letter should include a brief introduction, the candidate’s background and experience, a personal story, and a closing statement.

Use the following recommendation letter template as inspiration when drafting your own:

To Whom it May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend [Applicant Name] for [Position With Company or Acceptance to Institution].

I am [Your Name], a [Your Position] at [Your Institution or Company]. I have [Number] years of experience working in [Your Industry or Academic Focus], and have seen many young professionals come and go. [Applicant Name] is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, [Applicant Name] displayed great talents in [Skill, Trait, Experience, Class, etc.]. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with [Applicant’s Name], but during the time worked together, her understanding of [Key Topic] grew far more than that of her peers.

[Insert Personal Story Elaborating on Key Skills, Trait, Experience].

It’s not just her technical skills that impress me, however. [Applicant Name] was a joy to work with because of her amazingly positive attitude and [Positive Trait]. Her [Positive Trait] and [Positive Trait] were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that [Applicant Name] would be a great fit for your [Institution/Company]. Not only will she bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, she will quickly become an asset and help your [Institution/Company] grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at [Contact Information]. As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of her talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with her.

Sincerely,

[Your Name, Company, and Title]

 

Letter of recommendation example

There are many formats recommendation letter can have. Here’s a specific example of what a completed letter may look like for a job applicant using the above framework:

To Whom it May Concern:

It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Annie Chiu for a position as a Data Analyst for L&Q International.

I am Robert Cunningham, a Regional Manager at Mountain View Unlimited. I have 15 years of experience working as a statistician and client services specialist and have seen many young professionals come and go. Annie Chiu is one individual I have worked with who uniquely stands out.

During our time together, Annie displayed great talents in technical applications, such as ArcGIS, R coding, Python, and several other data visualization tools. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with Annie and the technical skills she had on day one, but during the time worked together, her understanding of data analysis and the tools of the trade grew far more than that of her peers.

My first experience with Annie’s adaptability came not long after she was hired. Last year, we had one client who sent data in Excel that needed extensive cleanup. At that time, Annie’s experience with Excel was limited, but she worked extra hours to learn how to properly clean up data in Excel through the use of functions. Within the week, the client’ data was properly formatted so that it could be effectively analyzed and visualized. Annie even handled the data visualization with skill and the client had nothing but praise for the end result.

It’s not just her technical skills that impress me, however. Annie was a joy to work with because of her amazingly positive attitude and eagerness to stick tightly to deadlines. Her can-do attitude and team building skills were also necessary and valued not just by myself, but by her peers, who often relied on her to get the job done.

I am absolutely confident that Annie would be a great fit for your L&Q International. Not only will she bring the kind of skills and experiences you’re looking for in an applicant, she will quickly become an asset and help your L&Q International grow in any way she can.

If you need more information or specific examples, please do not hesitate to contact me at 555-123-4567, or by email at [email protected] As a recommendation letter likely only provides a snapshot of her talents and achievements, I would be happy to further elaborate on my time working with her.

Sincerely,

Robert Cunningham
Regional Manager
Mountain View Unlimited

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NYC Coop Board Package Reference Letter Samples and Tips

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Being able to afford a co-op apartment in NYC is only a portion of the board package process. No matter how well qualified you are financially before and after buying in a NYC co-op, you still need to prove you are worthy! Part of the typical co-op board application process is presenting the necessary documentation to make yourself stand out as the perfect neighbor.

The requirements of each NYC co-op board may vary, but generally speaking there are several types of co-op reference letters you may be asked to provide along with your co-op board application. Your buyer's agent will advise you on how to approach requesting letters and below are some insights on the types of letters you can expect to need.

 

Types of NYC Co-op Reference Letters

  • Personal Reference Letter
  • Employer Reference Letter
  • Professional Reference Letter
  • Landlord Reference Letter

 

 

What’s included in a personal reference letter?

When it’s time to select people to write personal reference letters for your co-op board application, it’s important to choose people that know you extremely well, generally close friends who you have known for a long time and can attest to your character traits and be viewed as character references.

You want the person writing the letter to be able to offer a glimpse of how he or she met you, context on how long you have known each other, as well as share a few heartwarming anecdotes or stories that put a positive light on your character, trustworthiness, and personality. It can be helpful if the personal reference is also a co-op owner and can attest to why the candidate would be a good neighbor.

 

What’s included in an employer or professional reference letter?

In regard to professional reference letters (also referred to as business reference letters), there are typically two types that a NYC co-op may ask for - employer reference letters and more general professional reference letters.

Employer reference letters are very straightforward and will likely be requested from your  human resources representative at your company. These letters typically include basic information that states your current job title, length of employment with the company, confirmation of your annual base salary and related compensation, as well as a line or two that you are an employee in good standing with the company. NYC co-op boards require these as confirmation of your income and stability in your job or profession.

Professional reference letters are more similar to personal reference letters, except the writer of the letter is a business colleague. These letters provide insight on the hardworking, diligent nature of a co-op board applicant, as well as a sense of your personality in the corporate community. Your manager or a colleague you’ve worked closely with on projects can serve as a great professional reference. If you have known that person for a long period of time, ask them to include that information to show your ability to build long-standing relationships.

 

What’s included in a landlord reference letter?

Landlord reference letters are simply there to show you were a good tenant and that you paid your bills consistently and in a timely manner. This letter should include your former address, the length of time you were a tenant in that apartment, plus the amount of rent you were paying every month. It’s also recommended to request that your landlord describe you as a tenant, that you were a good neighbor, took great care of the apartment, etc.

 

What’s included in all reference letters?

Important to note, it is strongly advised that you remind all of your references to include their contact information in their letter and/or letterhead. This is extremely useful to the co-op board should they need to ask follow-up questions of the reference for additional information.

Below are a couple sample letters to point you in the right direction.

Personal Co-op Reference Letter Example

 

Board of Directors

The Conrad

100 Greenwich Village Street

New York, NY 10013

 

Dear Member of the Board,

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter on behalf of Susie Smart who would like to purchase a cooperative apartment in your building.

I have known Susie for over 15 years and I feel fortunate to consider her a good friend.  Susie is reliable, trustworthy and mature and is known for her warmth of character and generosity of spirit. She is fiscally responsible and would never take on commitments that she could not keep. She is always eager to help out her friends whenever they need advice or assistance and I have relied upon her friendship often over these many years.

Susie has put down deep roots in the Greenwich Village community, where she has lived since 2003 - first as a student at NYU where we initially met and continuing on for over a decade since graduation. She is a dedicated and involved resident, and participates in local volunteer programs at Washington Square Park.

In all of my years as a New Yorker and as a co-op owner myself, I have seen residents who are good neighbors and those who are not. It is my humble opinion that Susie would be a superb addition to your building and considerate neighbor.

Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,

Michael Davers

 

246 Front Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

[email protected]

212-777-7777

Professional Co-op Reference Letter Example

 


Board of Directors
The Conrad
100 Greenwich Village Street
New York, NY 10013

 

Dear Member of the Board,

I am writing this letter of reference at the request of Susie Smart in connection with her proposed purchase of an apartment in The Conrad.

Susie and I became coworkers while she was employed at American Finance in 2014. Though she was only there for 3 years, we formed a strong friendship and have remained close since. I've only known her to be extremely professional, courteous, responsible, trustworthy, sincere, and generous. My career just started to take off while Susie was at American Finance and she always went out of her way to help me deal with the pressures and confusion that came along. There are very few former employees that I have kept in close contact after they left. Susie's knowledge of the industry and her compassion make her a wonderful friend and confidant.

As a former owner of a Soho based cooperative apartment in NYC, I am very much aware of the qualities looked for in a prospective buyer. I have no doubts that Susie would not only be a respectable neighbor but that she would add great character and warmth to the building and community.

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any further questions.

Sincerely,

Jane Smith

123 Main Street
New York, NY 10003
[email protected]
212-555-5555

Learn about the 3 different types of recommendation letters, including academic recommendations, career references, and character.

Writing a Reference Letter

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The co-op-buying process is like the job application process on steroids. Not only do you have to prove you qualify—with a bundle of financial documents, rather than a resume—but you also have to convince a co-op board that you'll be an asset as a neighbor. This is where references come in, specifically letters from close friends and business colleagues who will attest to your personal character and financial responsibility. 

To help demystify the application process, and provide some inspiration, we’ve collected sample letters from buyers who successfully landed their desired co-ops. We've cropped out contact information (these were all submitted on company letterhead or with the name, address and phone number of the letter writer at the top of the document) and any identifying details to protect everyone's privacy. 

[Editor's note: This story was first published in 2014 and was updated in April 2017. We're presenting it again here as part of our end-of-year Best of Brick week.]

In the meantime, here are a few basics to get you started on collecting references:

  • Ideally, you want to ask three professional contacts, three personal contacts, your landlord or property manager, and your employer for letters. This way, you’ll have a good number to choose from when it comes time to submit the application.
  • Each letter should mention the length of time the writer has known you, how they met you, and what they think of you, with a focus on personal details that illustrate your suitability as a neighbor. 
  • Along with the content, the board will consider the source of the recommendation: Your boss enthusing about your friendly nature and willingness to pitch in carries a lot more weight than your doorman (i.e. the guy who's counting on your holiday tip) gushing about, well, almost anything. Bonus points for getting a letter from someone who lives in the building or serves on a board in a similar building.
  • While there’s no rule on length, you want the letters to be substantial enough that they look like the writer put in an effort, but probably no more than 1.5 pages.
  • Make sure they’re typed and free of grammar and spelling errors.

EXAMPLE 1:

EXAMPLE 2:

EXAMPLE 3:

EXAMPLE 4:

EXAMPLE 5:

EXAMPLE 6:

EXAMPLE 7:

EXAMPLE 8:

EXAMPLE 9: 

EXAMPLE 10: 

EXAMPLE 11:

EXAMPLE 12:

EXAMPLE 13:

EXAMPLE 14:

For more tips, read our Ask an Expert column on reference letters, and another set of dos and don'ts here. 

Many thanks to real estate brokers Howard Morrel and Ari Harkov, and to Philip Lang, co-founder of Triplemint, a technology-enabled real estate brokerage (and a Brick Underground sponsor), for sending over the sample letters. 

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: How to Ask for Letters Of Recommendation! - The Intern Queen

November 3rd, I am happy to give Mr. Heyer my highest recommendation . Please.

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