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Published by at January 16th, 2024 , Revised On January 23, 2024

How To Write A Reference Letter That Gets Noticed

Reference letters play a crucial role in helping individuals secure new opportunities, whether it is landing a job, gaining admission to a school, or receiving a scholarship in universities in Canada. However, not all reference letters are created equal. To ensure your letter stands out, here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a reference letter. Stay with us!

What Is A Reference Letter

A reference letter, also known as a recommendation letter, is a document written by someone who can attest to an individual’s qualifications, skills, experiences, and character. The purpose of a reference letter is to provide insight and support for the person’s application for a job, educational program, scholarship, or other opportunities.

Reference letters are commonly requested by employers, academic institutions, or organizations as part of their selection process to gain a better understanding of an applicant’s suitability and qualifications. They are different from motivational letters.

Types Of Reference Letters

Reference letters can take various forms depending on the purpose and context of the recommendation. Here are some common types of reference letters:

Employment Reference Letter

  • Written by a former employer or supervisor.
  • Highlights the individual’s work experience, skills, contributions, and overall performance in a professional setting.
  • Often requested by potential employers as part of a job application.

Academic Reference Letter

  • Typically written by a teacher, professor, or academic advisor.
  • Focuses on the individual’s academic achievements, IELTS essay scores, intellectual abilities, and contributions to the learning environment.
  • Commonly required for college or graduate school applications.

Character Reference Letter

  • Provided by someone who can speak to the individual’s personal qualities, character, and integrity.
  • Can be written by a friend, neighbour, colleague, or community leader.
  • Often used in situations where the person’s character is relevant, such as court proceedings or community involvement.

Recommendation Letter For A Promotion

  • Given by a supervisor or employer when an employee is seeking a promotion within the same organization.
  • Highlights the individual’s qualifications, achievements, and suitability for the higher position.

Business Reference Letter

  • Often requested for business transactions, partnerships, or collaborations.
  • Written by a business associate or client, emphasizing the individual’s reliability, competence, and professionalism in a business context.

Rental Reference Letter

  • Given by a previous landlord to vouch for a tenant’s reliability and responsible behaviour during their tenancy.
  • Helps prospective landlords assess the suitability of a tenant.

Volunteer Reference Letter

  • Provided by an organization or supervisor where the individual volunteered.
  • Focuses on the person’s dedication, contributions, and impact as a volunteer.

Adoption Reference Letter

  • Written by someone who can speak to the prospective adoptive parents’ character, stability, and suitability for adoption.
  • May include information about their ability to provide a loving and nurturing environment for a child.

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How To Write A Reference Letter

Writing a reference letter can be a valuable skill, especially when supporting someone’s application for a job, academic program, or other opportunities. A reference letter follows a similar structure to any other academic writing like literature reviews. Here’s how to write a reference letter in five easy steps.

Step 1: Understand The Purpose

Before you start writing, make sure you understand the purpose of the reference letter. Is it for a job application, college admission, or another specific purpose? Knowing the context will help you tailor your letter appropriately.

Step 2: Gather Information

Collect relevant information about the person you are writing the reference letter for. This may include their resume, a list of achievements, specific skills, and any other pertinent details. If possible, ask the individual for specific points they would like you to highlight.

Step 3: Structure The Letter

A typical reference letter follows a formal structure. Include the following components:


  • Start with a formal salutation and introduce yourself.
  • Mention how you know the person and the duration of your relationship.
  • Clearly state your willingness to write a reference letter.


  • Provide specific examples that showcase the individual’s qualifications, skills, and characteristics relevant to the purpose of the letter.
  • Use concrete examples to support your statements. Mention specific projects, achievements, or experiences.
  • Highlight the person’s strengths and positive attributes.
  • If applicable, address any weaknesses or limitations in a tactful manner and focus on how the individual has overcome or improved in those areas.


  • Summarize the key points made in the body of the letter.
  • Express your confidence in the individual’s abilities.
  • Provide your contact information for any follow-up inquiries.


End the letter with a formal closing (e.g., “Sincerely,” “Best Regards,” etc.).

Step 4: Be Positive And Factual

  • Throughout the letter, maintain a positive and professional tone. Emphasize the individual’s positive qualities and contributions.
  • Back up your statements with specific examples and achievements. Use concrete details to illustrate your points and provide credibility to your endorsement.

Step 5: Proofread And Edit

  • Before finalizing the letter, carefully proofread it for grammar, spelling, and formatting errors.
  • Ensure that the letter is concise and focused on relevant information.
  • Consider the tone and make adjustments to maintain a balanced and professional style.

Font, Length, And Format Of A Reference Letter

A reference letter’s font, length, and format should align with professional standards. Here’s a general guide:


  • Use a professional and easily readable font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
  • Font size should typically be 11 or 12 points for easy readability.


  • Aim for a concise letter, ideally not exceeding one page.
  • Provide enough details to convey a strong recommendation without unnecessary elaboration.


  • Use a formal business letter format with your name, address, date, a salutation, body paragraphs, a closing, and your signature.
  • Structure the letter with an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Clearly state your relationship with the person, and focus on specific examples of their skills and qualities.
  • Keep the language professional and upbeat.
  • Mention your contact information for follow-up inquiries.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar and spelling errors.

Reference Letter Sample

[Your Name]

[Your Title/Position]

[Your Company/Organization]

[Your Address]

[City, State, Zip Code]

[Email Address]

[Phone Number]


[Recipient’s Name]

[Recipient’s Title/Position]

[Company/Organization Name]


[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing this reference letter on behalf of [Individual’s Full Name], whom I have had the pleasure of knowing in my capacity as [Your Title/Position] at [Your Company/Organization]. I have had the opportunity to work closely with [Individual] for [duration of your professional relationship].

In the time I have known [Individual], they have consistently demonstrated exceptional [mention specific skills or qualities such as leadership, communication, problem-solving, etc.]. Their dedication to [specific projects or tasks] has been evident, and I have been impressed with their ability to [provide examples of accomplishments or achievements].

One of [Individual’s] notable strengths is [mention a specific strength, e.g., attention to detail, creativity, etc.], which has significantly contributed to the success of [mention relevant projects or initiatives]. In addition to their technical skills, [Individual] possesses excellent interpersonal skills and has proven to be an effective team player.

During their tenure at [Your Company/Organization], [Individual] played a key role in [mention specific accomplishments or contributions], showcasing their ability to [mention relevant skills or qualities]. I have received positive feedback from colleagues and stakeholders about [Individual’s] professionalism and commitment to excellence.

I am confident that [Individual] would be a valuable asset in any [academic program/employment opportunity]. Their passion for [mention relevant field or industry] and their capacity to [mention specific capabilities] make them stand out.

If you have any further questions or require additional information, please feel free to contact me at [your email address] or [your phone number]. I wholeheartedly recommend [Individual’s Full Name] and am certain that they will excel in any endeavour they choose to pursue.


[Your Full Name]

[Your Title/Position]

[Your Company/Organization]

[Your Contact Information]

Final Tips On How To Write A Reference Letter

  • Understand the purpose
  • Establish your credibility
  • Personalize the content
  • Be positive and enthusiastic
  • Focus on relevant qualities
  • Address potential weaknesses tactfully
  • Use a formal structure
  • Provide contact information

Who To Ask For A Character Reference

Some people you might ask for a reference letter include the following. 

  • Supervisors or Managers
  • Colleagues or Coworkers
  • Subordinates (if applicable)
  • Teachers or Professors
  • Mentors
  • Friends
  • Family Members
  • Coaches or Teammates
  • Volunteer Organizers
  • Community Leaders
  • Religious Leaders
  • Local Business Owners

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Understand the purpose
  • Gather information
  • Structure the letter
  • Be positive and factual
  • Revise and edit

Dear [Name], I hope this message finds you well. I’m applying for [opportunity] and would greatly appreciate your support. Could you kindly write a reference letter highlighting my [specific qualities]? Your insights would be invaluable. Thank you for considering my request. Best regards, [Your Name].

Dear [Recipient], I am delighted to provide a character reference for [Individual]. Their [positive qualities] make them an exceptional [colleague/student]. I’ve witnessed their [specific examples]. [Individual] is reliable, hardworking, and possesses great integrity. I confidently recommend them for [purpose]. Sincerely, [Your Name].

Dear [Recipient], I wholeheartedly recommend [Student’s Name] for [purpose]. As their [teacher/professor], I’ve witnessed their exceptional academic prowess, dedication, and strong work ethic. They contribute actively to class discussions and consistently excel. [Student] is an asset to any academic pursuit. Sincerely, [Your Name].

Dear [Recipient], I highly recommend [Employee’s Name] for [purpose]. In my role as [Your Title] at [Company], I’ve observed their exceptional [skills/qualities]. Their dedication, strong work ethic, and contributions to [specific projects] have been invaluable. [Employee] is an asset to any team. Sincerely, [Your Name].

Dear Professor [Last Name], I hope this message finds you well. I am applying for [opportunity] and value your opinion. Could you please provide a reference letter highlighting my [academic achievements and qualities]? Your support means a lot. Thank you for considering my request. Best regards, [Your Full Name].

About Nicolas

Avatar for NicolasNicolas holds a master's degree in literature and has earned a PhD in statistics. He has a keen interest in writing, culinary arts, and running. Nicolas is dedicated to assisting students at various academic levels.

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