5 Essential Elements of a Reference Letter

Introduce yourself and your relationship to the candidate. 

The first step to writing a reference letter is identifying yourself to the hiring manager so as to present yourself as a valid reference. Inform them the context under which you know the candidate, who you are professionally and why your opinion on the candidate should matter to them.

The reader will feel justified in considering your opinion after you have established the importance of your judgement of the candidate. Imagine yourself as a hiring manager and getting a letter from someone you have no relationship with and telling you the greatness of a candidate they themselves don’t know.

Offer details of key achievements

Broad, positive and generalised positive comments about somebody can only stand out if key accomplishments of the candidate are clearly spelt out. Ensure you write the key accomplishments of the candidate in the industry or field and also share some of those experiences with the hiring manager.

Be relevant

Don’t get side-tracked with too much verbiage when writing a reference letter. Always focus on what the goal of writing the reference letter is. Longer isn’t always better when it comes to writing reference letters. Try to be as concise and direct as possible without skimping on content. Ask yourself if the story or example you are offering would affect positively the hiring manager and persuade him or her in favour of hiring the candidate. 

Everything about the reference letter should encourage and support the goal of getting the candidate the wanted position at the company in question.  Leave only the important parts that are going to impress and eliminate any extra padding from the letter. 

Provide details on personality traits

After the checking of qualifications by the hiring manager, the next thing they are going to look at is whether or not a candidate would be a perfect fit with the culture of the company. Consider explaining as much as possible his or her strongest personality traits. Don’t just use adjectives to describe the applicant.

This will be far more interesting and provides greater insight for the hiring manager to read than list that looks boring. Stronger impression will be created with an engaging story and this can help keep the applicant in the forefront of the hiring manager’s mind when it’s time to decide who to pick for the job.

Give insight to the candidate’s work ethic

Beyond personality and qualifications, the hiring manager wants to know about work ethics of the candidate. This unfortunately is something that can’t be accurately expressed on a standard resume. Offer examples that project his or her strong work ethic if you have worked directly with the candidate before.

Share some personal instances that could explain their work ethic if you have not had the chance to work closely with them before. For example, if you have volunteered with the applicant for a charity, use an experience that can showcase the candidate’s dedication, teamwork skills, attention to detail, and willingness to help. 

Writing a good reference letter is not an easy task, but it shouldn’t be a burden either. Keep in mind the end goal is to convince the hiring manager. Leave out the extraneous content and you’ll be able to submit an impressive and insightful recommendation that will help land someone the next big step in their career.



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