Tips for Writing a Letter of Reference

Writing a letter of recommendation is not an easy task and must be taken seriously.  It can mean the difference between being hired or being rejected.  The following are suggestions on how to be an effective evaluator.


  • Utilize your department's official letterhead.

  • Provide a generic beginning to any reference letter.


  • Indicate the applicant's name and the position they are applying for.

  • Include your affiliation/relationship with the person.  Were you a supervisor? Advisor? Professor? 

  • Describe your qualifications for comparing the applicant to other applicants. 

  • Discuss how well you know the applicant.

Body of Letter

  • Direct the body of your letter to the most important things listed in the job description, graduate application, scholarship letter.

  • Support your comments with examples, quantify your examples (what resulted from their work), and avoid generalities.

  • Concentrate on several aspects of the person.  Specifically identify his/her skills, attitudes, professional attributes and growth, as well as his/her contributions to and performance within your organization. GIVE EXAMPLES OF THEIR CONTRIBUTION.

  • Keep it concise.  The people who receive these letters most likely have a number to review.


  • Close with the applicant's potential in his or her chosen field.

  • Type your recommendation letter.  Appearance of the letter is a reflection on both you and the candidate.


Letter of Recommendation Worksheet