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Introduction to Writing Reference Letters Using Templates

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 6/10/2009

This introduction to a five part series will present you with the general and accepted layout for writing a reference letters and letters of recommendation. With that knowledge and a few tips on hand, you will then be guided to four specific templates that practically write the letter for you.

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    Writing a letter of recommendation (LOR) can really help a worthy job aspirant when done right. LORs and reference letters follow some guidelines which include inserting specific qualifications, accomplishments, and the detailed skills of the person being recommended in the letter. The writer will include their own personal/professional qualifications and explain the nature and length of their relationship with the individual they're writing about. A LOR is written for the purpose of recommending a person for a specific position or job while a reference letter is more general in nature. But many of the same elements belong in both.

    Begin your letter by stating that it's your pleasure and privilege to write for your aspirant. Then personalize the body by painting a picture of the candidate using brief and relevant anecdotes. Include your credentials up front (preferably using company letterhead), and the qualifications which enable you to advocate for this individual. Include the candidate’s virtues, work history, accomplishments, and talents. It may be easier to jot down a list of these things first and then flesh them out in the appropriate section of the reference letter template. Many people ask the candidate for the list to make it even easier. The following outline (which is already included incorporated to one degree or another for each character reference letter template this series gives you) will make this process quite simple.

    · Salutation – Address a LOR to the specific individual in charge of hiring, but in a reference letter your greeting should read: “To Whom It May Concern."

    · 1st Paragraph – Introduce yourself, your credentials, and set the tone so that someone will recognize you are worthy of recommending someone yourself. Your first sentence should state your purpose and after that you will explain your relation to the individual and the length of time you’ve known them.

    · 2nd / 3rd Paragraph - The letter’s body describes character traits, accomplishments/performance and you want to back up your claims with specific illustrations and examples. For an LOR match the individual to the job. Use examples that show the person is good for an industry or position because of relevant experience or desirable traits they have which will enable them to do well in that field.

    · 4th Paragraph – Recommend the person again specifically for the position or school that the individual is pursuing. Or write in generalities for a character reference. Express your confidence in the candidate and restate any strengths or factors which might help them get the job.

    · Conclusion- Provide an offer to give more information by including your phone number and email address.

    In the other four articles in this series, I will guide you to a specific letter of recommendation template or a character reference template. All the above headings will already be there on the document for the most part so you can easily add or subtract whatever you feel will most help that candidate. All that is left for you to do is fill in the personal information for your person by typing over the text.

Free Templates for Reference Letters

This series will succinctly teach you what the elements of a good letter of recommendation and character reference letter are. Then you will learn where and how to download specific kinds of reference letter templates which are so important to the people you write them for.
  1. Introduction to Writing Reference Letters Using Templates
  2. Formal Character Reference Letter Template
  3. Reference Letter for a Professional Employee Template