How to Write a Reference Letter That Makes Employers Want to Hire

A compelling reference letter can be a decisive factor in the hiring process. The value of a strong recommendation cannot be overstated in today’s competitive job market. I’ve seen how a well-crafted reference letter can significantly influence an employer’s decision to hire. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to write a reference letter that not only highlights the candidate’s qualifications and achievements but also makes employers eager to bring them on board.

Why Write a Reference Letter?

A reference letter goes beyond a mere endorsement; it provides a personal insight into the candidate’s capabilities, work ethic, and accomplishments. It should give employers a clear picture of why the candidate is the best fit for the role. Help the employer understand how the candidate you endorse will solve their problems and help them reach their goals. 

But reference letters don’t just benefit the employer and job candidate. Writing reference letters is a great way to advance your career, not just the career of the candidate you endorse. Reference letters help you forge stronger connections in your professional network.

How to Write a Reference Letter, Step-by-Step

  1. Start with a Strong Introduction

Specify your relationship with the candidate: Clearly state how you know the candidate and for how long you’ve worked together.

Express your endorsement: Right from the start, make it clear that you are pleased to recommend the candidate.

  1. Highlight Key Qualifications and Achievements

Tailor the content to the job description: Align the candidate’s qualifications with the job requirements.

Use specific examples: Detail instances that demonstrate the candidate’s skills and achievements. Quantify these achievements wherever possible to add credibility.

  1. Emphasizing Soft Skills and Personal Attributes

Showcase leadership and teamwork: High-salary roles often require exceptional leadership and the ability to work effectively in a team. Provide examples of the candidate’s success in these areas.

Mention adaptability and problem-solving skills: Highlight instances where the candidate demonstrated resilience and an innovative approach to challenges.

  1. Structure and Content

Make It Personal and Specific

Personalize your letter: Avoid generic phrases. Use the candidate’s full name and specific anecdotes that attest to their qualifications and character.

Keep it concise and focused: Aim for a length of one page to ensure the letter is impactful and to the point.

Writing Style and Tone

Maintain a professional tone: While it’s important to be enthusiastic, keep the language professional.

Be sincere: Your genuine belief in the candidate’s suitability for the position should shine through.

  1. Concluding with a Strong Endorsement

Reiterate your recommendation: Conclude by summarizing why the candidate is a perfect fit for the role.

Offer to provide further information: Include your contact details should the employer wish to discuss the candidate’s qualifications in more detail.

Example of a Reference Letter

This example reference letter aims to highlight the candidate’s professional achievements and personal qualities, making a strong case for why they would be a valuable addition to the prospective employer’s team. Use this example as a reference as you write your own reference letters for colleagues. 

[Your Name]  

[Your Position]  

[Your Company]  

[Company Address]  

[City, State, Zip]  

[Email Address]  

[Phone Number]  


[Recipient’s Name]  

[Recipient’s Position]  

[Company Name]  

[Company Address]  

[City, State, Zip]

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I am writing to wholeheartedly recommend [Candidate’s Name] for the [Position] at [Company Name]. As [Candidate’s] [Your Relationship, e.g., supervisor, colleague] for over [X years] at [Your Company], I have had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand their remarkable professionalism, dedication, and contributions to our team.

[Candidate’s Name] has consistently demonstrated exceptional skills in [Specific Skill 1, e.g., project management] and [Specific Skill 2, e.g., strategic planning], playing a pivotal role in [describe a significant project or achievement]. For instance, [he/she/they] led a project that [describe what the project achieved, e.g., resulted in a 20% increase in revenue within six months], showcasing not only [his/her/their] adeptness at [relevant skill] but also [his/her/their] ability to drive results and exceed targets.

Beyond [his/her/their] technical abilities, [Candidate’s Name]’s leadership and teamwork skills are equally commendable. [He/She/They] naturally assumes a mentorship role, guiding peers through complex projects with patience and insight. [His/Her/Their] positive attitude and adaptability have greatly contributed to our team’s dynamics, fostering an environment of collaboration and innovation. [Candidate’s] problem-solving skills, particularly in high-pressure situations, have been invaluable to our team’s success, demonstrating a rare blend of analytical prowess and creative thinking.

[Candidate’s Name] possesses a unique combination of skills, experience, and personal qualities that make [him/her/them] an outstanding candidate for the [Position] at [Company Name]. [His/Her/Their] dedication to personal and professional excellence, coupled with a deep understanding of [mention relevant industry, e.g., the tech industry’s nuances], positions [him/her/them] as a valuable asset to any team.

I am confident that [Candidate’s Name] will bring the same level of commitment, skill, and innovation to [Company Name] as [he/she/they] has to [Your Company]. [He/She/They] is capable of meeting the challenges of the [Position] and will also contribute significantly to your organization’s continued success and growth.

Please feel free to contact me at [Your Phone Number] or [Your Email Address] if you require further information or wish to discuss [Candidate’s Name]’s qualifications and achievements in more detail.


[Your Signature (if sending a hard copy)]  

[Your Typed Name]

Tips for a Reference Letter That Stands Out

Know the Candidate Well

Discuss the role with the candidate: Understanding the position they are applying for can help you tailor the reference letter more effectively.

Reflect on Specific Interactions

Recall specific projects or achievements: This adds authenticity and depth to your endorsement.

Edit and Proofread

Review for errors: A reference letter should use impeccable grammar and spelling. Errors can detract from its credibility.

Write a Reference Letter That Changes a Candidate’s Career

Writing a reference letter is a responsibility that can significantly impact a candidate’s career trajectory. Approach the task with care and thoughtfulness. By providing detailed and personal insights into the candidate’s professional and personal attributes, you can help propel them towards securing a role with a high salary and substantial responsibilities. Remember, a great reference letter doesn’t just highlight a candidate’s past accomplishments; it sheds light on their potential for future success and makes employers eager to add them to their team.