It's always flattering when you're asked to draft a referral letter by your former employees, co-workers, or even students and supervisees. Agreeing to write a letter of referral for someone you've worked with can be seen as a gesture of appreciation, and shows how much you greatly value the bond created while working together.
Now, this may sound like an easy yet honourable task that one can do for another person to help with their future endeavours. However, exercise some caution because it isn't as easy as you might think. We're sure you wouldn't think that it would be much of a problem until the moment you need to start... and realise that you don't have any idea how to. Fret not, we've got just the guide for you, so that writing a referral letter is no longer a stressful event!
A letter of referral, also known as a recommendation letter, is a document you need to provide as a part of the hiring process for your job, or internship. The referral letter is usually written by someone you've worked closely with, and have a positive workplace experience together. It typically spells out the applicant's qualities, skills, characteristics, and explains why they're the right fit for the job they're applying to.
So why is the referral letter so important? A simple document can make an impact on the hiring manager, especially when it's needed as an employment verification for the job they're applying to. When a referral or recommendation letter is handed to the hiring managers, along with the applicant's resume, it shows how much someone is willing to put in the time and effort to write a good referral letter for the applicant. Hence, with the letter of recommendation, the hiring managers are able to see how the applicant is thus capable of making positive interpersonal relations with their co-workers and bosses.
Now, back to the initial question. If you're asked to write a reference letter for your ex-colleague or former employee, how exactly can you craft a really good one to increase their rate of success in getting hired?
You should always start writing the letter of referral using the business letter format, which usually begins with your address, contact information, the address of the recipient, and the date at the very top.
Next, you should begin your letter by briefly introducing yourself in the first paragraph. It's good to share a little bit of yourself, but this letter's recipient shouldn't need to know about your entire life story! Just include what you do, your area of expertise, your relationship with the applicant, and how long you've known the applicant. This is sufficient for the hiring manager to know you, and why you're significant to the candidate. But before that, it's better if you address them using "Dear [Name]" instead of "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern." The latter two should only be used if the name of the recipient is unknown to you.
Your next paragraph of the referral letter should describe the applicant's strengths and your judgment upon the applicant's qualities, skills, and characteristics. In this section, it's best to start off with a list of the applicant's strengths you would like the recipients to know about, and choose two or three out of the list and elaborate further. If you're able to relate these strengths to the new role's job description they're currently applying for, all the better.
To further highlight the applicant's strengths, specify the situations where you observed the him/her using the skills you've mentioned in solving problems or handling situations. It would be best if you tried to include one or two sample scenarios to back up your statement. It'll certainly strengthen the credibility of your letter of referral. Suppose you're wondering what type would be good to be included; we recommend any information or contribution made by the applicant, such as sales numbers or resolved issues, which should be enough to make a big impression on the hiring managers.
Right after explaining and describing the strengths and experience you've had with the applicant, you should now head to the closing paragraph. This paragraph will summarise why you think the applicant would be a good fit for the available job role. It would be very effective if you mentioned why you believe the applicant would be an outstanding addition to their team, and how you greatly appreciate their time spent in your company. Lastly, let the recipient know that you're open to any queries if they have anything that they would like to clarify.
Still a little unsure how to begin? The following are samples of a well-crafted referral letter to serve as a template for your reference!
[Your contact information]
[Recipient's address of company]
Dear [recipient's name]
It is my pleasure to recommend Mr/Ms [applicant's name] for the position of digital marketing director in your company. I am [your name] and am [your position] at [your company or institution]. I first met Mr/Ms [applicant's name] at [name of the company] back in [year] while he/she was working as the digital marketing director trainee under my supervision. During his/her time as a trainee, Mr/Ms [applicant's name] proved to be a remarkable and diligent person by excelling in every task given to him/her, and was quickly promoted to the position of digital marketing director.
He/She is also passionate at work, quick at learning, hard-working, and is a very dynamic staff. Mr/Ms [applicant's name] is always keen to take on new responsibilities and challenges, while at the same welcoming constructive criticism and feedback. For instance, there was a time when our company was in a busy period, Mr/Ms [applicant's name] willingly volunteered as the candidate for a crucial position. He/she impressed all of us in the company with his/her remarkable performances.
I'm of the utmost confidence that Mr/Ms [applicant's name] would be valuable to your team and company, as he/she was to ours. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions about him/her.
[Your contact information]
[Recipient's address of company]
Dear [recipient's name]
I am [your name] and am [your position] at [your company or institution], and it is a pleasure to recommend [applicant's name] for the position as a senior software engineer at your company. I used to be [applicant's name] immediate supervisor here at [your company or institution], and our professional relationship lasted for [number of years]. [Applicant's name] has performed remarkably well during his/her time here, but it was unfortunate that our company has no room for career advancement for him/her at this time. As [applicant's name] wishes to move to a larger company with more challenging tasks for career growth, I fully support him/her in his/her endeavours to climb the corporate ladder.
[Applicant's name] is very passionate about writing code and has never failed in solving clients' problems by developing creative and innovative software. He/she is very vocal about his/her software ideas, and is also keen to accept any constructive criticism about his/her ideas, which undoubtedly explains why he/she is able to improve in such a fast-paced manner in our company. [Applicant's name] is also very responsible in turning in quality work; he/she will make sure to cross-check each and every piece of software before turning it in to the client and has never missed a deadline. He/she shows flexibility during his/her time here, and is able to comprehend instructions quickly when changes have been made to the original plan. [Applicant's name] is also a good communicator and works exceptionally well with colleagues and clients.
During his/her time here at [your company's name], [applicant's name] has [provide the number of tasks/assignments solves, and sample of ratings from clients].
I genuinely believe [applicant's name] is the best candidate for the senior software engineer position at [recipient's company]. I am confident that he/she can exceed any challenges you give, making him/her a valuable asset to your team. If possible, I would have liked to retain [applicant's name] at my company, but I respect his/her wishes and hope for the best in his/her future endeavours. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like additional information.
Mistakes are bound to happen, and everyone has a history or past you shouldn't be bringing up. So, make sure you avoid mentioning the applicant's weaknesses or saying anything that could be perceived as libel.
Remember when we mentioned that the letter of referral is to be written in a business letter format? This means that you should avoid writing in an informal manner, which includes making jokes, using slang, or casual language.
And most importantly, make sure to double-check the recipient's information, the references you've included, and the written language, in order to avoid making any spelling mistakes or typos. Follow these few tips, and you'll be on the way to writing them a letter of referral that's professionally crafted AND will make a good impression!