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How to Write a Better Reference Letter by Brian Konradt

Because your lives and jobs are often interrelated, it's always a possibility that you may need to either write a reference letter for someone or have one written for you. In the case of the former, you agree to the request and write the letter as a matter of goodwill. It feels like less of a favor and more of an honor when the candidate you're endorsing truly deserves a positive recommendation.

Most people confuse a reference letter with a letter of recommendation, but there's actually a thin line which divides them. They're similar in that they both recommend the candidate and vouch for the person. However, a reference letter goes further in that it gets sent to an employer who's unknown to you. Thus, this unknown future employer relies heavily on your opinion since both you and the candidate are unfamiliar to him.

Whatever opinion he forms is largely based on your own personal credentials and in the manner of your letter. Since it appears that you're under examination yourself, let's examine how you can write a better reference letter.

Step 1: Writing for an individual candidate.

In the case of a reference letter, much importance will be given to character – yours and the candidate's. To give a good recommendation, discuss your subject's personal character in a positive, encouraging way.

In the first place, if you associate yourself with the candidate by being a reference, then this implies a certain level of closeness. Thus, if you're basically a person of good moral character and integrity, this affinity will reflect positively on the candidate. There's a higher likelihood of acceptance rather than rejection.

Step 2: Endorsing a group.

You may also be request to write a reference letter for a group of individuals such as a company. If you're well-acquainted with its officers and members as peers, then here's when you can vouch for their character.

If you do business with them, you can also discuss the company's skills and achievements. This would give the investor or lender a good reference point for approving the company's request or not.

If you deliver a strong recommendation and you're a credible reference yourself, then the decision leans more towards an approval.

Step 3: Assisting a student.

From the corporate scene, let's shift to the academic level. There are many students who want to pursue higher academic learning, but they require funding just to continue with their studies. In order to be given a scholarship grant, they'll need to support their application with a recommendation that's more than good.

If you're a former professor or instructor, a deserving student will need an excellent reference! You can assist him or her by paying attention to how you phrase your words in Step 4.

Step 4: Recommending your candidate.

Start by introducing yourself. This brief introduction explains your purpose, and it references your relationship to the candidate. In a few short paragraphs, proceed with an account of the candidate's positive traits and accompanying qualifications. End your letter with a strong recommendation which endorses the subject for the position or course.

As a final tip, always see to it that the content of your reference letter is consistent with everything stated in the resume. To the recipient, this can be very reassuring! More than accommodating a request, you as the letter-writer appear to have taken a genuine interest in assisting the candidate.