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How to Give a Good Employment Referral

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Giving someone a good employment referral allows that person the opportunity to advance in his career path. For best results, ask the person what kind of skills and attributes he wants you to address in your referral. Referrals should be positive, yet honest. If you don't feel you can provide that, politely turn down the request. Suggest someone who knows him better or worked with him longer who would be a more appropriate choice for a reference.

General Referral Letter

An employee or colleague might ask you for a general referral letter. This kind of referral should be general enough in nature that the job seeker can use it as an attachment to his resume when applying for different types of roles with various employers. State your relationship to the individual you're writing about and emphasize that person's overall professional skills and abilities. “John is hard-working, dependable, and a great team player. He never hesitates to lend a hand or participate in brainstorming efforts, and he would make an excellent addition to any staff.”

Specific Referral Letter

If the job seeker is applying for a certain position, you'll need to write a specific referral letter. In this instance, focus on his skills and abilities that relate directly to the role he's seeking. “John worked as my communications manager for 10 years. He’s an exceptional writer and editor and has a keen sense for business communication. An extremely creative individual, John has never missed a deadline and is precise and detail-oriented in his work efforts. He will make a top-notch creative director.”

Personal Phone Call

You might be asked to give a referral by phone. In this instance, you're likely to get a call from a prospective employer who will ask you pointed questions about the individual you're representing. You’ll be asked questions about the person's strengths and weaknesses and his skills and abilities as they relate to the position in question. Emphasize the employee’s best qualities and downplay lesser attributes by describing his ability and willingness to continually improve his skills.

In-Person Meeting

You may be asked to provide an in-person referral for someone, particularly if you're part of a business networking group or association in which members regularly interact. Be positive in your introduction, make eye contact, and demonstrate your respect for the individual’s professional abilities. In this case, you're essentially trying to sell the job-seeker as a good fit for the organization. Give real-life examples of business successes and contributions to demonstrate his experience and professionalism.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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