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How to: Professional Reference Letter of Recommendation

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It's no secret that your business relationships can often be the deciding factor in whether you get hired at a job interview. Sometimes a letter of recommendation can make all the difference. So what do you do when a friend or professional colleague asks you to write a letter of recommendation for them? Knowing how to write a detailed, articulate reference letter can be very important to the person you're writing about and to your business relationships.

Ask yourself if you know the person well professionally and on some personal level. For example, it helps to remember a time you personally saw him interacting with co-workers or clients. Review his resume to refresh your memory on his professional accomplishments.

Write a list of key phrases and words on which to focus your letter: professional qualities, specific skills, personal qualities, past accomplishments, weaknesses and future potential. Include traits like loyalty, honesty and hard-working, skills like computer literacy, or any awards the client has won such as Sales Rep of the Year. Use those words to write in detail about specific traits or events that can offer a clear picture of her.

Write your full name, the applicant's full name, how long you have known her and in what capacity in the introductory paragraph. Give a general impression of the applicant that you can build on in the ensuing paragraphs. For example, say that her greatest strength is her commitment to excellence, and then later give examples to show this.

List two qualities about the applicant and provide specific, concrete examples of that quality in action in the body of the letter. For example, write about a time she stayed past closing time to help a customer as an example of loyalty, or how she came in on weekends to get work done as an example of determination. Make sure the qualities are important for the job the client is applying for.

Conclude with why the applicant's plans suit the company or person to whom you are addressing the letter and reemphasize his strengths. Leave a strong impression that connects his greatest strengths to the company and the position for which he is applying. Make sure to include your contact information at the end.


Keep your letter concise, usually no more than one page. Strong traits to highlight in most letters of recommendation include ability to communicate, both in written form and verbal form, intelligence, self-reliance, initiative, flexibility, willingness to accept responsibility, follow-through, energy level, interpersonal skills, ability to effectively handle conflict, teamwork, level of commitment and ability to lead.