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How to Write a Personal Reference Letter

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Unlike a letter of recommendation that speaks directly to the skills required for a certain position, the personal reference letter addresses a person’s character based on your knowledge of that person. An effective personal reference letter can open doors, help job hunters land an interview and be used to overcome obstacles.

Serve as an Advocate

Your reference letter will be most useful to the job hunter when you can serve as an effective advocate. Write about the capacity in which you worked with the person, how closely you know her and how strongly you support her endeavors. Provide positive statements about the person’s character, including a few examples. Speak from first-hand experience about the person’s work ethic, loyalty, commitment, honesty, courage and integrity.

Include Pertinent Facts

The letter should include your name, title and address as well as the name of the organization you may be representing as a reference. Write a brief statement about your relationship, including the length and context. Include special circumstances such as boards you served on or committees on which you worked together. After the letter is written, proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors.

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Direct the Content

Ask the job hunter what position he is going after so that you can direct the content of your reference letter to that job, according to Quintessential Careers. Write specifically about certain skills that he wants to highlight to the recruiter, such as his leadership abilities or strong organizational skills. Follow parameters set by the job candidate to write an effective reference letter.

Ask for a Draft

When asked to write a reference letter, it’s permissible to request your friend, student or co-worker to prepare a draft for you. If you agree with the contents, then you can just sign the letter. Alternatively, you can request a list of questions or a set of bullet points to guide your completed letter. A strong, effective reference letter shouldn’t overwhelm you or tax your time.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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