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How to Fill in Reference Forms for Applicants

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Reference forms make it easy for you to provide a reference. You are spared having to wonder what exactly the requestor wants in a candidate and having to write an entire letter about the person. Forms are usually short and to the point. They include specific questions that the requestor wants you to answer, taking the guesswork out of giving a good reference.

Read through the instructions and information about the organization to which the applicant is applying before you begin to fill it out. The background information and instructions will give you a better idea of the organization's priorities and what it is looking for in terms of your response to questions about the applicant’s abilities and skills.

Check the top of the reference form to be sure the applicant has filled out information about himself and has signed that he gives you permission to complete and submit the reference form.

Provide any information about the applicant requested on the form that is within your power to give. For example, you can provide his position in your company if he is a current or former employee. (See Reference 1.)

Write about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in the spaces provided on the form. Unless requested, do not feel that you have to write an entire letter of recommendation. The form is designed to provide the organization with precisely the information it needs to make a good decision about a candidate’s application. You may be asked to write a few sentences about the applicant as well as mark how well the applicant rates when it comes to specific skills, qualities, experience, education or personality traits. (See References 1 and 2.)

Give an honest statement of the person’s abilities and characteristics on the form. If you don’t have experience working with the candidate in a certain area the requestor wants to know about, state that you don’t know how the person would do in such an area. Do not make up information on the person you do not know first-hand.

Discuss the candidate’s sense of humor, ability to get along well with others, ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds and whether he is a leader and a team player. You might also discuss what you believe the future holds for the applicant and whether you think he will be a good addition to the organization’s team. (See Reference 3.)


Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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