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Writing Letters of Reference

When a student asks you for a reference letter:

  • Ask about the student's job/career path and tailor your letter to the skills and qualifications that an employer in that field might be looking for. Ask the student if he or she has any specific characteristics or skills you should address.
  • Ask for a copy of the student's resume, cover letter or CV. This will give you a glimpse into skills or characteristics you may not have known about previously.
  • Address the letter appropriately. The student should be able to give you the name and title of the recruiter, hiring manager or interviewer.
  • Always lead with a statement of recommendation (e.g., "I am writing to you today to recommend Ms. Lori Johnson for your marketing internship.") and a brief description of how you know the student/candidate.
  • Be specific when describing the qualifications and personal qualities of your student. Use examples when possible.
  • Keep it short. A recommendation letter should be no longer than a page.
  • Don't write a letter for a student that you wouldn't hire yourself.
  • Finish your letter with a statement of recommendation and an invitation to contact you (if appropriate).

For tips on formatting, wording and more, we recommend wikiHow's article on the subject.