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Writing A Reference Letter When You Don't Really Want To Recommend Them

Aug 17, 2007
If you've been asked to write a reference letter for a friend, a former employee or even a student, you'll find there are good sample reference letters to follow and some really bad ones, too. The best sample reference letters follow some basic points that can make it very easy to draft a letter for a person you feel is worthy.

Before agreeing to write a reference letter for someone, remember, if you don't feel comfortable in writing the letter don't. If you have reservations about the person's abilities or skills, that will come through in your writing. In essence, this means your letter could actually do them more harm than good.

If you have decided to write a letter, however, follow the basics of a good sample reference letter can really help you through the process. Based on some of the best sample reference letters, a good draft will include:

* Your qualifications to be writing the reference letter. No good sample reference letter will allow you to get away from doing this. You need to explain your connection to the person, your personal background, and how long you've know the person you're writing the reference letter before. If you're a friend, say so. If you're a friend who happens to be a doctor or a judge or even a teacher, say that, too!
* Your impressions of the person. Be specific about the person's strengths and weaknesses they've maybe managed to overcome. Give details about how their strengths have helped you, them or even your company. The more descriptive you can be in your reference letter, the better.
* Reasons why you feel the person would be an asset to the company. All good sample reference letters explain these. It could be you feel the person is a real go-getter who is willing to learn anything he or she doesn't know. Or, maybe the person is highly qualified and has a drive to succeed that's second to none. Just make sure your reference letter explains the whys.
* Good sample reference letters will also ask you to extend yourself for further discussion about the person in question. This means giving your telephone number or e-mail address. If you really feel the person is worthy of your time, make sure you're available to answer questions a potential employer might have.

Writing a reference letter for a friend, employee or student can be a daunting task. You want the letter to help them in their pursuits, but you don't want it to sound so gushy that it appears as if they've paid you to write it. Take your time, review sample reference letters and make sure your letter is balanced and fair.

If you have any questions or concerns about the reference letter you've drafted, ask co-workers or friends to give the draft a once over. There might be things about the person you've overlooked that they can point out, too. A second set of eyes on a reference letter can really help, especially if the eyes belong to a person who knows the job candidate, as well.
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