Formatting Reference Letter: Everything you need to know!

A reference letter is a written document in which the reference provider expresses a positive opinion of service or order. The reference letter is often sent with the testimonials which also has the purpose of recommending the recipient. However, the reference letter is more general in comparison and refers less to personal and interpersonal strengths. If a reference letter is not always required to obtain a position, it is a definite asset. Not only does it portray you, but it can also confirm an employer’s first impressions, or even influence them, and give them greater confidence in your potential.

Are you having trouble with formatting reference letters? This post will guide you with everything you need to know about properly formatting a reference letter!

Who can Write a Reference Letter

Basically, anyone you have worked professionally can write a reference letter: previous supervisors, former clients, even colleagues or relatives, and friends. However, not all authors have the same status and rank in the evaluation of the reference letter.

You should therefore carefully consider who you are asking to write you a recommendation.

Senior executives, as well as managers or department heads, are particularly eligible. They are not only regarded as experienced in the evaluation of skilled workers and employees but also as – halfway – objective.

Anything that looks latent lyre after letters of convenience contains too much praise or conspicuously flattery, immediately devalues the reference letter, and has virtually no effect.

Recommendation letters are harmful if:

  1. If the letter has been written by a poorly-reputed reviewer it’ll have a negative impact and may cost, you the job opportunity.
  2. If the writer is someone who cannot judge this and is not enough competent to write a reference letter than it reduces your chances.
  3. If the reference letter is not written properly and contains half-baked and choppy phrases, then you are much less likely to get the job.
  4. If the reference letter contains such superlatives that cannot be corrected than that’ll cast a negative impression.

The second point is having online references on platforms like LinkedIn, for example, rather than actual reference letter In fact, this personnel is worthless. Firstly, because advocates only assess any competences virtually. Secondly, because these recommendations often follow the scheme: If you recommend me, I recommend you…

Tip for References:

If you write a recommendation, this is always a voluntary act. They are sympathetic to the recommendation and want to promote it. That is noble.

Keep in mind, however, that whenever you send out a reference letter this may fall back on you. Anyone who praises a candidate over the green clover who later cannot keep what you promise damages your own reputation.

Where are Reference Letters Used?

If a potential employer wants a reference letter, the demand for it is usually already found in the job advertisement. References are not only required for job vacancies.

Letters of recommendation are also used for:

  1. An internship
  2. A scholarship
  3. Admission to study at a private university
  4. Admission to a restricted course of study
  5. Admission to a semester abroad
  6. Admission to the Master’s degree program
  7. Admission to the doctorate
  8. A promotion
  9. The application as a manager
  10. Freelancers as a reference
  11. The rental of an apartment

Especially students who are still seeking a master’s degree after the bachelor’s degree are often asked by universities to submit a reference letter from former lecturers or professors. This, too, is an Anglo-Saxon tradition that is becoming more and more common in this country.

Who Needs a Reference Letter?

The reference letters are most suitable for newcomers to the profession – after all, they still have hardly any work certificates and can use such a “reference letter” to enhance their previous career path and give more significance.

Up to three high-quality reference letters can therefore significantly improve the chances of applying.

The same applies to candidates who want to apply for a promotion or to apply for a leadership position. This is where advocates help enormously, who attest to the appropriate skills.

But also former interns, trainees or applicants who have studied or worked abroad as well as scholarship holders can document by reference letter that they have not only gained experience but also convinced their previous bosses and colleagues of their work.

Above all, freelancers benefit from the references. After all, they are not entitled to a work certificate because they do not work for a permanent company. For them, however, the reference letter is called “reference letter” or “testimonial”.

How is the Reference Letter Structured?

Because the sender of the reference acts as a kind of guarantor or appraiser, the recommendation is written in the first form, unlike the work certificate.

The reference letter is a personal assessment of the protégé by his former mentor. Such a recommendation can therefore also be personal and emotional. This makes the appreciation all the more credible.

Accordingly, this is less about a description of the job, but rather about skills and expertise, but more about the personality experienced.

Structure of the reference letter:

  • Letterhead
  • First name, last name of the exhibitor
  • Name of company, organization, university
  • Address
  • Direct phone number (for inquiries)

Format of reference letter :

  • Date
  • Name and address of the addressee
  • Subject
  • Content
  • Short self-presentation (Who is the author, expert?)
  • Relationship between expert and applicant
  • Reason for the exhibition (change of job, end of internship, etc.)
  • Material recommendation (activity period, tasks, etc.)
  • Qualifications achieved (degrees, certificates, further training)
  • Notable achievements (What is important for the new job?)
  • Subjective recommendation (personality, soft skills, suitability for position)
  • Conclusion

Date, Signature

You don’t have to fear a secret language, as is customary in work certificates: if you can’t recommend it, you won’t. Those who respond to your request will praise you accordingly.

Formal requirements for reference letter

In general, the following applies:

  • The reference letter should not exceed a DIN-A4 page.
  • The reference letter should be printed on company paper. Then it seems “official”.
  • Writing must be free of spelling or grammar errors.
  • The application should contain a maximum of three reference letters or references.
  • The more dosed such recommendations are made, the more convincing they seem.

Incidentally, this applies not only to the number of references, but also to the extent of the praise.

Free Templates & Examples

In order to make it easier for you to write and formulate a reference letter, we have provided a free reference letter template here!

Name of reference



postcode Residence telephone number




address postcode



Company headquarters reference letter for ______________



After many years of outstanding work in our company, Mr./Mrs .____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ This is a step that, as its previous boss, I very much regret, but which I can still warmly recommend to Mr./Mrs __________________.


In the time of TT. MM.YYYY to DD. MM.YYYY has worked for me as _________________ in the position of _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ I have come to know and appreciate him/her as an independent thinking and responsible and always reliable colleague.


Mr./Mrs .______________ still enjoys an excellent reputation among his colleagues and customers – not least because of his/her numerous constructive suggestions for solving problems at the time.


In addition to the impeccable professional qualifications, Mr./Mrs ._____________ is characterized by optimism, friendliness and teamwork. I consider him/her to be the position of ________________ and recommend him/her for employment in this area at any time.


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