When someone is applying for a new job, they may have to provide a reference letter or letter of recommendation. And if they\u2019ve asked you for a reference, you may have to write one!\r\nBut how do you structure a reference letter? Key factors include:\r\n\r\n\tGreeting \u2013 Reference letters should use the correct formal salutation.\r\n\tFirst Paragraph \u2013 Make sure to provide all the key details about why you\u2019re writing in the first few sentences.\r\n\tBody of the Letter \u2013 The main part of a letter of reference should outline the why the candidate is suitable for the role in two or three paragraphs.\r\n\tContact Details and Sign Off \u2013 To finish your letter, make sure to provide your contact details and use a suitable valediction.\r\n\r\nWe\u2019ll look at each of these in more detail below. And after that, we\u2019ll provide an example letter of reference to show you how it works in practice.\r\n1. The Greeting\r\nUnless you know the recipient well, reference letters should start with a formal salutation. Ideally, this means addressing your letter directly to the recipient, using "Dear Mr.\/Mrs.\/Ms. Surname."\r\nThe person who has asked you to write their reference should tell you which name to use here. If they don\u2019t, we strongly suggest asking them to check!\r\nIf you\u2019re really stuck for a name, or if you\u2019re writing a generic reference to be used with more than one application, use the salutation "To Whom It May Concern." You can even omit the greeting and skip straight to the first paragraph proper, if required, but this could sound a little impolite to some.\r\n2. The First Paragraph\r\nThe opening paragraph is where you set out the following:\r\n\r\n\tThat you are writing to provide a reference for someone.\r\n\tWho you are and your professional role.\r\n\tHow you know the candidate and for how long (e.g., if you are a former employer, a college professor, or even just a friend).\r\n\tThe position they are applying for.\r\n\r\nThe idea is to let the reader know what the letter is about as soon as they start reading. Hiring professionals are often very busy, after all, so it pays to give them the most important details as soon as possible.\r\n3. The Body of the Letter\r\nThe main part of a letter of reference should explain why the candidate is suitable for the role. In other words, this is where you sell the candidate!\r\nYou need to do this in two or three paragraphs, though, so be concise! Focus on information relevant to the candidate's application, such as:\r\n\r\n\tThe attributes that make the candidate a good fit for the role (e.g., if it is a management position, give an example of their leadership skills).\r\n\tNotable achievements or qualifications (e.g., awards relevant to the position or examples of how they have contributed to a past workplace).\r\n\r\nThis section should always finish by endorsing the candidate, saying why you think they will be successful or what they will bring to the role.\r\nTo help write this, gather information about candidate and the role. Hopefully, the candidate will have provided these details. If not, ask them for the job description and a copy of their resume.\r\n4. Contact Details and Sign Off\r\nIn the final paragraph, add your contact details (e.g., email and phone number) in case the recipient wants more information about the candidate.\r\nAnd to finish your letter of recommendation, sign off with a suitable valediction. "Kind regards" and "Sincerely" are usually good choices, but there is room for variation if you know the recipient. For a physical letter, you may want to include your signature as well as your typed name.\r\nExample Reference Letter\r\nDear Mrs. Parry,\r\nI am writing to thoroughly recommend Sarah Smith for the position of staff nurse at Royal Hospital. As the ward manager at the critical care unit at St. Gwen\u2019s Hospital, I have had the pleasure of working alongside Sarah in her capacity as a healthcare assistant for three years while she completed her nursing degree.\r\nI am confident Sarah will make a fantastic staff nurse. She has consistently demonstrated shrewd clinical judgement combined with a compassionate bedside manner when caring for patients.\r\nEngaging and energetic, she has been an asset to our team and she is well-respected by both staff and patients. I have no doubt that she will bring these qualities to her first position as a qualified nurse. \r\nPlease contact me on 202-555-0114 or email@example.com if you wish to discuss Sarah\u2019s suitability for this position further. \r\nSincerely,\r\nMary Roberts\r\nWard Manager, St. Gwen\u2019s Hospital\r\nTel.: 202-555-0114\r\n\r\nReference Letter Proofreading\r\nErrors and typos look unprofessional, so don\u2019t forget to proofread your reference letter before posting or clicking send. And if you\u2019d like any help ensuring your letter is perfect, our editors and proofreaders are available 24\/7 to ensure your writing is always error free.