How to Write a Reference Letter for an Employee? Complete Guide

Updated on: January 27, 2023

When writing a reference letter for an employee, it is not necessary to follow a set format.

Some employers write reference letters that have a “to whom it may concern” header; others may address a particular person directly.

Regardless of the format of a reference letter, they are written for one purpose only – to provide an ex-employee with backup so that he or she can apply for a new job.


The content of a reference letter is simple. A reference letter confirms that an employee has worked at a particular position for a certain period.

But this is not all that a reference letter is about. A reference letter is largely about what an employee’s professional contribution to a company was and how well he or she fit in during the time he worked in a company.

It also details any accomplishments of the employee and how these helped the company’s success.

Length and Tone

Reference letters need to be detailed yet concise. How does one achieve both?

The trick is to provide all the relevant details of an employee’s time at the company and to leave out any that may not be a credit to him – or at least downplay them.

Professional reference letters are supposed to have an upbeat tone since the purpose is to help an individual get the job he is applying for.

Employers who write reference letters pose as referees for an employee. They may be called upon to provide additional comments or to verify the credibility of the employee.


There is no standard format that which one must base a reference letter. But there are some rules that you will have to follow when writing one.

Once it is decided if the reference letter will have a “to whom it may concern” header or is addressed to a particular individual, it is important to open the letter properly.

– First Paragraph

The first paragraph is all about how you know the person you are writing the reference letter for and how long he has worked with you in a specific role.

– Second Paragraph

Much detail is required in the second paragraph. Mention accomplishments, synopsis of job duties, information regarding promotions and awards, work ethics, and skills information.

– Last Paragraph

Ending a reference letter is usually simple. Wishing the ex-employee “all the best for future endeavors” and inviting the new employer to contact for any “further information” is the norm.

It is important to provide the designation and contact information of the person writing the reference letter so that contact can be made easy.