Job hunting is one of the most common situations for which people are asked to write a reference letter. Such letters are a chance to give a job-seeker a leg up on the competition and, ideally, also give potential employers insight into the applicant's skill set, character and personality. In fact, it's smart to ask for reference letters to have on hand even before you need them.
From a practical standpoint, a letter of recommendation is of value both to your former employer and the company that is considering you for a job, because they don't have to take the time to talk with one another.
Employment reference letters add to the information found in a typical job application or resume. The most brief and straight-forward letters simply confirm employment dates and list job responsibilities. More in-depth letters reveal specific skills and qualities (such as the ability to work as a team, passion for a field and problem-solving skills ). It's common for the letter-writer to choose to highlight the specific skills the potential employer is looking for, and to vouch not only for the person's qualifications and job performance but for his or her work ethic and personal accomplishments. Many reference letters state explicitly that the person is a good fit for the job.
If you're writing a job reference letter, make it clear how you know the person and how confident you are in him or her. Outline the person's attributes, using descriptive adjectives but without getting too flowery. Does the person show drive? Responsibility? An ability to solve problems? Commitment? What about character traits? Is he or she a team-player? Punctual? Have a keen attention to detail? Skilled at time management? Creative?
It's not enough to say a person is "dedicated" or "self-motivated." Include examples that illustrate these traits. Anecdotes are helpful; short stories of how a person solved a problem, mastered a task or otherwise proved him or herself in a way that stands out from others.
A common, yet effective, way for employers or former employers to wind up a reference letter is to state that he or she would not hesitate to hire the person again. It's also nice to include your contact information in case the person reading the letter has further questions.
Index of letter of recommendation templates