How To Write A Reference Letter For A Friend (With Examples)

By Jack Flynn - May. 17, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

Are you feeling excited because your good friend is finally going after that job they really want? You think, “finally! This is exactly what they need.” You want to do whatever you can to help them out, and it just so happens that they’ve asked you to write a reference letter for them. The problem is, you aren’t exactly sure where to start.

You might be wondering if a reference letter is different from a letter of recommendation, and more importantly, what you should include in your letter. What is an ideal length, and what will the employer be looking for?

Writing a reference letter is all about selling your friend’s personality, experience, and accomplishments. Of course, keep in mind that they will be submitting their own resume too, so you should focus more on what makes them an ideal worker, rather than the professional experience they’ve already mentioned in their own application materials.

A good reference letter should leave a positive impression on the employer, and allow them to understand what makes your friend special. If you do that, the letter will be a great help to your friend, and bring them one step closer to getting that shiny new position.

This article will give you an overview of how to write a glowing reference letter for your friend.

What Is a Letter of Recommendation for a Friend?

A letter of recommendation for a friend is a document used to help an individual land a job, gain admittance to a school, or become a member of a private organization. It can also be called a character reference or a personal reference.

For the sake of this article, we’ll be covering letters of recommendation written specifically for job opportunities, but most of the advice applies regardless of your referee’s goals.

A personal recommendation for a friend may not be as powerful as a professional reference, but it’s certainly better than no reference and it can still round out a job application that already has one or two professional references.

By definition, a personal recommendation comes from an individual who has never worked with the referee in a professional setting. Regardless, not all professional attributes are reserved for purely professional settings.

For example, you may have witnessed your friend’s work ethic on a passion project, or seen your friend go out of their way to help out a stranger. These are important qualities that any sensible employer will recognize as valuable.

Which Friends Can You Write a Reference Letter For?

In general, it’s difficult to write a reference letter for a friend unless you have a second relationship with them. Let’s take a look at relationships can help you write a stronger character reference:

  • Co-volunteer

  • Current or former classmate

  • Coach, mentor, or mentee

  • Family friend whom you’ve known a long time

  • Fellow member of an organization, club, or extracurricular group

With these additional relationships come more opportunities to talk about your friend’s skills in action. After all, it’s pretty hard to sing your buddy’s praises if all you’ve done together is watch movies and play video games.

How to Format Your Letter of Recommendation for a Friend

First and foremost, you should know how to format your reference letter. As with other job-related letters, such as a cover letter, you will include a heading.

You should include your name and address, as well as the company’s name and address.

Here are examples of headings:

  1. Robert Sperling
    888 Lyne St.
    Hillsburg, KY, 01230

    September 16th, 2020

    Sarah Parker
    History Museum
    742 Dru Rd.
    Hillsburg, KY, 01230

    Dear Ms. Parker,

  2. Jerry Fitz
    93 Herring Rd.
    Roland, CA, 59421

    September 16th, 2020

    Best Restaurant
    58 Clarendon Rd.
    Roland, CA, 59421

    To Whom It May Concern,

Note that this only applies if you’re mailing a physical letter; if you’re emailing it, you can leave off the recipient’s contact information and include yours after your signature rather than as part of the header.

Ideally, you should know the name of the potential employer, however, it is very common not to. If you don’t know the potential employer’s name, simply address the letter “To Whom It May Concern.”

While this phrase is a big no-no for job-seekers themselves, it’s fine for recommendation letters. After all, your friend may want to keep your reference letter in their back pocket for a number of job opportunities down the line, so it’s understandable to leave your greeting vague.

However, if your friend wants a recommendation letter for a specific opportunity, your friend should do your best to find the hiring manager or recruiter’s name so that you can address your letter appropriately. Make sure to use an appropriate title.

You shouldn’t assume women are married, so it’s good to favor Ms. over Mrs. In addition, if you know they have a doctorate or Ph.D., you should use the title Dr.

Dear Ms. Burns,
Dear Dr. Jones,
Dear Rev. Baker,

Now that you know how to address your letter, it’s also important to understand what employers are looking for in your 3-4 paragraphs. Keep in mind that most employers prefer a short reference letter.

Therefore, your letter shouldn’t exceed a page, and ideally, should be around half a page. That being said, you should focus on writing only what you believe will have the most impact on getting your friend hired.

Keeping to 3 or 4 paragraphs is ideal because each paragraph will serve its purpose without making the letter too lengthy. Your first paragraph serves as an introduction, your second serves as the body, and the third is your conclusion and contact information.

Finally, once you are finished you can end the letter with “Sincerely”, followed by your name.

What to Include in Your Letter of Recommendation for a Friend

Now that you understand formatting, it’s time to discuss the content of your letter. Remember that while templates can assist in writing a reference letter, it’s still important that a majority of your letter is in your own words. Do your best to make it feel personal, so the employer truly believes that you can speak for your friend.

  1. Opening paragraph. As mentioned previously, your first paragraph is your introduction. Therefore, you should state your relationship with your friend, and why that relationship is valid in the context of the letter.

    You may want to include how long you’ve known your friend, especially if it’s a long period of time, so the employer will believe that you know them on a personal level.

    Here is an example of an introductory paragraph:

    I’m pleased to recommend Heather Ingrid for the Government position at Town Hall. I have known Heather for over a decade now, and know that she is a passionate, caring person who’s organized several community events throughout her life. With that in mind, I know she is highly qualified for a position at Town Hall.

    As you can see, the first paragraph should focus on stating what the letter is for, and what your relation is to your friend.

  2. Body paragraph(s). Next, your body paragraph should focus on your friend’s strengths and accomplishments. What are some positive things about their personality or work ethic? Do they have defining credentials such as a previous job, internship, community service, or college experience? These are all things to include in your body paragraph.

    Generally speaking, a reference letter will focus more on complimentary fluff, rather than your friend’s credentials. After all, you’re trying to sell their personality, work ethic, etc. Some examples of complimentary words are: hardworking, diligent, passionate, motivated, leader, cooperative, patient, and intelligent.

    With that in mind, here is an example of a body paragraph:

    This year Willow graduated with her Graphic Design degree from Arts University, and as her friend I know it was a tireless effort for her. When in class she worked diligently on her pieces and often finished before the rest of us. Yet, she never sacrificed the quality of her work, as she carefully executed every detail. Willow has a truly creative mind, and would produce amazing artwork for your company.”

  3. Closing paragraph. Finally, your last paragraph is rather simple, as it should reiterate that you are happy to recommend your friend for the job, and contain your contact information.

    Here is an example:

    Without hesitation, I am happy to recommend James for this position, as I know he would be an amazing asset to your team. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at jfitz@mail.com or (222) 222-2222.

    Sincerely,

    Jerry Fitz

Tips for Your Recommendation Letter for a Friend

  1. Be clear on expectations. When your friend approaches to ask for a recommendation letter, be certain that they’re asking you to write in a personal capacity rather than a professional one. If you’ve never worked with this friend in a professional setting, it’s best to decline a request to serve as a professional reference.

    Make sure they know that you’ll be serving as a character reference instead. Also, make sure that you’re a quality choice for this sort of letter.

    Remember our tip from above: if you have a second relationship with this individual outside of pure friendship (e.g., classmates, co-volunteers, etc.), then you’ll be able to write a much stronger letter. If you don’t, let your friend know that you might not make the best choice.

  2. Get details about the job opportunity. If your friend is asking you to write a recommendation letter for a specific opportunity, you should learn everything you can about it.

    Ask to read the job description and figure out what your friend knows about the company. Knowing this sort of information can help you figure out exactly what skills and qualities would be most valuable to include in your letter.

  3. Ask what your friend wants. The easiest way to figure out what to write is to simply ask your friend precisely what they’d like you to highlight. Don’t lie, but do ask what your friends’ long-term career goals are and why they’re interested in this position.

    Your main goal is to frame their qualifications in a way that makes them look like the perfect fit for the role.

  4. Use examples. Simply rattling off a list of positive adjectives is not going to cut it. You need to give the hiring manager a bit of context with real-world examples of when you’ve seen your friend put their soft skills or winning personality to work.

    Check out your friend’s cover letter if you can — see what types of accomplishments and attributes they’re trying to show off. Then, you can incorporate your own stories that either complement or boost the value of what your friend has already written.

Example Reference Letters for a Friend

Now that you’ve seen all the pieces of a reference letter, it’s time to assemble them to get a full picture. Here are a few sample reference letters for you to use:

  1. Letter of Recommendation for a Friend Example 1

    Alice Newberry
    20 Williams St.
    Cheshire, CO, 77777

    September 8th, 2020

    JP Bank
    38 Newgrange Rd.
    Cheshire, CO, 77777

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I’m pleased to recommend Josh Parker for the Teller position at JP Bank. I have known Josh for over half a decade now, and this summer I had the privilege of working with Josh in our BD Bank Graduate Program, where I watched him excel at his work. With that in mind, I know he is highly qualified for a position at your bank.

    In college Josh often tutored me in many of our classes, as the way he communicates makes difficult topics easy to understand. He’s intelligent and hardworking, so it’s not surprising that he graduated at the top of his class. In addition to that, he has prior experience working in customer service at Finance Co., and took part in an accounting internship at Morgan Accounting.

    Without hesitation, I am happy to recommend Josh for this position, as I know he would be an incredible asset to your company. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at anewberry@mail.com or (111) 111-1111.

    Sincerely,

    Alice Newberry

  2. Letter of Recommendation for a Friend Example 2

    Molly Smith
    433 Snape Rd.
    Froon, NH, 01230

    September 8th, 2020

    Rune National Park
    833 Rune Rd.
    Marigold, TX, 10987

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I’m writing to recommend Arthur Grant for the Park Ranger position at Rune National Park. I have known Arthur for nearly a decade now, and can easily say that he is highly qualified for a position at your park. In high school, he did environmental work for our local school districts, and in college, he created an experimental program that aimed to get more kids involved with our National Parks.

    As a child in our hometown near the White Mountains, Arthur always talked about how much he wanted to visit Rune National Park. He’s poured his heart and soul into his education, and he has such a passion for your park in particular. On top of that, he’s a hardworking and intelligent young man, who has a bright attitude and eagerness I’ve seldom seen elsewhere.

    Without hesitation, I am happy to recommend Arthur for this position, as I know he would be an amazing asset to your team. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at msmith@mail.com or (555) 555-5555.

    Sincerely,

    Molly Smith

Final Thoughts

Remember, keep your letter brief and focus on personalizing it to fit your friend’s needs. Make sure you make it clear to the potential employer that you really know your friend, and try your best to make them seem like a memorable, positive person for the employer to look forward to working with.

Keeping all these tips and formatting rules in mind, you’re ready to get started on a glowing reference letter for your friend!

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Author

Jack Flynn

Jack Flynn is a writer for Zippia. In his professional career he’s written over 100 research papers, articles and blog posts. Some of his most popular published works include his writing about economic terms and research into job classifications. Jack received his BS from Hampshire College.

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