How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference (With Examples)

By Conor McMahon
Jan. 12, 2023

Find a Job You Really Want In

Summary. To write a good thank-you letter for a reference, you should greet the reference writer by name, express your gratitude for the reference, and acknowledge the significance of their reference. You can send this in an email or handwritten note.

References can be one of the most important parts included on your resume. While the resume lays out what skills and experiences you have on paper, your references can go above and beyond and provide more detail.

There are times when a person lies or stretches the truth on a resume, a professional reference serves an essential role in vouching that your resume’s claims are correct and accurate.

And after you receive one of these letters, it’s important to say thank you. This article will run you through exactly how to write a thank-you letter for a reference and give you actual examples to use.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thanking someone for their reference is courteous and strengthens your relationship with them.

  • A thank-you email is often appropriate, but a handwritten note is best if you collected the reference in person or if the referer prefers physical notes.

  • A thank-you email for a reference should include a clear subject line, your note of thanks, and recognition of the value of the reference.

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference (With Examples)

Why It’s Important to Say Thank You

Graciously asking for favors is an invaluable professional skill, and part of that involves offering thanks after the fact.

Letters of thanks are quite common in the professional world, whether you’re thanking someone for being an academic reference, or a professional reference, a little bit of gratitude goes a long way

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to say thank you and why an email thank-you letter for a professional reference is a smart move:

  1. It shows integrity. Integrity – one’s dedication to doing the right thing – is one of the most sought-after characteristics in the professional world. It’s not something you can fake, but it is something you can build up over time.

    Gestures of kindness like this show that you are thoughtful and that you care about others.

  2. It’s the polite thing to do. Your reference writer took time and energy out of their busy schedule to do you a favor, so you should acknowledge this effort by extending gratitude. As you know, others’ time is equally as important as your own. The polite response to favors, in general, is a sincere thank you.

  3. It helps build and sustain your network. A sturdy network is one of the most important things to build for career advancement and opportunities. Developing a habit of making small, positive investments in your professional relationships will go a long way to develop and sustain your network.

  4. It’s simple and easy. If you can send an email, you can send a thank-you email. Email thank-yous are a great choice if you’re looking for a convenient way to show appreciation. It will likely take less than five minutes to craft a friendly, personalized thank-you letter.

  5. It’s a small gesture that carries a lot of weight. Though it is a simple and easy thing to do, your letter of appreciation is still greatly appreciated by the recipient. People like to receive praise and be told that they are helpful, so your reference writer will be happy to receive your message.

  6. The recipient will be more likely to continue providing recommendations for you in the future. Showing your gratitude to someone you wish to continue using as a professional reference is crucial.

    Remember that their recommendation is based on their overall view of your skills, work ethic, and character.

What an Email Reference Thank-You Letter Should Include

In the process of asking for a reference letter, the hard part is already over. You’ve already made the ask, gotten a yes, and utilized the reference. Now comes the final step, writing the thank-you letter.

When it comes to writing a thank-you email for a reference, here are some basic guidelines for everything you need to include:

  • Proper formatting. Be sure to include appropriate (email) letter-writing formatting and conventions to keep your email professional and easy to read. You’ll also want to proofread and make sure there are no grammar or spelling errors.

  • A subject line including your name and mention of the reference. Your reference writer likely receives a lot of emails in a day. A good subject line helps to quickly signify the nature of the email you’ve sent, so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

  • Your greeting, addressed explicitly to the reference writer. Your greeting will typically be “Dear [name],” but it could be less formal, depending on the circumstance. Always be sure that you are correctly spelling your reference writer’s name, or your gesture of kindness may backfire.

  • Your thanks for the reference. It’s a thank-you letter, so naturally, you’re going to want to include the words “thank you” or some variation of that. Clearly express your gratitude for the reference.

  • Recognition of the vital role the reference played. References can carry a lot of weight and can even be a deciding factor in some cases. Putting this into writing makes your recipient feel good about themselves and their ability to affect change.

    Acknowledge that your reference writer’s work was significant and impactful.

  • Your closing. Otherwise known as a salutation. This can be something like “Regards,” “Sincerely,” or “Best,” depending on the level of formality you’re trying to portray.

  • Your signature. Your full, typed name. The email substitute for a written signature. In an email, this will simply go on the next line right after your closing.

Once you have these simple rules down, you’ll be able to write email thank-you letters with no problems.

3 Examples of Emails Thanking Someone for Being a Reference

Below are some sample letters you can refer to when writing your own thank-you email. Vary your greeting, closing, and tone to match your desired formality or familiarity.

Thanking a Reference with a General Update Email Example

Subject: [Liana Moore Reference]

Dear Elliot,

I want to sincerely thank you for the reference you provided me for the digital marketing strategist position at Lind LLC. I met with the hiring manager Liz Hurley earlier today and had an excellent interview. She says I can expect to hear back from her within a week.

I appreciate your help and support immensely. I’m certain that your endorsement was a deciding factor in my receiving an interview, as your word carries a lot of weight in this industry.

Thank you again.

Liana Moore

Thanking a Reference When You’ve Landed the Job Email Example

Subject: [Roger Hamish — Thank You for the Reference]

Hey Alicia,

Thank you so much for the reference you gave to Larkin Ltd on my behalf. I just wanted to give you a quick update and let you know that I was offered the position today.

I know that your good word played a large part in opening up this new opportunity for me. I have deep gratitude for your help, and I won’t forget it.

Many thanks,
Roger Hamish

Thanking an Academic Reference Email Example

Subject: [Reference, Mia Thorne]

Dear Ms. Stone —

Thank you for the recommendation letter you provided for my college application process. I have been accepted to three colleges so far, and I have been offered a scholarship to one.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of your letter of recommendation. I greatly appreciate your willingness to help with this process.

Let me know if there is any way I can return the favor!

Mia Thorne

When Not to Send an Email

While writing a thank-you email is usually a good idea, there are a few circumstances when not to send one.

  • The reference was collected in person. You’ll want to thank them in-person at that very moment. It can still be a nice gesture if you want to, but you don’t need to re-state your thanks if you’ve already given it.

  • The reference was given on paper. You won’t want to send a thank-you email because it’s more appropriate to send a handwritten or physical letter. If your reference writer sent in a physical letter, consider taking the time to write a physical thank-you letter as well

  • The person doing the reference sends physical thank-you notes. You’ll want to match the style of the person who is giving the reference letter. In the age of email and digital letters, an actual note can show your appreciation. Remember that a physical letter is much more of an “event” than an email. So go for this option whenever you really feel the need to emphasize your appreciation.

Reference Letter Thank You FAQ

  1. How do I thank someone and appreciate them?

    You thank someone and appreciate them by saying things such as, “I appreciate your time,” or “I want to thank you as soon as possible.” “I truly appreciate the confidence you showed in me,” is another good option.

    These are all simple ways to show someone your appreciation and thank them for a letter of recommendation or other favor.

  2. Should I say thank you to my reference?

    Yes, it is always a good idea to thank your references. It only takes a few minutes to write a thank you letter, and your appreciation can go a long way.

  3. What are other ways to end my thank-you letter?

    If you don’t want to say thank you, you can always sign off with some of these phrases:

    • “Best regards”

    • “Sincerely”

    • “Thanks for everything”

    • “With appreciation”

    These are all professional alternatives to “Thank you,” which can get overused in a thank-you letter.

  4. Should you thank someone for being a reference?

    Yes, you should thank someone for being a reference. It took time and effort to write you a reference letter or take a phone call from a prospective employer, so it’s courteous to thank them for doing that for you.

Expert Opinions

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference

Amy Sanchez
Executive Career and Leadership Coach
Swim Against the Current

Taking the time to write a thank you letter, while it seems basic, is a gesture not everyone takes the time to do. t’s an important thing to do and helps you continue to nurture a valuable relationship. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do to acknowledge when people take the time and effort to sing your praises.

Once you’ve landed your next role, it’s a good idea to let the person who wrote you the recommendation know about your new role. It will make them feel good that they were able to help you and perhaps there will be an opportunity for future collaboration.

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference

Yuleni Pulido
Professional Resume Writer

I always advise my clients to send a thank-you letter within 24 hours after an interview. If the interview is on Friday, I recommend waiting until Monday after lunch. This way your email will be less likely to be overlooked among the numerous emails that come through on the weekend. By lunch time, the recipient has probably updated their inbox and your thank you letter will come in as a fresh email.

Use your thank-you letter as an opportunity to emphasize on the areas you and the employer connected on. If needed, tactfully touch upon any weak points that surfaced during the interview.

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference Tips

Swanee Griffin
Owner and Principal Career Consultant at Artistry Resume Writing Service

One thing I can say that I have learned as not only a Resume Writer and Career Coach is that a simple “thank you” is not as common as you think. It makes you stand out as a long-term business relationship. Learning to give thanks to those that help forms a long-term professional bond for more than just the job search. I’ve had thank you letters lead to opportunities for additional networking, private groups, and invitations to professional associations. Not to mention, it would be the ultimate thank you to return the favor. Hop on their LinkedIn profile and give them a personal recommendation. What better way to show thanks than to spotlight them publicly?

How To Write A Thank-You Letter For A Reference From An Expert

Danny MacIntyre
Executive Career Coach and Resume Writer

“Saying thank you is more than good manners, it is good spirituality.” –Alfred Painter

Also, I always advise my clients to be specific in their thank you notes/letters by referring to some of the important exchanges in the interview. This reminds the interviewers of the positive/constructive moments and why they liked you. Also, I recommend candidates send the thank you note that day as decisions are usually made shortly after all candidates are interviewed. Most thank you notes arrive too late; after a decision has already been made.


  1. WriteExpress – Thank Someone For Writing a Reference or Recommendation For You; Letter Templates and Guides

  2. Adobe – How to Write a Thank You Note for a Recommendation

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.


Conor McMahon

Conor McMahon is a writer for Zippia, with previous experience in the nonprofit, customer service and technical support industries. He has a degree in Music Industry from Northeastern University and in his free time he plays guitar with his friends. Conor enjoys creative writing between his work doing professional content creation and technical documentation.

Related posts