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How To Write Or Ask For A Reference Letter for Coworkers

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Writing a reference letter is a big responsibility, regardless of who you write it for.

Many jobs ask for references when people apply for new positions. While many people will turn to their supervisors for reference letters, many will also ask their coworkers.

While you are not required to accept their request for a letter, it is the polite thing to do. If you have a good relationship, you should write them a reference letter. We will discuss everything you need to know below.

What Is a Reference Letter for a Coworker?

A reference letter for a coworker is similar to a reference letter for a friend. It is something that should be taken seriously because of the ramifications it can have, good or bad. A high-quality reference letter can be the difference between your coworker advancing their career and standing pat.

A reference letter incorporates many things. In it, you will talk about your relationship with your coworker and how it extended in and out of the workplace. You can speak to their ability to work well in a team at work. Additionally, since you are not the superior of your coworker in the workplace, you can give better character recommendations than a supervisor could.

A reference letter should be honest but flattering. Focus on the positive things about your coworker. You should not lie about anything, but you can put a positive spin on things.

The key is to help your coworker get the job they are applying for. They would not ask you to write a reference letter if they did not trust you to do a good job. If you do not feel comfortable writing the letter, let your coworker know beforehand.

Why Are Reference Letters Important?

When looking for a job, you must take every advantage you can get, especially when climbing the corporate ladder. Most corporate jobs ask job candidates to submit reference letters from supervisors and coworkers.

They can even ask for character references from friends and family. So, you must learn how to ask someone for a reference letter. In-person is the best way to ask, but you can ask via email instead.

Whether you are writing or asking for a reference letter from a coworker, it is very important. Reference letters can help you put a personalized touch on your job applications.

These letters are used to show your full array of skills, achievements, and qualifications on display. Compliments given in a recommendation are more valuable than listing them in a resume because they come from someone else.

How Do You Write a Good Reference Letter for a Coworker?

When you get asked to write a reference letter for a coworker, you must ensure you are up for the job. You cannot be expected to write a reference letter for everyone.

So, only agree to write the recommendation letter for someone you know well and can speak to their qualifications. Do not try to throw together a reference letter for someone you do not know well. You will likely end up doing more harm than good.

You should get any details needed for the letter from the applicant. Ask when they need the letter and what to include. You should also ask for the name and email of the hiring manager so you can look them up if needed. Furthermore, ask for an up-to-date resume from your coworker. Getting the resume and details about the job will help you craft a better reference letter.

Finally, it is crucial to provide specific examples when writing a reference letter. Do not leave things up to interpretation, and do not make claims without backing them up. Whenever you make a statement in a reference letter, you should back it up with an example from the workplace.

With all that in mind, there are other things to consider when writing a reference letter for a coworker. Notably, you must figure out how to format a reference letter.

How Do You Format a Reference Letter?

There is not a universally agreed-upon way to format a reference letter. You can make adjustments how you see fit, but most reference letters look similar.

The top of your reference letter should include the date, contact information, and a salutation to the recipient. Including your contact information is crucial, as many institutions will call or email references to ask follow-up questions. While you’re not required to answer their calls, it’s recommended to do so if you care about helping your coworker get a new job.

You can get into the body of your reference letter. The first paragraph should describe your working and personal relationship with the applicant. Discuss how you know the person and how closely you work together. The first paragraph should establish your relationship.

The second paragraph should objectively discuss the applicant’s skills, achievements, and qualifications. You do not need to list specific certifications the person has because they should be in their resume, but you can discuss projects you have worked on together.

You should wrap up your letter by stating why you believe the applicant is a good fit for the job. This is the section to really sing the praises of your coworker and be as subjective as possible.

Finally, close out your letter with a call to action to contact you with any further questions and a goodbye.

What Do You Include in a Reference Letter?

We discussed most of this in the section above, so we will keep this short. A reference letter should include all the reasons you recommend your coworker for the job. You should discuss their professional qualifications and skills.

However, you should also discuss things that do not show up on a resume. Share your experiences of them displaying good leadership and teamwork. These things can help an application.

How Long Should a Reference Letter Be?

A reference letter should be a page long in Microsoft Word. You should never exceed a page and should not be much shorter. Try to get your reference letter to be as close to a page long as possible.

Questions To Answer in Your Reference Letter

When you write a reference letter, you can personalize it however you want. That being said, there are some things you should always cover.

How Would You Describe Your Coworker?

Something you must mention in your reference letter for your coworker is how you would describe them. Your description can focus on their ability to solve problems in the workplace.

However, if you are friends with them outside of working hours, you can also discuss their personality and how that can translate to getting things done at work.

What Is Your Relationship Like?

Relationships can be very different. For example, some coworkers can be best friends, while others can hate each other.

While it seems unlikely that someone would ask a disliked person to write a reference letter, you probably fall somewhere between those two categories. So, you should make your relationship with the person clear in the letter.

What Are Some of Their Accomplishments and Qualities?

The focus of your letter should be to highlight the applicant’s accomplishments. It is beneficial to mention things that are unlikely to have appeared on their resume. You can also discuss their skills and how they help in the workplace.

How Do They Perform Under Pressure?

As a coworker, you probably worked on many projects with the applicant. So, you can speak to their ability to perform under pressure. Staying calm under pressure is valuable, so if they have it, mention it.

Why Would You Recommend Them for the Job?

Finally, it is crucial to mention why you recommend your coworker for the job. Do not speak vaguely here; give the hiring manager specific reasons for hiring your coworker.

Reference Letter Template for Coworker

Here is an example of how to format your reference letter:

Your Name

Your Position

Your Email

Your Phone Number


Salutation Mr. / Ms. name of recipient,

Intro paragraph discussing your relationship with your coworker.

Middle paragraph discussing the accomplishments and skills of your coworker.

Final paragraph outlining the reasons you recommend your coworker for the job.

Call to action for the reader to contact you with further questions.


Your name and signature

Wrapping Up

Writing a reference letter for a coworker is a big responsibility.

You should only do it if you feel you can deliver a high-quality letter for the person in question. If you are nervous about writing a reference letter, do not worry, you are not being graded.

Writing one is not challenging once you know where to start. Are outline above should give you a good starting point.

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