How to Write a Job Reference for a Friend

Ensure you portray your friend in a professional light when writing a reference for her.

Ensure you portray your friend in a professional light when writing a reference for her.

It may seem like a natural thing to do a job reference for your best friend -- who knows her better than you do? But a prospective employer really doesn't want to hear about how much fun she is on road trips or that she's an awesome shopper. Job search experts typically advise against having friends do job references, because they might not be viewed as credible in terms of your past job performance. But if your friend has also been a colleague and you are asked to write a recommendation, focus on things that are relevant in a professional context.

Ask your friend specifically which things she wants you to highlight in your reference letter. Read over the job description so you know what qualities and skills the prospective employer is seeking.

Write about aspects of your friend's character and approach to her work that appear to track with what the employer is looking for. For example, if the job she's seeking calls for effective leadership, describe the time your friend organized a major charity event and how well she oversaw and coordinated all the disparate elements and people to create a successful event.

Include only those things you actually know or have witnessed in your reference letter. Don't embellish the truth or write about things you aren't personally familiar with. Unless you worked directly with your friend at her last job, for example, don't write about how effectively she managed problem co-workers, even if managing diverse personalities is a key element of the potential job. Instead, highlight the effective ways you've seen her manage personality conflicts between different friends over the years and state your belief that those abilities will stand her in good stead as a project leader.

Avoid glib or unprofessional references, and be direct, concise and sincere. Don't write about your last girls' weekend at the beach or how well she holds her own on the dance floor. Keep your tone and the content professional, relevant and focused on the job in question.

Ensure you have the correct name, title and company address on both the letter and the envelope, and that it includes the following subject line: "Employment Reference for Ms. Jane Smith." Have your friend look at a draft of the letter before you send it to any prospective employer. When you have a version you're both happy with, proofread it carefully and correct any mistakes. Print it out on high quality, letter-sized paper in a standard business format and font. Use white or ivory paper and a matching envelope.

 

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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