What is a Reference Letter

The definition for a reference letter is an evaluation of a person´s characteristics and personal qualities, rather than professional qualities which are expressed when writing a recommendation letter. It is very common for the two labels to be used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference in their meanings as their purposes are not the same. For the reference letter format, personal attributes are given more importance, such as attitude and interests.

As with the importance of a recommendation letter, the importance of a reference letter will depend upon the individual company or academic body. Those that are interested more in the personal characteristics of a future employee or student will look to learn more about you as a person rather than you as a professional. In both cases, there are procedures to take and tips and advice for writing a recommendation or reference letter.

Who is Supposed to Write a Reference Letter?

In order to have a good reference letter it must be written by someone who will know you well enough to be able to express your best qualities. With a reference letter, there is usually more flexibility on who can write it, as it does not have to specifically be someone that you have a professional relationship with, but rather a personal one. However, writing a reference letter will still require the person to be able to express in the best way possible why you would be the perfect candidate for a job or university place.

Why is a Reference Letter Important?

The difference between a reference letter vs recommendation letter is important as a reference letter will go more into detail about your personal performance than your professional performance. This allows the recipient to know more about you other than your professional qualities and past; an opportunity to make you stand out from the crowd. Application processes are always slightly different so you may not need to provide a reference letter, make sure to ask about the procedure before handing over any documents.

To get a better idea, go to recommendation letter samples.

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