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What is a reference or recommendation letter and when are they used?

A reference letter is usually written to testify to a person or (occasionally) a company’s skills, character and/or achievements. Sometimes a reference letter is known as a “recommendation letter”. It is a formal document, and should be typed and written in a serious and business-like style.

Reference letters are used in a wide variety of situations; there is no definitive list that covers all possible scenarios. The most common examples are:

  1. When a candidate applies for a job, they may need a reference to support their application.
  2. If an interviewee is given a job offer, they may need to supply a reference letter before the contract can be signed.
  3. A student applying for an academic course often requires a reference letter to support their application.
  4. A student applying for funding will often need to supply reference letters.
  5. Companies may use reference letters as testimonies to their trustworthiness and ability to carry out a job well.
  6. Prospective tenants may need to provide their landlord with a reference letter, testifying to their good financial status. (This could be from a prior landlord or from a current employer.)