How to Write a Job Reference for an Employee

By Andy Willis
19 Aug 2019

It’s unreasonable to expect an employee to stay in your employ forever.

While you may appreciate their contribution to the success of your organisation, they’ll have their own personal and professional goals. And in most cases, these goals won’t necessarily be in line with those of your company.

After they leave your service and before starting at another organisation, you may need to provide an employment reference (or a letter of recommendation).

This is a document from yourself to their new employer. In it, you’ll attest to their skills, characteristics, achievements and qualifications while in your employment.

In this piece, as well as learning how to write references, we’ll also explore the rules surrounding the information that you’ll provide. Finally, we’ll provide you with some guidance for writing a job reference template letter.


What to write in a reference

Employers and managers need to know how to write a good reference. It serves as a formal document speaking about the performance of an employee during their time at your organisation.

The first thing to remember is that the information provided in this document should be correct and impartial. It shouldn’t include any information deemed irrelevant or misleading.

It’s up to you to decide how much information to include. It can be a basic reference (also known as a ‘factual reference’) in which you summarise the employee’s role and duration at your organisation.

If it’s your company policy to only provide a basic reference, you should explain this to the new employer so they don’t read anything into the fact you have failed to provide more detailed information.

You can also provide a more detailed reference (also referred to as a ‘character reference’). In this document, you’ll provide answers to specific questions asked by the party requesting the reference. You can also include other information such as:

  • Details of any absences they’ve taken from work.
  • The reason said employee is leaving the company.
  • Information on any disciplinary actions taken against them.
  • Details about the employee’s skills, experience, strengths, weaknesses, character and any other information related to their suitability for the new role.

It’s also worth noting, while there’re no laws against providing bad references, you must back up the reference by providing evidence to support your claim when asked to. Purposely fabricating a bad reference could lead to claims for damages from the former employee and potentially even discrimination. 


Rules for writing a reference

By law, you aren’t required to provide leaving employees with a reference.

There are, however, some exceptions to this. For example, you’ll have to provide one if there’s an agreement to do so (in the employment contract) or if it’s a condition of a settlement agreement.

You may also have to provide one if the employee in question is applying for roles in the financial industry that are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

For organisations with reference policies in place, it’s important to refer to them before writing a job reference. The wording of this policy may limit who can provide the reference and how much information to include.


Reference letter template

Because most employers will need to write multiple versions of this, we’ve provided a template to guide you through the process.

It’s worth noting, before writing a job reference with this template, remember to amend it with the specific information required for the employee in question’s role at your organisation.


*Template starts*

Dear [employer name],

I am writing to recommend [employee name] for the position of [insert position] at your company.

[employee name] and I worked together for [duration of employment] at [company name] on a variety of projects where [he/she] reported to me in my position as [your job title].

During [his/her] time here, [employee name] worked as a [insert position] and was a [insert quality] to work with. As a member of the [insert department name] team, [employee name] contributed to [insert specifics]. I believe [he/she] has demonstrated the skills required to perform effectively in this role.

It was a pleasure to work with [employee name] and I believe [he/she] would be a valuable addition to your organisation.

Should you have any further questions about [employee name], feel free to reach me at [phone number].


[Your name and signature]

*Template ends*


Disclaimer: The template is an example only and we don’t take any responsibility for inaccurate or inappropriate use of the document in your business.


Expert support

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Croner on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Andy Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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