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The Value of a Reference Letter

By October 16, 2017 No Comments

The value of a reference letter has long been questioned. Are they merely predisposed pieces of writing and character references, or do they hold any real ground with potential employers?

First of all, it is important to understand the purpose behind a reference letter from the point of view of an employer…

Why is a reference letter valued by an employer?

Companies and institutions looking to hire for a particular position want to know if a potential candidate will be a credible and relevant fit for that position. Additionally, a potential employer also wants to know what qualifies the person referring you – this is almost as important as what is contained in your reference letter.

Reference letters help the employer to sort through any irregularities with workers’ skill sets, improving the match of an employee to a position, while a CV which includes a reference letter is found to increase job call backs by 61%!

What to consider when crafting a useful reference letter

Before the person referring you begins writing your letter, it’s important they fully understand the context and purpose of the referral, such as what kind of job you are applying for and what kind of institution – is it a small agency, a large corporate, a non-profit organisation? It would also help if the referee is familiar with the company environment, for example is the company you are applying to a relaxed or extremely corporate business?

These points need to be considered when crafting a truly useful reference letter. Ultimately, the person writing your reference holds quite a bit of responsibility, so here are a few more useful considerations to be included:

  • Write the reference letter from a personal perspective
  • Use a business letter format
  • Write the letter based off the exact job description being applied for
  • Keep things positive!
  • Keep it simple and to-the-point
  • Include contact information
  • Try and share specific examples of the referee’s work
  • Make sure to submit the reference to the right person!

As far as the basic belief of psychology goes: the best predictor to future performance is past performance – basically, this is what your reference letter should summarise in relation to the job you are applying for. Though some may argue the validity and usefulness of a reference letter, they are still considered important in the eyes of many an employer in today’s market!

Additionally, as a student or soon-to-be-graduate, it’s important to have your ducks in a row with regards to your social media profiles. Potential employers in today’s market have begun to fully embrace the power and pervasiveness of social media, so don’t be fooled into thinking your spiffy Linkedin profile is all they will see! Keep your social media tidy and don’t overlook the value in a cleverly-crafted reference letter.

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