Reference and Recommendation letters Rightly explained

More often than not, what comes to mind when you hear the word reference is that you are being recommended for a position, a job, or a scholarship.

We’ve had clients who have consistently asked us what recommendation letters looked like; even though some are familiar with what reference letters look like, others are not, and, for that purpose, we have highlighted what a reference letter entails, the types of reference letters available, the slight difference and similarities between reference and recommendation letters and, who can give reference letters.

What is a reference letter?

Reference letters, also called recommendation letters or letters of recommendation, are letters in which the writer enthusiastically endorses the applicant’s or candidate’s qualifications and skills, describing them as ideal for the position for which they are applying, a scholarship, or a university admission or scholarship.

According to, reference letters are different from recommendation letters, and we will briefly discuss the similarities and differences.

Reference letter 

While writing a reference letter, the writer confirms that he knows you and readily verifies your good behaviour and character. It’s a means of standing up and vouching for you. A recommendation letter, on the other hand, stresses or highlights the skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities that best qualify an applicant for a particular opportunity, such as admittance to a clearly defined program or a certain function within a corporation. 

In order to assess the candidate’s suitability as a candidate, the writer details the traits of the suggested person. When writing the letter of recommendation, the author draws on personal and professional experiences with the applicant to provide pertinent examples and explain how those examples directly connect to the desired position or program.

The slight difference between the two is purpose; most of the time, a reference and recommendation letter serve the same purpose. You can request a reference letter when you need a character to be vetted or a recommendation letter for a specific opportunity.

However, for postgraduate admissions, the reference letter is usually requested, and in view of this, our focus will be on the reference letter as a document for postgraduate admissions.


1. Academic reference letters

As the name suggests, reference letters are typically used by students in an academic setting. For example, an academic reference letter is what you use during your postgraduate admissions.

2. Employment reference letters

An employment’s reference letter, often referred to as a recommendation letter, is a record of an employee’s time with an organization, their accomplishments, and occasionally, an endorsement. A letter of reference from an employer is typically written by a manager, member of human resources, mentor, or employer.

3. Personal reference letters

Personal reference letter on the other hand, also known as a character recommendation or a character reference, is a letter of support provided by a person who is knowledgeable about the personality and character of a person.


1. Yourself
2. Family member
3. Partner
4. Ex-partner
5. Close friend


1.  An employer 
2. Current or previous work colleague
3. College or school tutor
4. Careers adviser
5. Training assessor  
6. Volunteer leaders
7. Counsellors

8. Religious leaders

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