References Advice Guide

16 April 2019

As an employer, there will be times when employees choose to move on. When they go, you may be asked for an employee reference.

It may be standard in some industries, so it's important to know what to include in the reference letter. And, there are elements that need to be included. It’s also important to avoid putting certain information in.

In this guide, we'll discuss the different types employee references, what to include in yours, and tips to follow when writing one.

What is an employee reference?

An employee reference is a mostly positive recommendation given to a prospective employer. A detailed reference provides a hiring manager with important details about a candidate before making an offer.

A good reference highlights how the former employee has developed and performed in their current role.

When would you need to give an employee reference?

When an employee applies for a new role, you may be asked to provide an employee references Typically, two references are required before starting a new job.

An employee reference request will be made just before they are ready to make them an offer.

Who will request the reference?

You'll receive the reference request from the person hiring for the role. However before they can make the request, consent is required from the employee.

The employee may also directly ask you for a reference.

Do you have to accept a reference request?

Under Irish employment law, employers aren't legally required to provide a reference to their staff. All employees are legally allowed to request them. But it's your decision whether to accept or deny the request.

When a potential new employer or an employee asks for a reference from you, ensure you feel comfortable writing a suitable one. If not, ask someone closer to the employee, such as their line manager.

Man sat with a laptop.

Different types of employee reference letters

There are different types of employee reference letters you may want to provide for your staff. So it's important you become familiar with them and under what scenario you may need to write one.

Let's discuss them in more detail:

Employment reference

As explained above, an employment reference is given when an employee has had an offer for a new job. They are used to inform a potential new employer why the candidate is the perfect choice for the role.

Academic reference

An academic reference is required when one of your employees is looking to gain entry into higher education. You may be asked to write a reference describing their current work ethic and qualifications.

These references are used by an academic board to see if the applicant would be a good fit for the course they've applied for. The information provided by you plays an important role in the application process.

Character reference

A character reference is used when someone is applying for a high-level position or looking to gain entry into a professional organisation.

This type of reference should outline their character and work ethic. They are often used to gain insight as to whether they'd be a good cultural fit for the company.

What to include in an employee reference letter

It's important you know how to write a reference when required. Providing a reference is essentially a favour to an employee who no longer wants to work in your business.

You may decide to write a basic reference that includes a short summary, or a longer one. However, try to remain consistent for every former employee.

Let's discuss what you should include when writing your recommendation letter:

Work relationship

In the reference letter, you should include a description of your work relationship with the employee. You should talk about what their title was, where they stood in your company, and what they were like to work with.

Company name and employment dates

Make sure you include the name of your company, your role within the business, and their dates of employment.

Job details

This is the part where you highlight the details of their job. You should include what their job title was, as well as relevant skills and qualifications they’ve developed whilst working for you.

Be careful not to include any irrelevant, personal information regarding the employee.

Positive points and achievements

To every reference, it's important you include positives about their employment and achievements. This will help make the employee look like the best candidate for the role.

Try to Include examples of any work or responsibilities they did beyond their job role. For example, covering work when another employee was absent.

Contact information

It’s always best to provide your contact information within the reference letter. This can be an email address and phone number which they can use if further information is required.

Tips for writing the perfect employee reference letter

There are some tips you should follow to write the best employee reference letter possible.

Let's discuss them in more detail:

Study the job description

Before writing the reference, you should ask the employee for information regarding their new job description. This will help to ensure you address all the key skills and qualifications needed for the person hiring to make a decision.

Include specific examples

It's important to include specific examples of how the employee will be a good match in their new role. Make sure you include any responsibilities they had, especially ones that went outside of their normal job duties.

Be accurate

Although the main aim of the reference is to be positive, it's even more important to be accurate. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to providing references. If you don't think you can write a positive reference, communicate this with them.

Keep former references

It's good practice to keep references given to a former employee. This enables you to be as fair and consistent as possible when writing references. For example, if you wrote a detailed, personal reference letter for one employee, make sure you do this for others.

Get expert advice on employee references from Peninsula

When employees are looking for new employment, they may come to you for a reference letter. These letters are great at helping their prospective new employer make an informed decision about them - before hiring them for the job.

It’s important you get it right, you owe it to your employee to give them a good reference if applicable.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice and apprentice rate support which is available 365 days a year. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0818 923923 and book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.







Suggested Resources