Why Are Reference Letters Important for Getting a Job?

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Job seekers know they need to take advantage of every possible advantage to stand out, especially when it comes to landing their dream job. Reference letters offer a personalized touch to job applications by providing crucial context to your skill set and character in a way that a resume cannot.


Reference letters, also called letters of recommendation, are one of the most important tools in your job search. It is a general statement of your skills, achievements and why your previous success means you will also add value in your next role.

Whether you’re enlisting someone you know to write a letter of recommendation for admission to an educational program, for an internal promotion, or for your job search on a job board like ZipRecruiter, it’s never a bad idea to have a collection of personalized letters that will sing your praises.

So why are reference letters important to getting a job and what do you need to know about them?

Who should I ask to write a reference letter?

Hiring managers like to see at least one letter of recommendation, but three to five is best practice. Your references may vary based on your industry and professional experience, but you will want to select people who have a positive working relationship with you. This could include former managers, colleagues, mentors or direct reports.

Recent college graduates entering the job market for the first time can ask college professors and career advisors to provide letters of reference to help them stand out.

What information should be included?

Reference letters for jobs don’t have to be long, but they should focus on your experience, accomplishments, and skills. When you ask someone to write a letter of recommendation, include your resume and a job description of the positions you’re applying for. This can help provide context for the industry and type of experience they need to highlight.

Letters of recommendation should provide specific examples of your past accomplishments and the specific skills you possess that are necessary to succeed in your field. They should also establish who is writing the letter, their relationship to you, and an endorsement of your potential future.

The purpose of a reference letter is to paint a picture of who you are to hiring managers. This includes how well you will fit in terms of office culture and technical skills.

When to ask for a reference letter.

It’s best to have quality letters of recommendation ready before you need them in a pinch. You want to show that you respect your references’ time by giving them a reasonable deadline to craft a thoughtful piece rather than imposing a tight switch.

Some of the best times to ask for letters of reference are when your contributions are greatest, when you or a close colleague leaves a company, when you graduate from a university, or after a situation where you had a significant impact on your current job . That way, you’ll have a collection of recommendation letters in your toolbox for when you’re ready to find your next job opportunity.

If you’re still looking for the next big step in your career, ZipRecruiter can help. It is ranked as the #1 workplace in the US1 and facilitates the search for relevant jobs. ZipRecruiter uses powerful matching technology to display your profile to employers who invite you to apply, so you’ll know if you’re a good match before you even submit an application. Job seekers know what it takes to stand out in a sea of ​​applications, and ZipRecruiter is the competitive edge you need.

1 Based on G2 satisfaction scores as of December 31, 2020

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