When asking for reference letter is it professional to create a single template and use that by all my references?

say i want to emphasize certain strength and skills and want that to be consistent with all my references.

  • 4
    What do you mean by "template"? Do you want them to all sign the same letter?
    – nvoigt
    Feb 6, 2022 at 10:11
  • Please specify the country you're in. References are done differently in different countries. Feb 6, 2022 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


When asking for reference letter is it professional to create a single template and use that by all my references?


When you ask someone to write a reference letter for you, you do not give them a template.

Instead, you ask them to write their own letter, perhaps after reminding them of the strengths and skill you demonstrated to them.

As a hiring manager, if I received multiple reference letters that looked "templatized", I'd be very skeptical of their sincerity. And as a reference, I'd balk at using a template rather than using my own words.

BTW, over the course of my career, I received very few reference letters and far prefer to talk with the references directly, so that I could ask specific questions and hear the answers for myself. That depends on the profession you are in, and perhaps the locale.

  • 2
    Agree with answer. Also, rather than just all strengths you demonstrated, you can sort of indicate to the person writing the reference the skills that you think would be most important for you going forward. Feb 6, 2022 at 13:05

I wholeheartedly agree with @JoeStrazzere's answer.

Taking a slightly different perspective, though, when I've been asked to be a reference, I have greatly appreciated it when the person asking provided a "cheat sheet" of the things they wanted me to emphasize. Perhaps that is the "template" you're referring to?

Most people have imperfect memories and aren't going to easily recall the major achievements of every person they've worked with over the past several years. If you know that the job you're applying for wants people with widget polishing skills that are self-starters, for example, it would be highly useful to tell your references that and provide some examples to jog the memory of the person providing the reference. I may not remember off the top of my head that you improved the efficiency of the widget polishing process by 30% on the Jones project 5 years ago. But if you mention that on your cheat sheet, I can make sure to mention that when I write the letter or take the call from the prospective employer. And I can be a lot more specific than "they did a bunch of widget polishing for a number of clients" without having to spend hours trying to recall exactly who was doing what on different projects.

Generally, you'd want these cheat sheets to be tailored to the reference not a generic list because different references should have different things to talk about. It would be unusual that you'd have several references that all wanted to talk about the same achievements and skills on the same projects because different references have worked with you at different times and on different projects. And different people are positioned to talk about your skills differently-- your former supervisor on the Jones project is much better positioned to talk about the efficiency gains you delivered than a colleague that was working on the Jones project in a different capacity. You probably want that colleague to talk more about your problem-solving skills in a different context.

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