How to Write a Thank You Letter for References and Recommendations

FT Contributor
A closeup of a keyboard where one key reads "thank you."
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There are plenty of reasons you’ll need to write thank-you letters throughout your life. Both formal and informal occasions call for a thank-you letter. Personal reasons might include thanking friends and family for attending your party or expressing gratitude to the guests who attended your wedding.

You can also send a thank-you letter in a professional capacity. For example, you could thank your mentor for their guidance, a hiring manager for taking the time to interview you, or a college professor who helped you craft the most professional business letter.

All in all, the reasons you might need to compose a thank-you letter are many. One of the most common reasons people need to write a thank-you letter is when someone provides them with a character reference or recommendation. In some cases, a company will ask you for a few references or letters of recommendation during the interviewing process. This is especially common with recent college graduates who lack experience on their resume. Often, in this case, employers will rely on another person’s recommendations or references.

If you’ve recently asked someone to provide you with a professional reference or recommendation, a thank-you note is in order. It takes a lot of time and effort for someone to stop what they’re doing and think about your relevant experience and qualifications so that they can produce a meaningful character reference or recommendation letter.

If you’re lost for words, this guide will show you how to write a thank-you note to someone who has provided you with a reference or recommendation for a potential job.

Why You Should Write a Thank-You Letter

First and foremost, writing a thank-you letter is polite. It’s good manners to say thank you when someone does you a favor, especially when that someone has gone out of their way to do so.

Additionally, writing a thank-you letter shows that you appreciate what that individual has done for you, making it more likely that they’ll help you out in the future if they can. In the event that you need another recommendation or reference, they will recall your thank-you note with fondness and will be more willing to help you out than they would be if you hadn’t expressed your gratitude.

How to Write a Thank-You Letter

There are a number of ways you can personalize a thank-you letter, but they all follow the same basic outline. Below, we highlight the elements of a thank-you letter that should remain absolute.

Choose the Right Format

The format of your thank-you note is of paramount importance. After all, you don’t want to annoy the person you’re trying to thank. When you send your thank-you letter, consider the way the person who referred you prefers to be contacted. It might be email, snail mail, or even text message. In some cases, you may have to thank your reference over the phone or in-person. How you express your gratitude depends on their personal preferences for being contacted.

Follow an Outline

All thank-you notes follow the same basic outline. Generally, you’ll start with a short and courteous greeting, followed by a clear and concise statement of gratitude. Don’t include too much filler — this is meant to be a quick note the person can read with ease. Simply state your reason for writing and what you’re grateful for.

If applicable, fill the person in on any recent job updates, like raises or promotions. Finally, conclude by reiterating your thanks and formally signing the letter.  


Proofreading is vital before submitting or sending anything. Reread your note to ensure that you haven’t made any spelling or grammar errors. Proofreading helps ensure you don’t look foolish when thanking someone for a professional reference.

Sample Thank-You Letter

Below you’ll find a sample thank-you letter you can copy and paste. Simply change out the details to reflect your information and send the letter or email to the person you wish to thank.

Subject Line: Thank you for the reference — [Your Name.]

Dear [Name of Reference],

Thank you for the reference you provided me for the job at [Name of Company]. I had a wonderful final interview and started with the company [Date of Hire]. My current job responsibilities entail:

[Job duty #1 and how it’s relevant to your reference.]

[Job duty #2 and how it’s relevant to your reference.]

[Job duty #3 and how it’s relevant to your reference.]

I’m really excited about my new role and the opportunities it will bring me. I look forward to a long future here and I am so grateful to have your support and professional endorsement. I wouldn’t have been able to get the job without you!


[Your Name.]

Thanking someone for a character reference or professional letter of recommendation is important, so you should remember to do so. Follow the template above or feel free to use your own, so long as you include the basics of a thank-you note.

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