Refusing a request for reference

It is common to be asked for a reference for previous employees, or sometimes people we know on a personal basis. Usually we are happy to provide this for the person concerned, however there may be times when you are reluctant to give one.

There can be many reasons for refusing a request for a reference, perhaps the employee left due to poor performance or bad time keeping? It is usual not to give a bad reference, so refusing to give one is a much better option. The new employee will read between the lines, and anyway maybe the ex employee will perform better in another position? Whatever the reason, the refusal letter should be short, polite and not make any derogatory comments about the person concerned.

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Sample letter refusing a request for a reference from a business – example 1:

[Business Address]

[ Address of business / person requesting reference]

[Today’s date]Dear [name of person requesting reference]

Although I am normally happy to provide a reference for [a former employee / friend / acquaintance] in this instance I’m afraid I must decline as I believe it would be inappropriate to do so because I simply [do not know the applicant well enough / could not locate sufficient information / other reason].

I know that [he /she] was [employed / resident] here from [date] to [date], but offering any character testimony beyond that would be conjecture on my part.

If there is anything else I can help with please feel free to ask.

Yours Sincerely

[Your name]

[Your position in the company]

Perhaps you’d prefer to not to refuse to give a reference, but instead give one without actually saying anything detrimental but that doesn’t mislead the new employer. It is usual in this case to write something along the following lines.

Sample letter refusing a request for a reference from a business – example 2:

[Business Address]

[ Address of business]

[Today’s date]

Dear [name of person requesting reference]

Thank you for your request for a reference for [name of ex employee].

I can confirm that [name of ex employee] worked for the company from [give date] to [give date]. During that time they acted in the role of [give their position in the company] and carried out their duties to the best of their ability.

If there is anything else I can help with please feel free to ask.

Yours Sincerely

[Your name]

[Your position in the company]

Sample letter refusing a request for a reference from someone you know – example 1:

[Your address]

[Today’s date]

Dear [name of person requesting reference]

Thank you for asking me to be a referee for you.

I’m really sorry but in this instance I must say no, only because I don’t feel I know you well enough to be able to give the sort of thorough reference that would help you in [obtaining this job, getting a loan etc].

I wish you the very best.

Yours Sincerely

[Your name]