Letter of Recommendation vs. List of References: Foot in the Door

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Difference between Letter of Recommendation and List of References

Finding a job can be a rough process these days especially with the economic instability still having its effects on so many businesses. This is also the reason why most companies do not take many chances when hiring an employee. They make sure that all the information an applicant gives them is accurate during the interview process so they can avoid wasting their time in hiring someone who isn't qualified, spending money on salaries and also for the of waste time in training new hires, etc. In these situations, letters of recommendation and a list of references is paramount. The employers make use of these two documents in order to verify the accuracy of the statements made by the applicants. So what separates one from another? Read on.

Letter of Recommendation
List of References

What They’re For

A letter of recommendation, sometimes called recommendation letter is a type of letter wherein the writer evaluates the capabilities, characteristics and qualities of a certain individual being recommended with respect to that person’s ability to do a certain function or task. Letters of recommendation are most often specifically requested by the applicant as a statement testifying to the talents of an individual for a particular employer or opportunity. Other than employment, letters of recommendation also work to affirm scholarship eligibility and to assist with admissions to schools offering higher education. A list of references on the other hand, sometimes called a reference list or a reference sheet is a listing of persons with whom you've selected as references with their corresponding contact information.


A letter of recommendation is made for the purpose of satisfying the request of a certain employer to attest to the qualifications, characteristics, skills and abilities stated by an individual upon his or her interview with the management of the company. Most of the time, the process is that an employer tries to ask for character references from the applicant and then the employer contacts the references and asks them to write a letter confirming the testimonial of the applicant. Reference lists on the other hand are usually attached to an application letter or to a resume upon request of the employer. It gives the employer an option to verify the statements of the applicant. The employer generally talk to the references given over the phone or via corporate email.

Requested Party

A recommendation letter is usually requested by a potential employer and the party he requests a letter from is considered to be a character reference for the new employee. The same also applies to a reference list – the employer requests for the same but this time, the party which will provide the list is the applicant.

Similarities and Differences

  • A letter of recommendation is drafted to assess the ability, skill, character and qualifications of an applicant.
  • A reference list simply enumerates certain people which an employer can contact to verify statements made by an applicant.
  • A letter of recommendation is requested by an employer from a character reference stated by the applicant.
  • A reference list is requested by a potential employer from the applicant. 

Which one is more important to a potential employer?
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • List of References

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