Reference vs Recommendation: Difference and Comparison

Everyone may need letters of recommendation from reliable sources to get admission to a new educational institution or to join a new place of employment.


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It is vital for an authority to check the credibility and eligibility of a person before joining a new course or a new post of employment.

References and recommendations can support and strengthen the qualifications and suitability of the potential employees or students for a new post/admission in a new place of employment / educational institution.

One may need to consider many things before including the list of references as a part of their resume for a job application or college interview.

It is also essential to understand the difference between a reference and a recommendation, as they are used interchangeably by many people.

Key Takeaways

  1. A reference is a statement or testimonial from someone who knows the subject (e.g., a job applicant) and can vouch for their qualifications, skills, or character. At the same time, a recommendation is a more detailed and personalized endorsement of the subject.
  2. References are often more formal and limited in scope, focusing on confirming factual information, whereas recommendations comprehensively assess the subject’s strengths, accomplishments, and potential.
  3. Employers or institutions may request references to verify the information and gain insight into a candidate’s background. At the same time, recommendations are used to evaluate the candidate’s suitability and potential for success in a specific role or program.

Reference vs Recommendation

A reference is an evaluation document through which skills or characteristics of a person are being evaluated. A reference letter identifies the eligibility of the person for a particular post. Recommendation is a letter which can be given to the person by his/her former company. Recommendations can be of two types. A person’s skills and abilities are mentioned in a recommendation letter.

Reference vs Recommendation

A recommendation is a letter of support for the credibility and qualification of a person offered by a previous employer/boss or a mentor/teacher.

Reference is also commonly used to indicate the persons who can be referred to check the qualifications and other important factors about a new or academic job applicant.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonReferenceRecommendation
ImplicationReference is generally a letter of evaluation from a person from the previous place of employment/education.A recommendation is a formal letter of endorsement written by a person of authority that can submit as part of the application from the former company/institution.
ImportanceA reference can give an employer/institution head confidence that the applicant is eligible for the post.A recommendation helps an employer accept them in their company/institution.
Main featuresReference should specify the potential employee’s character, work ethic, abilities, and integrity.A recommendation should include a person’s skills, capacities, and expertise that may help them get selected.
How to Include in ResumeBest way to include Reference in your resume as an appendix in a separate sheet with all the required means of contact.It can be included as an attachment to the resume and application.
AdvantagesA Reference can decide the possibility of admission into your destination company /institution.A good recommendation letter can make decision-making easy for the employer regarding the applicant.


What is Reference?

Reference is a formal document through which a person evaluates the characteristics, skills, and potential of a person being recommended based on their ability to do a particular task or job.

The person who is eligible to provide a Reference is called Referee. Choosing a suitable person to provide references should be a careful process.

One needs to find someone who can speak or write about them as a person and their work.

Sometimes the persons eligible to provide a reference to a potential applicant are also referred to as a ‘reference’. One should understand the difference between usage.

Academic and work references are equally crucial before joining a new educational institution, company, firm, or workplace.

When we apply for a new job, we can include or not include the references in the resume.

If you include the references in the resume, it should make it look professional. The following are the things to be included when listing a professional reference.

  1. First name and last name of the person who is giving the reference
  2. Their title/designation
  3. Company name
  4. Company address
  5. Phone number and email

Before including a reference in your resume, you should get the permission of the person giving the authority in advance.

Never include more than five references in a resume. Three to five is always the ideal number of connections to have.

The best reference for the resume will be from the working professionals of the former place of employment but not from the family members. A diverse group of contacts will be most appropriate.

Here is a list of people who can be potential professional references.

  1. Former employer
  2. Former manager
  3. Supervisor
  4. Co-worker or teammate
  5. Mentor (professor/teacher)
  6. Advisor (Academic advisor)
  7. A business partner or project partner
  8. A friend working in the company you are applying to

You should include professional references only in a resume. Otherwise, it may appear that you are not proficient enough to find proper authorities from the professional realm to support your career path.  


What is Recommendation?

A recommendation is a formal letter written by a person of authority from a former place of employment addressed to a specific person at the destination, such as a company/ educational institution.

Generally, there are two types of recommendations. The first is employment-related, and the other is academic-admission/college/scholarship-related.

The author of the recommendation letter will be a person who knows the candidate well enough to assess their abilities.

A recommendation letter may include the skills and expertise of the applicant for job purposes and have the accomplishments and potential, etc., for academic purposes.

A recommendation letter generally presents the candidate as eligible for the recommended job or course.

The major types of recommendations are: –

  1. Employment-related
  2. Academic admission related
  3. Recognition related
  4. Performance evaluation related

Main Differences Between Reference and Recommendation

  1. The main difference between a Reference and a Recommendation is Reference is more general and evaluative, whereas a recommendation is more precise, emphasizing the qualities and merits of the person.
  2. Reference assesses a person, whereas recommendation presents a person as a potential candidate eligible for employment/admission.
  3. Reference letters may be addressed as “whomever it may concern”, but the Recommendation letters should be addressed to a specific person.
  4. Reference is also the term for someone who can authentically recommend an individual for a new job or a college admission.
  5. Enthusiastic and well-articulated recommendation letters may help to get the job or admission easily.
Difference Between Reference and Recommendation
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