Difference Between Reference and Recommendation

To get admission in a new educational institution or to join a new place of employment, everyone may need letters of recommendations from reliable sources.


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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 / new admission in a new place of employment / educational institution.

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

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

Reference vs Recommendation

The difference between Reference and Recommendation is that reference is a document of evaluation provided by a former employer for a particular post of employment or a specific course at the academic level.

Reference vs Recommendation

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

Reference is also the word used commonly to indicate the persons who can be referred to check the qualifications and other important factors about a new job applicant or an academic 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 the 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 confidence to an employer/institution head that the applicant is truly eligible for the post.A recommendation helps an employer to decide about accepting him/her in his company/institution
Main featuresReference should specify the character, work ethics, abilities, and integrity of the potential employee.A recommendation should include the skills, capacities, and expertise of a person that may help them to 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 /institutionA good recommendation letter can make the 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 potentials of a person being recommended based on his/her 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 a person who can speak or write about him/her as a person as well as about their work.

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

Academic references and work references are equally important before joining in a new academic institution or a company or firm or a new workplace.

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

If you are including 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 who is giving the reference, in advance.

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

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 references will be most appropriate.

Here is a list of the type 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 references 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 one is employment-related and the other one 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 include the accomplishments and potential, etc. for academic purposes.

A recommendation letter is generally presenting the candidate as an eligible person for the recommending 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 Reference and Recommendation is Reference is more general and evaluative whereas recommendation is more specific and precise emphasizing the qualities and merits of the person.
  2. Reference is an assessment of a person whereas recommendation is the presentation of a person as a potential candidate eligible for employment/admission.
  3. Reference letter may have the address as “whomever it may concern”, but Recommendation letter should be addressed to a specific person.
  4. Reference is also the term using to refer the person who can provide an authentic recommendation to 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


  1. https://settlement.org/ontario/employment/find-a-job/applying-for-a-job/what-are-references-who-should-i-ask-to-be-a-reference/
  2. https://zety.com/blog/references-on-a-resume
  3. https://www.zipjob.com/blog/recommendations-on-resume/
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