Declining a request for a letter of reference

Delivering bad news or stating no isn’t a good feeling to either the sender or the recipient but sometimes this is completely necessary when you don’t feel someone is the right fit for something. It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t think someone would do well in where they’re trying to go, but sometimes people just aren’t the right fit for somewhere. To decline a request for a letter of reference, this needs to be done with care.


Starting to Write


Thank the sender for considering you as a reference.


Break the news and apologetically decline their request to have you as a reference.

  1. Tell the sender why they’re being refused the deed and if there’s anything they can do to remedy the situation so that you in fact will send a letter of reference.
Sample Letters

Sample - Declining a request for a letter of reference

Dear Mike Smith,

I have received your request for a letter of reference to get into the Criminal Justice school of Provo but I’m afraid I will have to request writing a reference letter for you.

You were a great student for me in High School but however, there are a few issues I see being a problem here with you gaining access or entry into the school. You were a bit of a class clown and I can definitely tell you that that is something they don’t tolerate one bit. Not only that, but you didn’t take much of our classwork seriously and was always goofing off during exam studies.

I believe in you if you really want to pursue this goal of yours, but I am afraid I will have to respectfully decline being used as a reference or writing a letter of reference for you.


Adam Loresson