What do you call a formal (or, perhaps, informal) endorsement of a person, not currently employed by some company, by a current employee of that company? For some reason, I thought it's called a "referral", but I checked a few dictionaries, and it no longer seems so to me

  • 1
    You may be thinking of reference. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 9:14
  • You could use "referral", but "refer" has a much more general meaning of "send or direct for treatment, aid, information, or decision", and applies to objects, ideas, decisions, etc, as well as people. A reference or recommendation are other words for formal or informal acts of endorsing someone.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 10:45
  • @StuartF "reference" and "recommendation" seem to me too broad and generic Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 11:03
  • You could try asking it in workplace.stackexchange.com
    – Levente
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


The word you are looking for is reference.
Definition B2

a letter that is written by someone who knows you, to describe you and say if you are suitable for a job, course, etc.:
"My old headteacher said he would write/give me a glowing (= very good) reference."

Referral, on the other hand, is

the act of directing someone to a different place or person for information, help, or action often to a person or group with more knowledge or power:
"The doctor gave him a referral to (= arranged for him to see) the consultant."

Recommendation could be a generic term, but is not the one commonly used in the job market.

The thing about a 'reference' is it is not guaranteed to be positive, but can often be a formal/compulsory requirement in order to secure a new job.

  • This answer is misleading. You've confused the different uses of the word "reference". A reference can be something compulsorily required from a previous employer, which I suppose could be negative. But no person working for an organisation is going to 'refer' someone bad. They just wouldn't mention them.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 22:41
  • @Astralbee - To the first part of your comment - no I haven't. If an employer asks for a reference & none is forthcoming, that's the same as a negative. Most HR departments send non-committal 'boiler-plate' letters unless someone was, for instance, dismissed for misconduct. The second part of your objection makes no sense. A reference doesn't come from just anybody in a company, it comes from HR, or suitable senior. If someone was just asking Bob from the post room, that's when 'recommendation' could be used, but not in formal circumstances. Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 8:27

If the person being suggested for a position is known to the employee, you might call them a recommendation or a referral.

Although both these words refer to the act of making such a suggestion, it is common to use these to refer to the person being recommended or referred.

For example:

  • I made a recommendation of [name].
  • [Name] was a recommendation.#

Webster's dictionary makes the same distinction:

1 : the act, action, or an instance of referring gave the patient a referral to a specialist
2 : one that is referred

  • Recommendation could work, though it is not the word commonly used in the job market. Referral is just wrong. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:37
  • @Tetsujin It is the word I use in my experience as an employer, and as you can see from my reference, the dictionary agrees.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 22:39
  • The dictionary disagrees. You even copied it out for me to see it disagrees. Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 8:29

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