A character reference gives an employer insight into a candidate from someone who knows the candidate in a personal way. In this article, we explain what a character reference is, how to write one, how to ask for one and give some examples of character reference letters.
What is a character reference?
A character reference is a type of reference that focuses on a candidate's personality, rather than their work performance and qualifications. You might be asked to write this type of reference for someone who you know personally, such as a friend or client, rather than a work colleague. It will allow you to give testament to their character and personality.
Giving a character reference will help the employer see if the candidate is a good fit for the position and whether they will fit into the company's culture. Employers usually ask for a character reference as the last step in the hiring process before deciding on making a job offer.
How to write a character reference
Before writing a character reference for someone, you must know the person well enough and be able to speak about them in a positive light. There are a few key elements you should include in your character reference letter.
1. Explain your relationship to the candidate
The first thing you need to include in your character reference is your relationship with the candidate. Start with your name and what your relationship is with the candidate. You should include how long you have known them, how much time you spend together and where you met. All of this information is useful to the employer as it gives them a background of how well you know the candidate and gives them confidence in your judgement of this person.
2. Include their positive qualities with examples
This section should focus on the position the candidate has applied for and how their good qualities will fit in with the company. Use adjectives to stress the positive characteristics that make them suitable for the role. Mention vital attributes such as communication skills, leadership abilities, interpersonal skills, positive attitude, time management and any other skills you feel are relevant.
If they have any accomplishments such as raising money for a specific cause or donating to charity, this is an appropriate place to mention them. However, you should ensure that they are relevant to the letter, as the reader does not want or need a list of all their accomplishments. One or two relevant accomplishments will be enough.
This section should aim to show an upbeat yet honest assessment of the candidate. Avoid any negative qualities. A successful character reference should leave the reader with a positive impression of the candidate.
3. Close with a statement of recommendation
Your character reference should close with a recommendation. This statement should be direct and concise. You have spent the last two paragraphs highlighting their qualities and accomplishments, so this needs to be no more than a single line of recommendation.
At the end of your character reference, include your contact details such as your email address and phone number. Let the employer know that they are free to contact you if they have any questions about the candidate.
Tips on writing a character reference
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when writing a character reference letter:
- Speak to the person requesting the letter. By speaking to the requestor about the type of jobs the candidate has worked in, you can write the reference with the particular position in mind. For example, if the person you're writing the character reference for is looking for a teaching position, you can word your letter to showcase their skills and accomplishment when working with children.
- Avoid personal details. It's best to avoid personal details and keep the letter relevant and professional.
- Use specific examples. It's better to use examples rather than just listing the candidate's positive qualities. This will help outline their character and demonstrates to the reader how the candidate behaves in real-life situations.
- Remain positive. You should avoid negative language in the letter. Focus on their strengths and accomplishments so that you give the best impression possible.
- Do not exceed one page. Keeping the letter short while illustrating the candidate's best qualities is preferred as the hiring manager reading the candidate letter will have more than one candidate to consider. Keeping the letter descriptive, but short, is one way to ensure that they read the letter thoroughly.
- Make sure to edit and proofread. Be sure to go over the letter for any mistakes or inconsistencies. As the character reference is a formal letter, it needs to be professional and error-free. Doing a final edit will ensure that all your facts are correct.
When to ask for a character reference
Any organisation can look for a character reference. Even if a job you've applied to hasn't asked for one, you can offer one if you think it will help your application. Character references are useful for entering the workforce for the first time or returning to the workforce after extended time off.
Who should you ask if you need a character reference?
Ask someone who knows you well enough that they can speak honestly and with enough examples to showcase your skills. Always provide information on the role the character reference is requested for. It would be best if you chose someone in your life at present, not a childhood friend you haven't seen in many years.
Choose someone that holds you in high regard and will be punctual in writing the letter. It's best not to pick a family member as they're considered biased. An employer will not consider their letter as seriously as a letter from a teacher or friend. Once they've submitted a character reference for you, you should show your gratitude with a thank you message.
Sample character references
[Address line 1]
[Address line 2]
[Address line 3]
Dear [Hiring Manager],
I am writing to share my endorsement of John Smith with you. John and I have been friends for the past ten years. We met when John and I attended the same software engineering class. Over the years, I have observed John's innate talent for coding and designing games. His ability to understand and write code at such a quick pace has always impressed me. John created his first game 'Typhoon' when we were just a year into our studies, and from there, his ability to understand and write code has only improved.
John has a positive attitude toward any new project he begins and is always willing to help others, whether it's providing tech support or donating his time to charity.
John is someone that would be valuable on any team as he is self-motivated and highly skilled. No matter what is going on, John is happy to take the time to help. I can't recommend him enough for this position.
Please contact me if you have any more questions,
[Address line 1]
[Address line 2]
[Address line 3]
Dear [Hiring Manager],
Regarding your character reference request for Jemma Jones, I am delighted to inform you of her exemplary performance within my classroom. During her four years at university, Ms Jones has been in five of my modules, and every class with her was an enjoyable one. During her final year, I acted as her dissertation supervisor and worked directly with her, so I feel confident that I have a firm understanding of her personality, skills, and work ethic.
Jemma is a hard-working and honest individual. Jemma is an active participant in all classroom discussions and activities, often encouraging quieter students to participate. I am confident that she would be an asset to any organisation. Jemma is adept at capturing other students' attention and opening up a healthy discourse within the class.
In addition to her school work, I have enjoyed working with Jemma in a voluntary capacity. In this setting, she has proven herself to be a selfless and caring individual when helping others. She is efficient at managing her time, as much of the voluntary work was done during the school year, and has proven that she is confident working with people from diverse backgrounds.
To conclude, I believe that Jemma is an example of a kind person with the brainpower, personality and leadership skills to succeed in any setting.
Please feel free to contact me for more details,