It is often an honour to be asked to write a character reference letter just like any other recommendation letter, but writing the perfect letter that can win the candidate the job can be quite worrisome especially if it is your first time writing a character reference letter.
Can’t figure out how to come up with a character reference letter? Not to worry, our guide on character reference letters and examples will help you in crafting the perfect letter that can earn the candidate the job.
Character Reference Letter
A character reference letter also called a personal reference letter is a letter written that highlights a candidate’s personal abilities, qualities, and traits instead of highlighting the candidate’s professional skills and qualifications.
Think of it as a personal resume, instead of highlighting job experience, it is meant to highlight personal abilities and traits.
A character reference focuses on a candidate’s characteristics that help him/her perform well in a job.
When to Include a Personal Reference Letter
Many employers ask for a character reference letter as well as another letter of recommendation, but if you are not asked, you can as well include one in your application document.
If you are new to the job market (e.g. fresh graduate) or have been off work for some time, a character reference letter is a great tool to make your job application stand out since it contains vital qualities and/or traits that best suits the role you are applying for.
A character reference should only be written when you know someone fully well and you are sure about his personal abilities to best fit the intending ob.
If you are asked to write a character reference letter and you know that you cannot write a positive letter about the person, or you have not been around the person well enough to craft out his or her characteristics that can be beneficial to the job he/she is applying for, it is best you respectfully decline the offer so that he/she can look for someone else to write the character reference letter.
Who to Ask for a Character Reference Letter
If you are requested to submit a character reference letter, the question that comes to your mind is “who do I ask?” A character reference letter is a letter written by someone who knows you personally well to craft or gives an illustration of you.
It can be either of the following people;
- Neighbor or friend
- Former coursemate
- Co-volunteer or volunteer leader
- Client or customer
- Business acquaintance
- Professor or academic advisor
In as much as you might be tempted to ask someone that has a mutual relationship with you, avoid asking your spouse or direct family member. A character reference letter from a spouse or direct family member is not as valuable as a letter from a neighbour, friend, or coach.
Tips for Writing a Character Reference Letter
Made up your mind to write a character reference letter for the candidate? The below tips will help you craft the perfect character reference letter that can earn the candidate the job.
Reflect on the Request
The first and foremost tip for writing a perfect personal reference letter is to reflect on the candidate’s request. We’ve emphasized this several times because it is very important you know if you can genuinely write a positive letter for the candidate.
And if you are sure you can genuinely vouch for the person, you can proceed with the other tips.
Request for the Job Description
Even though you know the person fully well and can list as many personality traits as possible, you should request the job description before writing the letter. The job description should serve as a blueprint for crafting the perfect character reference letter. With the job description, you can come up with key traits that are relevant to the job and not unnecessary ones.
Explain your Relationship
How did you meet this individual and how long do you know the person? Explain your relationship with the person briefly and avoid giving too many details.
No matter the amount of valuable information you have regarding a candidate, you should try as much as you can to be specific when writing a character reference letter. As always, a one-page character reference letter is ideal, anything more than that is unnecessary because employers or hiring managers have lots of things to go through, they don’t want a letter too big to bore them.
Include your Contact Information
Your contact information is an important credential to include in a character reference letter. The reason is that you might be contacted by the employer for some questions or clarifications.
Use business letter format
Just like every other recommendation letter, a character reference letter is a formal letter. So you should include a proper header (your address and the company’s address) and also proper salutation (Dear Sir/Madam or Dear (hiring manager’s name) if the candidate told you)
A character reference letter may be the right tool to land the candidate the job. You can ruin his/her moment if you don’t maintain a positive tone. No matter what, try to maintain a positive tone, but if you know you cannot, you should decline the request in order not to ruin his/her chances of getting the job.
Avoid Private Details
It is not necessary to go into details about a candidate’s private life and personal struggles. He or she might not want to share them with the employer, so it will be good of you if you restrain from including the candidate’s private details and struggles.
You can ask the candidate what he or she would love you to be included in the letter, and what he or she doesn’t want, if you feel you can attest to what he/she says, then you can include it in the letter.
Make that Recommendation
The best way to end a personal reference letter is to recommend the candidate you are vouching for. Since it is just a letter, the only way to make it stand out is to state your reason for the letter. For example “For these reasons, I recommend James for…”
No matter how good you are when it comes to writing, you should proofread the contents of the letter before submitting the letter. You should go through the contents, proofread and correct grammatical errors, or you can even add more valuable information by rereading the letter before submitting it.
Ask for Deadline
There should be a deadline for the submission of the character reference letter. Ask the candidate the submission deadline to know when to submit the letter before it becomes too late.
Character Reference Letter Example
Below is an example that will help you in crafting the perfect personal reference letter.
To Whom It May Concern,
I have had the pleasure of knowing James for six years now. We first met in college where we studied Computer Science. James has always been the go-to person whenever we are given a tough programming assignment and any other computer science-related tough assignment that has to do with the algorithm, or data structure.
Sometimes we do call him a robot because his critical thinking ability is beyond measure. I could remember a time in the classroom when a lecturer wanted to fail the whole class if nobody can answer a tough algorithm question. The way James stood up, walk to the board, wrote and explain the algorithm was alarming. Everyone was impressed including the lecturer.
Apart from his programming, algorithm tic, critical thinking, go-to person qualities, James is also a smart and dedicated person. He always strives for the best at whatever he does, and graduating with first-class and the best student in the department is one remarkable goal he achieved.
For these reasons, I recommend James for the Junior Programmer position and I strongly believe that he is going to be a valuable asset to any organization that is fortunate to have him in their team.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Now it’s Your Turn
That is it on our guide on character reference letter actionable writing tips
Hope you found it helpful?
Have you been asked to submit one before? What did you do?
Have you been asked to write one before? How did you go about it?
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