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Do You Need a Character Reference? (plus a sample + tips!)

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago
  • Author: Taylor Varco

Imagine you’re a hiring manager. You’ve been interviewing countless candidates for an important role, and it’s now down to two highly qualified people. Both did well in their interview, check all the boxes right for necessary skills—both are extremely comparable on paper. Then you receive a character reference for one of the candidates that goes something like this... 

To Whom it May Concern, 

I have known Jeff for over seven years now. He and I met while volunteering as mentors for the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club and he also offered his consulting services to my small business, helping me improve my sales operations. 

Jeff is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, and innovative people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in any capacity. He is also compassionate, kind and never misses the opportunity to help others. Once, while volunteering together, our events coordinator became very sick. Jeff stepped in to finalize plans and ensure the children’s holiday party wasn’t canceled — even working late into the evening and sacrificing an entire weekend. 

Jeff is the type of person you can count on to keep a cool head in a stressful situation, and his positive attitude is contagious. For these reasons, I recommend Jeff for the Manager position and believe he would be a valuable asset to any organization fortunate enough to have him on their team. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. 


Which candidate would you choose? 

Character references can be extremely powerful tools in the interview process (when used correctly). A character reference, sometimes known as a personal reference, is a recommendation provided by someone who knows you outside of the work environment. Rather than speaking to your work experience or hard skills, they attest to your character and abilities. This type of recommendation typically will showcase your personality and people skills.  

When to Use a Character Reference? 

They aren’t necessary for all positions, although including a proper one will never hurt. Typically, character references are most helpful for positions that require working in a team environment, or where a high level of trustworthiness and ethics are required. 

Who to Ask for a Character Reference? 

While it’s different than a professional reference, you still want to maintain a level of professionalism with who the reference is coming from. In most cases, you should avoid asking someone from your immediate family. Some acceptable examples of who you can ask are: 

-Business acquaintances
-Family friends

The most important thing is that you choose someone who is up to date with you and thinks very positively of your character. 

Tips for a Powerful Character Reference 

  1. References should be positive. Select a person you’re confident can speak well of you.
  2. Specific examples are key. Listing positive qualities is great, but detailed examples that support them help employers visualize how you will perform in real-life scenarios. 
  3. Keep the letter concise. Your reference should not exceed one page. Keep them descriptive, but brief. 
  4. Avoid private details. While the letter should go into your personality traits, it should not shed light on any personal struggles or other intimate matters you wouldn’t want shared with an employer. 

Follow-up with Your Reference 

Writing a reference letter takes time, consideration, and thought on the part of the person giving your reference. Regardless on if you end up landing the job or not, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to show your gratitude for the nice gesture.