Character and Personal Reference Letters

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Looking for your first job? Do you need a recommendation, but don't have professional references you can use? Are you concerned about the references your employer might give you? Consider using a character reference (personal reference) in addition to or as an alternative to employment reference letters.

Do you need to write a reference for someone you know personally rather than professionally? A character reference is a way to endorse someone's personal attributes rather than their work experience.

Review information on requesting and writing character reference letters, as well as a template you can use for your own letter.

Who to Ask for a Personal Reference

Who should you ask to provide a personal reference or write a character reference letter for you? Neighbors and acquaintances may be willing to write a reference for you. Business acquaintances, professors/academic advisors, customers, and vendors can all make good references.

If you volunteer consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references. Have you participated in the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, a similar organization or in school sports? Do you belong to a church group? Ask your group leader or coach to write a personal letter of reference for you. If you've baby-sat or dog-sat or shoveled snow, ask the people you worked for if they will write a reference letter for you.

Requesting Character Reference Letters

Keep in mind, that if you are employed or have worked in the past, employers will check with your previous employers.

However, if your work record isn't perfect you can bolster your candidacy with a good character reference. If you are looking for your first job, you can use personal references instead of employment references.

Writing a Character / Personal Reference Letter

Have you been asked to write a reference letter?

Or do you want some samples to give to the person who is writing a reference letter for you?

A reference letter should provide information on who you are, your connection with the person you are recommending, why they are qualified, and the specific skills they have that you are endorsing.

Review this template for ideas and suggestions on what to write and how to provide a compelling reference.

Character Reference Letter Template

When writing a character letter, include a salutation (Dear Dr. Jones, Dear Ms. Matthews, etc.). If you are writing a general letter, say "To Whom it May Concern" or don't include a salutation and start with the first paragraph of the letter.

Paragraph 1
The first paragraph of the character reference letter explains how you know the person you are recommending and why you are qualified to write a recommendation letter to recommend employment, college or graduate school. With a personal letter, you are writing a recommendation letter because you know the person and their character, rather than because you have direct experience with their work or education.

Paragraph 2
The second paragraph of a reference letter contains specific information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified, what they can contribute, and why you are providing a reference letter. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to provide details.

This section of the reference letter contains a brief summary of why you are recommending the person. State that you "highly recommend" the person or you "recommend without reservation" or something similar.

The concluding paragraph of a reference letter contains an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number and/or email address within the paragraph, and include the phone number and email address in the return address section of your letter, or in your email signature.


Your Name

More Character Reference Letter Samples

Sample Character Reference Letters
Character reference letters can be written by teachers, neighbors, business acquaintances, clients, vendors and other recommenders who can attest to your skills and abilities. Review a variety of sample character reference letters.

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