Personal Reference Letter Samples and Writing Tips

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personal reference letter is also sometimes referred to as a character reference

When Are Personal Reference Letters Used? 

These letters of recommendation are written by people who know job candidates outside of work, and can speak to their character and ability on a personal level. While companies typically request letters of reference from co-workers, sometimes hiring managers will request a personal reference letter as well.

Personal reference letters are often required for a big purchase, such as a condominium, or for education-related applications. As well, lawyers who seek to be admitted to the bar must submit a personal reference; the letter is also often required for other professional associations and guiding bodies.

When high school or college students without professional work experience apply for jobs, volunteer opportunities, or scholarships, they will typically need to present character references in lieu of professional references. These can be solicited from teachers, club leaders, pastors, guidance counselors, or other adults who are familiar with the student’s personality and accomplishments.

Here is advice on how to request a personal reference and who to ask to write it. 

Guidelines for Writing a Personal Reference Letter 

As with all recommendation letters, you should only agree to write a personal reference letter if you feel comfortable supporting the person and will be able to write a positive and enthusiastic note.

In your letter, include information on how you know the person. As well, share details about the person's morals and values, experience, or background as is applicable to the situation. If, for example, you are writing for a college student applying for a fellowship, you’ll want to emphasize their academic talents.

If writing for someone seeking their first-ever retail sales job, concentrate on detailed descriptions of their “people skills,” work ethic, and personal charisma.

Personal Reference Letter Samples

The following letters are examples of personal reference letters — use them as inspiration when writing.

Sample Personal Reference Letter #1 

Dear Ms. Lewis: 

I am writing to recommend Ariel Jones for a position with the Town of Smithtown. I have known Ariel since she was a child, and she is a highly qualified candidate for a position in town government. She has lived in Smithtown for most of her life, and she is deeply involved in her local community, her church, and her children's schools.

Ariel has shown her commitment to the town as a Member of the Board of Appeals and as an active participant in many community endeavors, including the annual fund drive for the Downtown Shelter for the Homeless, Meals on Wheels, and our public library’s biannual book sale.

Ariel would be a tremendous asset to the town and I recommend her to you without reservation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Mary Smith

Sample Personal Reference Letter #2

Dear Mr. Jones: 

I'm writing this reference in support of Jason Craden.

Jason was my college roommate, and we have been friends for the past ten years. If you are looking for a smart, talented, and diligent candidate, Jason is the perfect match. 

As a student, Jason was always engaged in classes — he studied not just to get good grades, but also out of a desire to truly understand the material. It was no surprise when he displayed similar characteristics once he joined the world of work. As a friend, Jason is supportive and caring. When my father passed away shortly after our graduation, Jason was one of the first people I told. Not only did he fly out to be with me during this difficult time, but he also absorbed the burden of communicating the news to our other college friends. Jason has a knack for building and maintaining strong, enduring friendships.

These relationship-building skills would enable him to excel as a salesman for ABC company.


Jason would be an asset to any company, and I wholeheartedly recommend him. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any further questions. 


Michael Smith 

Related Reference Articles and Advice: Employment References | Requesting References | Sample Reference Letters | Professional References | Student References | Personal and Character References