Character Reference Letter Sample and Tips

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What is a character reference, and when should you use one? A character reference (also known as a personal reference) is a reference written by someone who knows you well. It might be a family friend, neighbor, someone you volunteered with, or someone for whom you did casual work, like babysitting or gardening.

An employer might ask for a character reference in addition to other employment references.

It is a way to learn a bit more about you and your character, particularly your character outside of work.

You might also choose to submit a character reference to an employer in place of (or in addition to) a professional employment reference. This is a great way to make your job application stand out if you do not have a very strong employment background (for example, if you have not worked in awhile, or if you are new to the job market).

In a character reference, aspects of your personality are emphasized, including your trustworthiness, loyalty, and ethics, as opposed to your skills and experiences relating to a specific job.

Tips for Asking for and Writing a Character Reference Letter

Below are tips for asking for a character reference:

  • Consider whom to ask. Ask someone who knows you well, and can speak to your positive qualities. While this can be someone you worked with in some capacity (such as someone you babysat for), this can also be someone who knows you only personally, such as a neighbor or friend. What matters most is that they are able to provide you an honest, positive reference.
  • Provide information. If the person says yes, give them all the information they need to write you a reference letter. Tell them what job you are applying for, how to submit the letter and the deadline for submission. Also send them any material that might help them write the letter, such as your resume.
  • Send a thank you note. Send a thank you note afterward to the writer. Be sure to emphasize how much you appreciate them taking the time to write you a reference.

Below are tips for writing a character reference:

  • Think before saying yes. Before agreeing to write a reference letter, make sure you can write the person a positive letter. If you cannot, it is better to say no; that will give them the chance to ask someone who might be able to write a stronger letter for them. You can simply say, “I don’t feel I am qualified to write a letter on your behalf.” Here's how to politely turn down a request for a reference.
  • Request information. If you decide to write the letter, make sure you have all the information you need. In particular, make sure you know what the letter is for (whether it is for a particular job, a college application, etc.), how to submit it, and when it is due. Then, ask if the person has a resume or something else that you can use to help write the letter.
  • Be specific. In your letter, focus on two or three specific, strong qualities the person has. While you might not be able to, try to think of qualities that would also make them a good fit for the job (look at the job listing, or similar listings, for a sense of the qualities the employer might be looking for). Provide a specific example of a time the person demonstrated each of those qualities.
  • Provide contact information. If you feel comfortable, provide contact information so that the employer can reach you with further questions.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Be sure to thoroughly edit your letter so that it is polished and professional. Ask a friend or family member to read the letter before you send it.

Sample Character Reference Letter

The following is a sample character reference for someone who is a babysitter:

To Whom it May Concern:

I have had the pleasure of knowing Katherine Kingston for eight years. During the years of our acquaintance, I have known Katherine in many capacities. Katherine is my neighbor, and she has been my babysitter since the birth of my first child five years ago. Since that time, she has become the babysitter for my three children. In the eight years, I’ve known her, Katherine has demonstrated great maturity and creativity.

Katherine is mature beyond her years. She was only eleven when she first became our babysitter, but she was so responsible. Katherine even began a policy of writing a brief summary at the end of each babysitting job, with information on what they did and how each child behaved. She demonstrates an impressive professionalism.

Katherine is also extremely creative. Over the years, she has designed multiple games and art projects for children ranging from newborns to eight-year-olds. One time, in particular, she designed a play, created costumes and a set with our children, and they performed this for us after a week of rehearsing. Not many teenagers have this kind of creativity and take this kind of initiative.

Katherine is an intelligent, capable, dedicated, and personable young woman. She is always quick on her feet, with sensible reactions in all the circumstances I've seen her in. I feel confident in saying that she is capable of handling any situation with thoughtfulness and maturity.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me (555-555-5555) with any other questions.


Jill Johnson