How to Write a Character Reference

Posted February 1, 2019, by Jenny Sakr

A character reference (also known as a personal reference) is a reference for an individual who has nominated you to vouch for their qualities, traits and abilities. This reference may be used alongside a professional reference from an employer or instead of – depending on their work history or if it’s their first job.

What’s the difference between a personal and professional reference?

The key differentiator between a professional reference letter and a personal/character reference is that the person who asked you to write it is not necessarily someone who you have worked with. It can be written by a neighbour, friend, family friend, a school teacher, professor… you get the gist. If you’ve been asked by a family member or spouse to write a character reference then you may want to politely decline as readers may see this as being extremely bias.

Before you say “yes”

Before you agree to write a character reference or personal reference letter, be confident that you will be able to produce a letter that is sincere and positive. Saying “thanks but no thanks” might be awkward now, but it’ll get a whole lot more awkward when you produce a character reference that is way below par.

What to include in a character reference letter

Paragraph 1: Start by introducing the candidate, how you know them and how long you’ve known them for. Ask the candidate the role they’re applying for and include a positive affirmation about them and why they would be suitable for the role.

Paragraph 2: Describe the qualities, skills and qualifications of the candidate.

Paragraph 3: Support your claim! Provide an example that backs up what you discussed in the previous paragraph.

Paragraph 4: Here, you want to further emphasise the candidate’s good character and suitability for the role.

Paragraph 5: Last but not least, finish with a friendly sign off and share your contact information.

Character reference letter template

Now to put what we said above into action!

Let’s say in the scenario Amanda is writing a character reference for her friend, Jill. Jill is going for a role, as an Executive Assistant.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Amanda Jacobs and I am a long-time friend of Jill Jones. I meet Jill when I moved high schools in Grade 11 and we have remained friends for over nine years. Jill’s charisma, friendliness and kind nature have all been admirable qualities, and it’s these qualities, which gives me confidence in her success as an Executive Assistant and much-loved team member in any office.

Having studied with Jill and see her progress her career I have enjoyed seeing her thrive and progress. She is not only good at what she does, but she also loves what she does! She is naturally motivated and always willing to go the extra mile.

Jill is always the most organised person in our friendship circle. Whether it’s a simple dinner reservation or coordinating a two-week holiday, her organisation and problem-solving skills always kick in to ensure smooth sailing for everyone involved. A particular example that comes to mind was when had missed and interconnecting flight on recent travels (my fault). Jill swiftly coordinated the next available flight, tracked our luggage and contacted our transfer to notify them of our delay. She was calm, optimistic and didn’t let it get in the way of a great holiday.

Jill is confident, genuine and fun to be around. She makes friends easily with her approachable and sincere nature, and her loyalty is clear from the years she has spent in her current place of employment and the group of good friends she’s had around her for many years.

Should you wish to discuss anything further or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on 0411 XXX XXX or [email protected]

Warm regards,
Amanda Jacobs

Something to note

If you’re asking someone to write you a character reference for a job you’re applying, be sure to double check the job ad doesn’t request only professional references. 

Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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