How To Write a Character Reference Letter for a Friend
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 24 October 2022
Published 30 June 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
You may need a character reference or a personal reference to apply for certain jobs or traineeship programmes. The applicant's contact outside of work writes the letter to attest to the applicant's positive personal qualities. Learning about character reference letters and how to write one can help you successfully apply for jobs. In this article, we explain what a character reference letter is, describe how to write a character reference letter for a friend, and how to request for one. We also provide a template and a sample letter to help you craft character reference letters.
Related: How to Write a Cover Letter
What is a character reference letter?
A character reference letter is a letter that your contact outside of work writes to highlight your personal qualities, such as your character and soft skills. It's also often called a “personal reference” or “personal recommendation.” A character reference letter is different from a job reference or a professional reference letter, which is written by your professional contact to attest to your educational background and professional skills. Some employers ask for a character reference to gain insight into your personality traits. This helps them determine whether you are a good fit with their organisation.
A close contact who knows you well and has known you for a relatively long time, but not an employer or colleague, usually writes a character reference letter. This contact can think highly of you and be willing to help you, so they can honestly attest to your character. Consider asking your neighbour, community leader or former teacher to help write a character reference for your application.
How to write a character reference for a friend
If you're asked to write a character reference letter for someone in your network, follow these steps to help you:
1. Make sure you are qualified
Only agree to a friend's request for a character reference if you're confident that you know him or her well enough to honestly attest to their character. Depending on your relationship with the person, you may be more qualified to speak on some subjects than others. If you have known the applicant long enough, you may also write about how their character has developed over time.
2. Know your reader
When writing a character reference letter, know who you're writing to. Ask the applicant about their potential employer and whether they're going to use this letter for many roles or only a specific role. If it's the latter, you can tailor your letter accordingly, similar to how you would personalise a resume. Highlight your contact's good qualities that are relevant to the role they're applying for.
3. Be honest
The purpose of a character reference letter is to recommend your contact as a person of integrity and admirable character. That means your writing has to be objective and honest. Do not give the employer a false impression of your contact by writing exaggerated descriptions that are not backed by examples. Instead, recall specific instances when your contact demonstrated an admirable quality and write about those occasions.
4. Keep it simple
Employers are usually skilled in quickly skimming application documents and letters to find the essential information. Use a standard business letter format to write your character reference. Make sure your letter is well-organised into paragraphs and keep it within a single page. Keep the letter short and informational by only focusing on two or three specific qualities. In writing the letter, avoid using idioms and convoluted sentences to make it easier to read. Proofread and edit your letter before sending it to make sure it's polished and professional.
5. Write a strong conclusion
At the end of your letter, reiterate why you're confident in endorsing the applicant. Assure the employer that the person you're endorsing is a valuable addition to their organisation. Invite the employer to reach out to you by providing your contact number and email for them to ask further questions if needed. Sign the letter by hand or with your professional email signature.
How to request for a character reference
At some point in your professional life, you may want to supply your application with a character reference letter. Read the following tips to find out how to get your contact to write you a character reference.
1. Choose the right people
When choosing someone to write a character reference for you, consider people who you know and have spent a considerable amount of time together outside of work. They should also know you long enough to be able to provide credible testimony to your good qualities. These people can be your mentor, coach, community leader or former teacher. Start with a list of people that fit the criteria, then begin narrowing it down based on how recently you have interacted with them and their relevance to the position you're applying for.
2. Ask politely
After deciding who to ask for a character reference, reach out to them through your preferred means of communication and politely request for them to be your reference. Provide a little background information on the role you're applying for and why you have chosen them to write a character reference for you. Use questions like “Do you think you could help me to provide a character reference letter for the role I'm applying for?” Ensure that your writing is respectful and let them know that they have the freedom to decline your request.
3. Provide the reference with details
After your contact has agreed to write a character reference letter for you, provide them with detailed information on your role and the potential employer. Mention the qualities that the role requires, so they know what to highlight in the letter. Some people may also ask you to provide them with a reference letter template. Make sure you have an idea of what you want your character reference to look like, so you can help them with the template.
4. Say thank you
After you have received the document you requested, make sure to show your appreciation by sending a thank-you note. Thank them for taking the time to write the letter for you. It's also a kind gesture to inform them that you're willing to return the favour in the future if they need a character reference as well.
Related: How To Say Thank You in Your Email
5. Follow up
When you have heard back from your potential employer, try to update your contact about the status of your application. Inform them if you have accepted the role and let them know that their reference was successful. Keeping them informed is courteous and demonstrates your appreciation for their help.
Character reference letter template
Here's a template you can use to get started writing a character reference letter:
To Whom It May Concern/Dear [Recipient's Name]
[Introduction: Introduce yourself, your qualifications and your relationship with the applicant. State how long you have known the applicant.]
[Paragraph 1: State your impression of their positive character and include some examples to support your argument. Make sure these characteristics are relevant to the role the applicant is aiming for.]
[Paragraph 2: Recommend your friend to the employer based on the character traits that you have written above. Assure the reader that the applicant is well-suited for the role.]
[Conclusion: Offer the reader to contact you and include your contact number, so they can reach out to you if needed.]
[Sign the letter through a handwritten signature or a professional email signature.]
Character reference letter example
Consider the following example of a character reference to help you craft your own:
Dear Hiring Manager,
It is my pleasure to recommend Jane Tan for the position of analyst at Abex firm. I have known Jane for more than 4 years. She was my student during her university years and is currently a volunteer at a charity programme that I'm leading.
During her time at university, I have found Jane to be very hard-working and eager to learn. She attended my higher-level statistics class as a freshman and has demonstrated her ability to learn quickly and stay organised with the projects that I've assigned.
As a volunteer, Jane has also shown a considerable amount of positivity and compassion. When we had to staff an outdoor booth for our fundraising event, she had the idea to treat everyone to a bottle of cold drink to cheer everyone up and restore their energy halfway through the day. She also made sure that her team members are well taken care of.
I am confident that Jane's qualities will make her a valuable asset to your organisation.
If you have any questions or need more details, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Ng Meng Siang
+65 XXXX XXXX
The models shown are for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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