It seems that my life is so easy that I didn’t need a character reference to have this job. But I was asked to write one before and completely find myself in the middle of nowhere. If you are in the same situation, seeking a character sheet template, or you’re about to ask someone for a character reference, this is what you need.

What Is A Character Reference Letter?

A character reference is also called a personal reference. Just as its name, your character reference tells about your interpersonal abilities and personal strengths rather than your work performance, profession, and qualifications. 

A character reference is often written in the format of a letter or an email by someone who knows you personally long enough to tell who you are.

Why Should You Care About Character Reference Letters

Sometimes a resume about where you worked and what you did there in the past is not enough. A character reference gives a deeper insight into a candidate’s personality. Questions for a character reference are standard and more in-depth, so they can better understand your personality and create a clearer sense of your work ethic. 

Let’s take an example: You are applying for a job requiring strict attendance with tight policies. The employer would like to know if you had any attendance issues in the past. Of course, he/she cannot find this kind of information in your CV or portfolio, but it should be available in a character reference letter. The employer may ask for a character reference sheet with a fixed template that he/she wants from your previous direct supervisor. Now the employer can get at least 3 characters that describe you from a person that worked with you and understand you well.

Due to how a character reference works, you may need it in several processes in daily life. As the example above, a character reference can be involved in a job hiring process, and the employer is the one who requires it. You may need a character reference when applying for school as well. A volunteer group or a professional organization often requires your character reference. Besides, a landlord or a bank may need your character reference when you buy a house or ask for a loan. 

When you are requested a character reference, the person’s contact information is normally included in the application form or CV. The requester will contact your references to double-check. To ensure objectiveness, the actual reference may not be shown to you but you should know the template of the character reference sheet for better preparation.

Basic Character Reference Sheet Template 

character reference sheet template

What to know about a character reference sheet? – Source: Go To Court Lawyers

As mentioned above, a character reference sheet is often written in the format of a letter or an email. The character reference sheet varies depending on the requester (an organization or an individual) and the role or the action you are aiming for. However, there are basic standards to follow. They will be listed along with the structure of a letter below as a guide about how to make a character reference sheet:

  • First, the introduction often states the purpose of the letter. If you are the writer, you should explain who contacted you for the reference and the reason for this requirement.
  • In the body of the letter:
    • The first thing to mention in the body part is the relationship between the writer and the candidate. It should mention how you guys met, how long you know each other, where you two often meet, and the relationship’s current status.
    • The second thing is the information about the candidate. If you are the main referenced character, this part is about your personalities and interpersonal skills. A character reference should not be too long, but this part still needs at least 3 characters that describe you the best. It would be great if the writer gives a specific example for each character.
  • Lastly, if you are the writer, let’s finish the letter with a direct recommendation on the candidate’s behalf. Then you can wrap the letter up with your signature and your contact information at the end. Usually, it includes your phone number and email address, but sometimes you should provide your mailing address as well.

Tips To Write

If you are writing a letter for someone, below are some things to remember:

  • A character reference should be positive. It is not a place to list out other’s weak points. So you should think before saying “yes”. If you can’t write positively about the candidate, you’d better refuse his/her offer so he/she can ask for someone else that can give a more positive reference letter. Just tell him/her, “I don’t feel qualified enough to confidently write a letter on your behalf”. 

Or you can simply focus on their positive traits instead of the other way around if they insist since, you know, no one is perfect.

  • Specific examples would work well. It is great to list out qualities, but examples will help employers better understand a candidate’s performance in different contexts.
  • Letter’s length matters. It needs to be concise. Hiring staff often has multiple candidates to consider so they cannot spend too much time on a single character reference. You’d better keep the letter brief enough to make sure requesters will read it all.
  • Private details should be considered thoroughly. In most cases, you should avoid any information about a candidate that they may not be willing to share with the requester, including their struggles and intimate matters.
  • Edit, edit, and edit. The important thing should be mentioned three times. When you finish the letter, reread it a few times, consider words, information, and format seriously to ensure your letter is professional. You should ask your friends and family to check it for you, too.

Asking For A Reference

Asking For A Reference - character reference sheet template

How should you ask for a reference? – Source: Resume Genius

Now, imagine that you are the one who is asking for a character reference. You should know that many people can be your personal reference. The key point is that the one who will give you a character reference should know personally and can describe your character. Let’s think about your longtime friends, close neighbors, contacts at work (colleagues and peers), at school (professors, coaches, teachers, mentors), your coordinators in previous volunteer groups, or your religious leaders. 

Your family members are not on the list because they are related to you; therefore, their reference is likely to weigh less. In any case, you should try to avoid asking for a reference from them. On the other hand, your business managers and supervisors can know you enough to give an insightful reference professionally.

You should consider the position to choose your reference. If you are about to join a volunteer group, your former volunteer coordinator or colleagues could be the best fit. Similarly, your teachers, professors, and friends would be good choices when applying to school or for scholarships.

Tips When Requesting

A list of potential personal references is a good start. You should consider the position you are applying to pick a person to write a reference for you. However, the key point is still asking someone who knows you well enough and will talk positively about your personality. 

Once you decide on your reference, ask him or her as soon as possible to be sure the character reference will be done in time. Send an email to the person you have picked and let him or her take time to respond. If the relationship between you two is close enough, you can make the request verbally. In most situations, your request should be gentle but straightforward. 

Of course, they will need your information to write or answer questions from the hiring staff, so you should keep them updated with your life, send them your CV, and even the job posting to consider which of your characters would help you be a good candidate. 

Lastly, be polite and thankful to your personal reference after he or she writes a recommendation on your behalf. A formal thank you letter, a gift card, or a physical thank you depends on your relationship. You can be flexible here but remember to show your gratitude.

Words To Take Away

A character reference tells others about your personalities rather than work performance. You may need it when applying for jobs, schools, volunteer organizations, or requesting a bank loan. You should ask someone who knows you well and can describe your abilities positively for your reference. When you accept to write a reference, be positive, precise, and professional.

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