What's a personal recommendation letter? When do you need personal recommendations, and when and how should you write them? Writing a personal recommendation letter or character reference can be a challenge. After all, these letters are generally required for big life events, such as a new job, a home purchase, or admission to a program or school.
What is a Personal Recommendation?
A personal reference is someone who knows you personally, rather than from working with you or knowing you professionally.
Who to Ask for a Recommendation
Personal recommendations and character reference letters can be written by teachers, neighbors, business acquaintances, clients, vendors, and other recommenders who can attest to an applicant's skills and abilities.
How to Ask for a Personal Reference
If you’re the person requesting a reference, be sure to provide the writer with clear instructions on what information you need them to include and give them a resume or list of your skills and experiences. You might send a letter sample to the writer to help guide their own letter.
Here's advice on how to ask someone to give you a reference.
What to Include in Your Letter
A personal reference letter should provide information on who you are, your connection with the person you are recommending, why they are qualified, and the specific skills they have that you are endorsing. It should also include specific examples of times they demonstrated these skills. Review this template for ideas and suggestions on what to write and how to provide a compelling reference:
When writing a character reference letter, include a salutation (Dear Dr. Jones, Dear Ms. Matthews, etc.). If you are writing a general letter, say "To Whom It May Concern" or don't include a salutation and simply start with the first paragraph of the letter.
The first paragraph of the character reference letter explains how you know the person you are recommending and why you are qualified to write a recommendation letter to recommend employment, college, or graduate school. With a personal letter, you are writing a recommendation letter because you know the person and their character, rather than because you have direct experience with their work or education.
The second paragraph of a reference letter contains specific information on the person you are writing about, including why they are qualified, what they can contribute, and why you are providing a reference letter. Use specific examples of times the employer demonstrated these skills or qualities. If necessary, use more than one paragraph to provide details.
This section of the reference letter contains a brief summary of why you are recommending the person. State that you "highly recommend" the person or you "recommend without reservation," or something similar.
The concluding paragraph of a reference letter contains an offer to provide more information. Include a phone number and/or email address within the paragraph and include the phone number and email address in the return address section of your letter, or in your email signature.
Signature (hard copy letter)
If you're sending an email recommendation, list your contact information in your signature.
Tips on Writing Personal Recommendation Letters
A recommendation letter should be tailored to both the person being recommended and to the position or responsibilities involved.
It's important to tailor your letter to fit the particular person you are recommending and incorporate the information he or she asks you to include. Be sure to focus on how the person is qualified. Sharing examples is a good way to show what the person can accomplish.
Your letter should describe how you know the person and explain why you’re recommending them.
- Think carefully before saying yes. Only say you will write the recommendation if you can recommend the person without reservation. If you're asked to write a reference and don't feel comfortable giving one, it's appropriate to politely decline the request for a reference.
- Follow a business letter format. Use the official business letter format when writing your letter. If time is of the essence, you might consider sending a recommendation email instead of a letter. Review this list of the information that should be included in a recommendation letter.
- Focus on the job description. Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter for a copy of the job description. This way, you can focus on the requirements of the position. Try to include language from the job description in your letter. Even if you are writing a more general recommendation, you can still ask the person about the types of jobs they will be applying for.
- Explain how you know the person, and for how long. Begin your letter with this basic information. If you have known the person for a long time, be sure to emphasize this.
- Focus on one or two traits. In the body of your letter, focus on one or two qualities in this person that make him or her a good fit for the job. Provide specific examples of ways in which the person has demonstrated these various traits in the past.
- Remain positive. State that you think this person is a strong candidate. You might say something like, “I recommend this person without reservation.” You want to help this candidate stand out from the other applicants.
- Share your contact information. Provide a way for the employer to contact you if they have further questions. Include your email address, telephone number, or both at the end of the letter.
- Follow the submission guidelines. Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter how to submit it. Make sure you follow any requirements, especially about where and when to send it and its requested format (for example, PDF, physical letter, etc.). If there is a submission deadline, be sure to submit it prior to the due date.
Also review how to write a reference letter for a friend, if you're writing a personal letter.
Personal Recommendation Letter Examples
Here are sample of personal reference letters you can use as a starting point for your own correspondence:
- Character Reference Letter
- Character Reference Letter For a Babysitter
- Personal Reference Letter for a Friend
- More Personal Reference Letter Samples
Be sure to ask permission before you ask someone to give you a reference. Here’s a sample letter you can use for your request:
Personal Reference Letter Template
This is a personal reference letter example. Download the personal reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Personal Reference Letter Sample (Text Version)
1 Oak Street
Anytown, CA 99999
March 10, 2021
10 Main Street
Anytown, CA 99999
Dear Ms. Jones,
It’s my pleasure to offer my unreserved recommendation for Megan Brown for the position of intern at Acme Corp.
I’ve known Megan for over 20 years, having lived next door to her since she was a child. She’s always demonstrated responsibility and entrepreneurial spirit. When she was a teenager, she started a snow shoveling business in our neighborhood and wound up managing a team of five other kids from the street. I’m fairly certain they pulled in enough money to buy their own plow… if any of them had been old enough to operate it.
Since then, I’ve watched with interest as she’s pursued her education and interest in business. Of course, you know from her transcripts and professional recommendations that she’s been unusually successful throughout her early career, but what you might not know is the joy she gets from solving problems and making business ideas work. It’s truly inspiring to see her tackle something and make it a success.
Megan would be an asset to any organization, but I know that she has a particular passion for your company. I’d be happy to answer any questions or discuss my recommendation further. Please feel free to call me at 555-555-5555.
Elizabeth Smith (signature for hard copy)
After You Send the Reference
Let the person know when you've submitted the reference. Once you've mailed, emailed, or uploaded your reference letter, let the person you're writing it for know that it's been submitted.
Finally, don't forget to send a thank you not or email to your reference providers.