Character Reference Letter Sample

This illustration lists what to know about a character reference letter including "Focuses on character over job experience and technical skills," "Emphasizes personal qualities like loyalty, ethics and trustworthiness," "Written by someone who knows you well, like a family friend," and "Can help job application stand out, if employment background isn't strong."

Colleen Tighe © The Balance 

Also known as a personal reference, a character reference is written by someone who knows you well. This might be a family friend, a neighbor, or someone you once volunteered with. It can be someone for whom you did casual work, such as babysitting or gardening, or a teacher or someone who coached you.

Think of it as a personal resume, focusing on your character rather than your job experience. A potential employer might ask for a character reference in addition to other employment references as a way to learn a bit more about you. If you're not asked for a reference letter, you might consider offering one anyway.

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.

This can be a great way to make your job application stand out if you don't have a very strong employment background, maybe because you haven't worked in a while or because you're new to the job market.

Tips for Asking for a Character Reference Letter

Consider whom to ask. It should be someone who knows you well, and who can speak to your positive qualities. What matters most is that this person will be able to provide you with an honest, positive reference. But avoid asking a family member whose opinion will be considered biased.

Provide information. If the individual you've asked agrees, give her all the information she'll need to write the letter. Tell her what job you're applying for, how to submit the letter, and the deadline for submission. Give her any material that might help her write the letter, such as your resume.

Send a thank you note to the writer afterward. Be sure to emphasize how much you appreciate him taking the time to write you a reference.

Tips for Writing a Character Reference Letter

Think about it before you say yes. Be sure that you can write the person a positive letter. It's better to graciously say no if you don't think you can. This will give her a chance to ask someone else who might be able to write a stronger letter.

Request information. Make sure you have all the information you'll need if you decide to write the letter. Be sure you know what the letter is for, such as a particular job or a college application.

Be specific. Focus on two or three specific, strong qualities you know the person has. Try to think of those that would make him a good fit for the job or the school in question. If the letter is for a potential employer, take a look at the job listing or similar listings for a sense of what the employer might be looking for. Provide at least one specific example of a time when the person demonstrated each of these qualities.

Explain your relationship. How did you meet this individual, and how long have you known her? Explain the context of your relationship, but leave out overly personal details.

Provide contact information. If you feel comfortable doing so, provide contact information so the employer can reach out to you with further questions.

Make that recommendation! It's just a letter unless you specifically state why you're writing it, such as, "I recommend Edith for this position because..."

Edit, edit, edit. Be sure to thoroughly edit your letter to ensure that it's as polished and professional as possible. You might want to ask a friend or family member to read it before you send it. And try to keep it to one page—no more than three paragraphs at most. Keep an eye out for anything repetitive or extraneous.

A Sample Character Reference Letter

This is a sample character reference for someone who is a babysitter. Download the letter template compatible with Google Docs and Word Online to review it.

Screenshot of a character reference letter sample
©TheBalance 2018

Sample Character Reference Letter (Text Version)

Jill Johnson
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345

September 1, 2018

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

Sample Email Character Reference (Text Version)

Subject: Reference for Janelle Smith

Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname,

Janelle Smith was my neighbor for three years before moving to North Westchester last month. She is a kind and wonderful person; she has been so helpful to me and several of my neighbors.

I have trouble getting around. Janelle always came over to my house and offered to mow my lawn; she would ask if I needed any help with my errands. She was always friendly and cheerful, and her help was very much appreciated.

We would often talk about her education, and I know she did well in school and had a high grade point average. She never complained about homework; this was even when she had big projects to finish or long papers to write.

Janelle is smart, creative, and a genuinely good person who will do well in whatever career she chooses. I am happy to provide this reference. If you have any questions or want to know more about my experiences with Janelle, please feel free to call or email me.


Your Name