How To Write A Character Reference Letter

Character Reference Letter

Character reference letters are very important tools when you want to enter college or if you want to get a high paying job. So who can you ask to make you a good if not effective letter of recommendation?

You may ask the CFO or CEO of the company you are working for or, a high ranking government official but the thing is DO THEY KNOW YOU ENOUGH to help you enter college or get that dream job that you have long been waiting for?

For me the best person to write you a character reference letter would be someone who has had the experience evaluating you in a professional level. Someone who can write about your leadership qualities and what you have contributed to the organization and a supervisor who has worked with you for a couple of years who be the best choice.

To write a character reference letter you must know the person whom you are writing for very well.

The letter seeks to give the positive qualities of the individual. It is mostly written by people who have a close relationship with the person.

What is a Character Reference Letter?

A character reference letter is most often used for important non-employment and non-academic related pursuits.

If you are asked to provide a reference letter and you are not applying for a job, career advancement, or admission into a college or university, then the type of letter you will need is referred to a “Character Reference Letter.”

Also referred to as a Personal Reference or Personal Recommendation, a Character Reference Letter details a person’s positive personal attributes.

Character reference letters should focus on positive personality characteristics such as honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, values, dependability, work ethic, community service, and other widely accepted indicators of an individual’s character attributes.

These letters are almost always used by people who provide personal and domestic services, where trust is deemed as an important factor in the decision making process.

Who Needs a Character Reference Letter?

Character Reference Letters are Most Often Requested When Someone is:

  • Applying for Foster Care;
  • Attending a Parole Hearing;
  • Involved in a Child Custody Case;
  • Involved in a Court Hearing;
  • Seeking a Membership;
  • Seeking an Appointment;
  • Seeking a Home or Apartment;
  • Trying to Adopt a Child;
  • Up for a Nomination;
  • Up for an Award;
  • Required to Provide a General Personal Reference Letter.

Often times a person will ask for a general character reference letter when they are leaving a company or service organization.

When to Use a Character Reference Letter to Obtain Employment or College Admission

Although a character reference letter is most often used for non-employment situations, they can prove useful in landing employment or college admission under certain circumstances.

A good character reference letter can be helpful when applying for a job or college admission in the following situations:

  • The applicant lacks favorable references from current or former employers;
  • The applicant is just starting out and has no prior work history or has been out of the job market for a long time;
  • If the potential employer wants a better understanding of the applicant’s background or a better understanding of what the individual is really like;
  • If the applicant lacks favorable references from current or former college professors;
  • If the applicant has not attended college and is therefore unable to obtain a recommendation from a past professor;
  • If the applicant is seeking a position in which a particular set of personal characteristics are important.

For example, if the position is taking care of special-needs people, the hiring manager would be very interested in knowing that the applicant is great at dealing with different types of people, particularly those with mental and/or physical handicaps. This is something that may not show up on a standard resume or in a employment reference letter.

Who Should Write a Character Reference Letter?

A character reference letter should be written by someone who knows the individual very well on a personal level and who is loyal to them, such as friends, neighbors, or family members. The writer should be someone who can best comment on the individuals strengths and positive qualities through long term personal contact.

The first people to be considered should be professional friends or acquaintances such as a doctors, teachers, lawyers, accountants, judges, government leaders, school system or hospital administrators, and community leaders? When a seasoned professional holds the individual in high regard, this will certainly increase their credentials and your chances at success.

With character reference letters, truly no one should be “excluded.” You could also consider a teammate, fellow volunteer, educational mentors, members of the clergy, a personal physician, or even your veterinarian as a personal character reference.

Tips Specific to Writing a Great Character Reference Letter

Start by indicating how you know the applicant. State the exact nature of your relationship with them.

Indicate why you are qualified to write the recommendation letter. The reader needs to understand the ways in which you are fully capable to offer a recommendation for this person.

List the applicant’s positive personal qualities, attributes and characteristics.

Write only complimentary, factual observations.

Emphasize all the key points of which you want the reader to be aware.

Be specific! General praise is a waste of time and effort.

Never state weaknesses. If you can’t write a positive reference letter, you should respectfully decline.

A reference letter is essentially a sales letter; your purpose is to “sell” a person. We do this every day without even realizing it, so don’t be shy. Now is the time to brag! Just remember to be truthful, specific and genuine with your praise.

Don’t be too lengthy, but don’t be too brief. Be specific and concise. Make every word count.

Make your closing statement strong without overdoing it. Excessive praise can be viewed as biased or insincere.

Provide your contact information (email, telephone, fax) if you are willing to provide more information, if necessary.

Proofread your letter carefully. Your reference letter is a reflection on both you and the applicant.

The best way to determine how you letter will sound when it is being read is to read it out loud to yourself. This will quickly identify poor grammar, unclear comments and sentences that just do not flow properly.

Contents of a Character Reference Letter

A well written character reference letter can be worth its weight in gold. In fact, it can be the most influential contribution to achieving the desired outcome.

It’s important to understand that in addition to an individual being able to sell others on their good qualities and characteristics, they also need support from qualified people who are willing to support their candidacy. Having a third party confirm your positive attributes is critical to your success in attaining the desired outcome.

Prior to writing a reference letter, it’s important to understand what the reader of the letter wants to get out of the letter. Refer to the section where we talk about the four additional dynamics that a great reference letter provides the reader.

With the following tips in mind, you will be able to create a meaningful character reference letter or advise someone on how to write one on your behalf:

  • Character reference letters are often addressed generically, using, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir / Madam.” However, these days, it’s extremely easy to obtain the names of people. I have a secret source that I use to do this all the time….it’s called GOOGLE. So, show some initiative, do a little research to find out the recipient’s name and address the letter to them personally whenever possible. This is a very simple way to impress the reader of your letter!
  • A character reference letter is simply a reflection of a person’s character, experiences, skills, and associations with others;
  • The character traits discussed in these letters should be objectively stated, but subjectively chosen. In other words, the good things should be included in the letter and the not-so-good things should be left out;
  • For the most part, character reference letters do not pertain to an economic relationship, such as a job or career advancement. Nor are they used to gain admission into an institution of higher education. They are usually written less formally than these other two main types of reference letters. They are constructed in a highly personalized and straightforward manner;
  • A character reference letter should provide evidence that the writer’s high opinion of the individual is valid. This is best accomplished by recounting specific events concerning the person being referred to in the letter. In essence, the character reference letter should include one or more short, believable stories that the writer knows personally about the individual;
  • The body of the letter should be a narrative that recounts one to three specific incidents regarding the individual. Again, these incidents should demonstrate his or her positive attributes. They should be examples of how he or she behaves in everyday life.

As a general guideline, these four important points should be considered when writing a character reference letter:

  1. Avoid negative, ambiguous, tentative, or unflattering remarks. If you cannot do this, then do not write the letter;
  2. Include verifiable observations that have been documented or can be substantiated;
  3. Avoid comments about race, color, religion, handicap, sex, national origin, marital or parental status. In other words, do not include comments that could be interpreted as biased or that could provoke bias in any way;
  4. Character reference letters should contain evidence of a variety of personal attributes and characteristics, such as the following:
  • Ambitious individual wanting to learn and grow;
  • Charming and lighthearted with a sense of humor;
  • Committed, loyal and devoted;
  • Considerate, caring and empathetic;
  • Courteous and polite;
  • Punctual and reliable;
  • Determined and persevering towards their goals;
  • Fair, honest and trustworthy;
  • Generous, giving and helpful;
  • Good leader;
  • Responsible person who is mature for their age;
  • Hardworking, diligent and industrious;
  • Intelligent person who is quick to learn;
  • Patient and level-headed;
  • Easygoing team player who is very people-oriented.

More specifically, you should carefully consider all of the following points in order to write the most effective character reference letter possible.

  • The letter should start by explaining how you know the individual. In other words, state the nature of relationship you have with the person. Are they your friend, relative or neighbor? Are you their Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant? Are they a co-worker or a business acquaintance?
  • Indicate how long you have known the individual. This helps the reader assess how well you know the person;
  • Write the letter as though you were the one reading it. What is it that you would like to know as the reader of this personal character information? Whatever it is, include it in your letter;
  • Focus on the personal achievements, qualities, and skills that are most likely to interest the reader or that most impress you about the person;
  • Mention any shared experiences, such as coaching the same basketball team, singing in the church choir, or working on a project together at the office. Stay positive, honest and personal;
  • Use personal stories or observations about your experiences with the applicant when appropriate. Objective facts are of course more important, but they must be balanced with personal reflections about the applicant;
  • If you feel you can’t honestly write positive things about the individual, you should politely refuse to write the letter.

Guidelines of how to write one


Your letter should include the date in which you are writing. The date should be in full, not abbreviated.


It is better for them to be generic and you use “to whom it may concern” instead of “dear sir or madam” because chances of knowing the addressee are minimal.

But in situation where the addressee name is known use “dear (first name) because it always gives the letter a professional look.

State The Relationship

The relationship you have with the individual should be confirmed in the first paragraph and state how you now them and the period in which you have known them.

The longer is the better because it is assumed you know the person well and your letter is credible enough.

Give The Positive Qualities

This makes the second paragraph where you give the positive qualities of the person and why you think the person is reliable.

Try to be honest because you are trying to sell the person to the society.


This makes the last paragraph. This is where you affirm on the persons’ capabilities and why you are recommending them. You could offer to give more information if needed.


How you close your character reference letter depends on your salutation, if you generally use “dear sir or madam”, use the complementary closing “yours faithfully” or use “yours sincerely” if the salutation was specifically addressed. You skip 3 lines after the complementary closing,then type your name, print the letter, then sign in between the complementary closing and your name.


Make the letter short and precise

Use simple courteous language that is understandable

State only the positive qualities of the person you are writing for remember you have trusted with that responsibility.

Difficulty: average

Examples of a Character Reference Letter

How To Write A Character Reference Letter

How To Write A Character Reference Letter

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