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How to Write a Compelling Character Reference (Example & Guide for 2023)

How to Write a Compelling Character Reference (Example & Guide for 2023)

When you are applying for a job, there are various documents that can help you out more further in the hiring process.

Most candidates stick to only sending out their CV, and sometimes add in their cover letter, and that is perfectly fine.

However, there are some additional documents that the employer might ask you to provide to get a better understanding of who you are.

One of the most common additional documents for your application is a character reference.

You might ask yourself various questions about that, and we are here to help you.

In this article, we are going to find the answers to the following questions:

  • What is a character reference letter?
  • Who to ask for a character reference letter?
  • How to write a character reference letter?

And we are going to wrap this topic up with some great tips and tricks to help you out, as long as a great example of character reference letter to get you started on your own.

So, if you are ready to learn more about the reference letters and how to use them correctly, let’s dive in.

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What is a character reference letter?

Before we get any further, it is essential that you understand what exactly is a character reference letter.

A character reference letter is a document which is often used in job applications as a testament to the candidate’s personal qualities.

Typically, your character reference letter would not necessarily be written by someone who you have worked professionally with. It is much more important that the person can talk about your abilities and character.

The goal of the character reference letter is for the employer to get an insight into your personality and traits, and based on that to determine whether you would be a good fit for their company.

Who to ask for a character reference letter?

When deciding who to ask for a character reference letter, you can’t just ask anybody.

You need to consider only people who know you well enough to provide a realistic and positive evaluation of your personal traits.

Some people who you can consider for writing your character reference letter are:

  • Co-worker
  • Co-volunteer
  • Volunteer leader
  • Coach
  • Client of yours
  • Customer of yours
  • Business acquaintance
  • Professor of yours
  • Academic advisor
  • Mentor of yours
  • Fellow student
  • Neighbour of yours
  • Friend of yours

As you can see from that list, you should avoid choosing a family member, as such character reference letters are usually not taken seriously from employers.

To help the person who you have selected for a reference prepare better your letter, you can provide them with the job description of the job you are applying for, as well as your up-to-date CV.

How to write a compelling character reference letter?

Now, let’s back up a bit, and have a look at a different scenario – someone asking you to write a compelling character reference letter for them.

If you are up to the task, you need to know how to do this right, and help your fellow in the best way possible.

To write a compelling character reference letter, you need to follow just five simple steps.

Explain your relationship to the candidate

The first thing you need to do when writing a character reference letter is show the employer how you know the candidate.

No matter what your relationship is, make sure you provide some detail, so that the employer knows that you really know each other, and that you have some insight into the candidate’s personality.

Share how long you have known the candidate

After sharing your relationship with the candidate, you would want to go a little further into detail.

What you need to share is how long you have known the candidate, as that only proves the credibility of anything you have to same about them.

Highlight positive personal qualities of the candidate and back them up with specific examples

Once you have provided the employer with enough detail about your relationship with the candidate, it is time to share some of your insight.

That’s the place where you want to show the employer that the candidate would be a great fit to their company.

To do so, make sure you include at least three personal qualities that would help the employer better understand the candidate, and why they can benefit the company.

These are qualities can be any of these, as well as any other soft skills:

  • Dedication
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership abilities
  • Positive attitude
  • Efficiency
  • Commitment to quality

Whatever you decide to list as positive qualities of the candidate, make sure you also back up your words with some specific examples in your experience with the candidate.

Wrap it up with a statement of recommendation and share your contact details

Once you have done all that, it is time to simply wrap up your character reference letter.

To do so right, you need just two things:

  • State that you recommend the candidate for the position they are applying for
  • List at least two pieces of contact information, like your phone number and email address

Tips and tricks

After you know who to ask for a reference letter, and how to write one, if someone asks you, let’s have a look at some tips and tricks that would help you either way:

  • Keep the character reference letter positive – that is absolutely not the place for listing someone’s shortcomings. The writer of the reference should always be someone who can speak only to the candidate’s best qualities
  • Avoid private details – even though the reference letter should go into detail about the relationship with the candidate, it should never go deeper than that. It should be kept professional, and should never share any personal struggles or intimate matters
  • Proofread and edit – the character reference letter, just like any other document, should be thoroughly checked for any errors and edited before being sent out. It is always a great idea to also ask a friend or a family member to double-check it

Example of a character reference letter

And finally, as promised, we are going to provide you with a great example of a character reference letter to get you started when starting to write one yourself.

Dear Hiring Manager,

I have known Jane Doe for almost five years. We met while studying in the same academic institution years ago, and she offered to help me out with my small startup.

Jane is one of the most hard-working, dedicated, and innovative people I have ever known. She is also compassionate, and always ready to help others.

Once while we are still attending Cambridge university, a lecturer of hers got really sick, and as she was a soon-to-be graduate, stepped in and taught their lecture until they got better, sacrificing her own time to prepare for her final exams.

Jane is the type of person that you can always count on to remain calm during a stressful situation, and help to find the most efficient solution to a problem.

For all these reasons, I recommend Jane Doe for the marketing specialist position, and I believe she would greatly help your company grow and improve.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me any time.


John Johnson

+44 1632 960133



We are all done, now you know who to ask for a character reference letter, and how to write a compelling one when someone asks you to.

Let’s go through all the essential parts a reference should include:

  • Explanation of the relationship to the candidate – a great way to start off a reference letter is to share some detail about how you know the candidate
  • Information about how you know you have known the candidate – that information only strengthens any information you share further on in the reference letter
  • Highlights of positive qualities, backed up with specific examples – once you have showed the connection to the candidate, you would like to get to the point and show why they would be a great fit for the position they are applying for
  • End with a statement of a recommendation and contact details – you would want to wrap up the reference with a recommendation and at least two pieces of contact information

Take one last look at our example of a compelling character reference letter, and prepare yourself to help your fellow get their next job.

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Volen Vulkov
Volen Vulkov is a CV expert and the co-founder of Enhancv. He applies his deep knowledge and experience to write about a career change, development, and how to stand out in the job application process.
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