A personal reference letter is written on behalf of a job applicant by recommenders who could be friends, business acquaintances, teachers, and neighbors to attest to the skills or character of the applicant.
A personal reference letter provides information concerning the applicant’s skills, qualifications, attitude, and character based on the opinion of the recommender, to help the employer decide whether to hire the applicant.
The purpose of a personal reference letter is to heighten the chances of a candidate getting a job by introducing them to their potential employers through pointing out their best traits, skills, personality and stating why they are qualified for the job.
When Are Personal Reference Required?
Personal reference letters are requested from people who know a candidate outside of work on a very personal level and can attest to their character and abilities. Usually, when you are applying for a job, you will most likely be required to present a personal reference letter, and this occurs when seeking higher positions like a managerial position.
If you are a recent graduate or you are changing your career, you may be required to submit a character reference that will provide insight on your capabilities and work ethics, specific to the position you are applying for, that a former colleague or employer may be familiar with.
When applying for a job, make sure you pay close attention to the type of references the employer is seeking for. Be sure if it’s stated clearly that a professional or personal reference letter is required.
Personal references are usually required for a major purchase like a house, for education (mainly postgraduate) related applications. For example, lawyers seeking admission to the bar are asked for a personal reference; also, personal letters are required by other professional associations and certification bodies.
High school and college students with no work experience applying for jobs and volunteer positions, or scholarships, are asked for a character reference in place of a professional reference. These references can be got from a pastor, teacher, guidance counselor, or any adult that is familiar with the student’s personality and achievements.
Writing a Personal Reference Letter
A personal reference letter should be written by someone who has relations or had previously worked with the candidate to be able to share information about the candidate. When writing a personal reference letter, the following details should be captured:
Step 1: Letterhead
A letterhead serves as a heading of the personal reference letter and it consists of the name, address, logo if any, and the contact information of the recommender. The letterhead information is written at the top and placed either to the left or right side of the letter. There are two conditions applied when writing a letterhead:
- If the reference letter is sent through postal address, then contact information of the recommender, date and contact information of the recipient should be written at the top as the letterhead.
- If the reference letter is mailed to the recipient then the recommender does not need to include the contact information or date at the top of the letter, instead the recommender should list his/ her contact details after the signature at the bottom of the letter.
Step 2: Salutation
Salutation in a reference letter is a formal greeting addressing the recipient written immediately below the letterhead. If the person writing the letter does not know the recipient on a personal level, then the candidate on whose behalf the letter is written should provide the name of the person to whom the letter should be addressed if they know. The section should include the title such as dear Mr./Mrs./Ms—followed by the surname of the recipient.
Step 3: Body paragraphs
After salutation, the next section on the reference letter is the body paragraphs, where the reason for writing the letter is mentioned. The paragraphs explain to the recipient or potential employer the traits of the candidate whom the letter is written on behalf of the recommender.
3.1 Describe the relation with the candidate
The recommender should begin the reference letter by first stating his/ her relationship with the candidate they aim to represent in the letter. The description details of their relationship should be captured in terms of whether they are former colleagues, former bosses, friends, neighbors, or relatives to the applicant.
“I was Mr. Aron’s former supervisor at Bilden’s Organization where Aron worked as a finance intern in the finance department.”
3.2 Mention the period of knowing each other
The recommender should indicate the period they have known the person they are recommending. This should be mentioned in the body paragraph so the potential employer gets a clear understanding of the length of the relationship between the recommender and the applicant, which increases the applicant’s chances of getting employed.
For example, a recommender can mention the period of them knowing the applicant whom they are writing a recommendation letter on behalf of by stating
“I have known Mr. Aron for the period we worked together in the finance department for 4 years. “
3.3 Explain qualities with examples
A recommender writing a reference letter is required to share in the body paragraph section the candidate’s qualities; this can include what the candidate is best at without exaggerating their traits. The recommender should mention how the individual has applied his/their skills to achieve certain goals or how they were able to deal with challenges and come up with a solution that impacted their work positively.
The recommender can state the qualities of an applicant they are writing a reference letter on behalf of using the statement
“During the period Mr. Aron served as a finance intern, he demonstrated strong leadership skills, effective communication skills, and active participation in teamwork.”
3.4 Summarize with a recommendation
The Recommender should conclude the last paragraph of the personal reference letter by summarizes the traits of the applicant and recommending them for the job. The summary part should include specific reasons as to why the candidate is a suitable fit for the organization they wish to work for. The recommendation part should be as specific as possible since this is the main area that various organizations focus on when reading the reference letter.
A personal reference letter should end with a summary of a recommendation statement by the recommender as follows,
“ I trust that Mr. Silas is capable of handling the job position because of their articulate skills in leadership, management, and communication that make them an ideal candidate for the job. “
Signature and contact information
The signature and contact information of the recommender or person writing the personal reference letter should be placed at the bottom part of the letter. The details are used as a means of validating the information written in the letter. In addition, contact information is included to assist the organization in reaching the person who made the recommendation in cases where they may need clarifications regarding the candidate.
Name of (recommender)
Personal vs Professional Reference Letter
Unlike a professional reference, a personal reference does not really need to come from someone you have worked with directly. A personal reference should come from someone who knows you well enough to provide a very good insight into your personality and character. The letter must include your relationship with the person and how long you’ve known each other.
Always make sure that you are sure what is been asked for, whether it’s a professional or personal reference. Generally, any person that can vouch for your ability to achieve, your ethics, and your reliability, can give you a personal reference for an employment application or academic pursuit.
Who can write a personal reference letter?
The range of people who can write a personal reference letter – teachers, professors, religious workers, friends, coaches, business associates, neighbors, etc.
Remember not to write for family members or spouses to provide a personal reference.
Make sure you don’t write for a person whom you have limited knowledge of. A vague or very general description of the applicant will negatively affect their chances of getting a job or admission.
Personal Reference Letter Samples
Here are personal reference letter samples:
Text Sample 01
Dear Mr. Steve:
I am writing this letter to recommend Ken Jackson for a position at JP Morgan. I have known Ken since his elementary school days, and I think he is very qualified for a position in your bank. We started our banking careers almost at the same time and in the same bank And I know first hand, Ken’s abilities as a team player, a goal-getter, and one with excellent “people skills”.
Ken is known as a go-to guy whenever there is a major problem that needs urgent attention in the quality control department of our bank. This is because of his very easy-going personality and very approachable nature. He will add tremendous value to your establishment
He is a deeply religious person, and he actively participates in his church activities and also does volunteer work in his community. Ken would be a great asset to your bank. If you have any more questions about him, please do not hesitate to ask.
Text Sample 02
Dear Mr. (Recipient),
I am writing to recommend (applicant’s name) for the position of (job position the applicant is applying for) at (Employer’s organization). I have known him for (period) he has worked with us at (previous organization’s name of the applicant) in the (Former job position). He has (team management skills or any relevant qualities), which have been demonstrated through the management during his time with us.
(Applicant’s name) works tirelessly to make sure he has achieved all the targets set by the company. He has accomplished being the best accountant in the department in the financial year.
(Applicant’s name) will be of tremendous help to your organization and I highly recommend him. If you have any questions kindly do not hesitate to contact me.
Sample Letters and Examples
Tips of Writing Reference Letter
The purpose of writing a reference letter on behalf of an applicant is to help them secure the job. Hence it is important to follow the correct format to deliver an effective personal reference letter that inspires a positive attitude from the recipient or employer. Below are essential tips for writing an effective personal reference letter.
- Think before Saying Yes: A personal reference letter highly influences the perception of the employer regarding whether they should give the applicant a job or not. When asked by an applicant to help them write the reference letter, one should think to determine if they have proper knowledge of the applicant to write an honest review. The person writing the recommendation has a right to politely refuse to write the letter if they feel uncomfortable to attest to the applicant’s traits and qualifications.
- Follow Business Formal Format: A personal reference letter is a document that is meant for official use, and as such, it should follow a formal business format. The official business format, in this case, should be used since it is a document that a potential employee uses when applying for a job. The skill or ability to follow the formal format is checked by potential employers while shortlisting candidates who have applied for a job in that organization.
- Focus on the Job Description: While writing a personal reference letter, the recommender should focus on the candidate’s job in an organization. They should review the job description to help them discuss relevant skills to give a candidate better chances of acquiring the job they have applied for.
- Sound Positive: The person who writes the reference letter should use a positive tone to describe the candidate’s capabilities and increase their chances of getting hired. The idea is to write the most attractive traits of the applicant to a draw positive attitude from the employer towards the applicant.
- Focus on one or Two Traits: The employer’s time is vital to consider when writing a reference letter, and the idea is to capture his/ her attention as fast as possible to increase the chance of the applicant getting the job. Therefore, a recommender should focus on two positive traits of the applicant that would increase their chances of getting preferred for the job.
- Must add Specific Examples: In addition to keeping things formal, the person who writes the reference letter should include several positive examples of the skills that the candidate is good at. The skills mentioned in the letter should be accompanied by practical examples of actual accomplishments the applicants have achieved personally or professionally.
- Keep it Short: A personal reference letter should be short and straight to the point because employers have multiple/several applications to read. Hence, the recommender should choose the most relevant information possible and present it in an appropriate manner so that the chances of the applicant’s letter read by the hiring manager increase as it will boost chances of the applicant getting that job.
- Avoid Private/personal Details: Private details have a way of stimulating biases and a personal reference letter being a formal document should avoid personal details about the candidate. Some of these details may include a condition that the candidate has or some of the struggles they may be going through. While the person writing the reference letter may have good intentions, an organization may see this as a weakness when it comes to the capabilities of the applicant carrying out their duties.
- Follow the Submission details: Various Submission guidelines are put in place for submitting personal reference letters. The guidelines may vary from one organization to the other, and as such, it is important to ensure that the protocols are followed to avoid the disqualification of a candidate.
Some of the submission details may include issues such as when the reference letter should reach the organization that the candidate is interested in working in. It is important to ask the applicant how and when the reference letter should reach a particular organization to avoid the possibility of the applicant missing out on the opportunity to be selected for the job interview
A personal reference letter is a document written on behalf of an applicant highlighting their strengths and traits that are attractive to an organization to increase their chances of getting the job. Writing a brief, relevant and informative reference letter on behalf of an applicant is essential to help increase their chances of getting employed. Emphasis on specific skills such as team player, leadership, or patience helps in capturing the attention of the recruiting team.