An employer may ask you to provide references at some stage of the hiring process. The personal reference, sometimes known as the character reference, is a brief assessment of you as an individual provided by someone who knows you outside of work.

This should not be confused with the professional reference which is provided by a former or current employer. Rather than covering your skills and competencies in the workplace, the personal reference will address your character, behavior, and ethics.

When Are They Needed?

Employers generally request references during or after the first round of interviews as a way of verifying any information they acquired throughout the meeting. We would recommend that the people you’d ask to submit a reference on your behalf are contacted as early as possible. That way, they’re ready to respond as soon as the request comes from the employer.

Why Are They Needed?

When employing new people, most businesses are looking not only for someone with the right set of skills and experience, but also a person who will fit in well with the existing team, be a team player, and provide an overall positive influence on the organization. Getting a good sense of this can be hard when referring to a resume or professional references, as these largely focus on skills and experience. A personal reference can give some insight into your character and whether you are a culture fit.

Finding a culture fit is essential for employers; We are seeing it become the deciding factor in recruitment processes. Organizations would rather hire someone who is going to be a great personality fit over another with more experience. Skills and experience can be learned, whereas a good cultural fit is harder to come by.

If you have a strong personal reference, this can both open doors to job opportunities and prove the deciding factor when the competition is stiff.

Who Should Provide Them?

Personal references are commonly provided by professors, group/club leaders, or neighbors. Those providing the reference should know you well and be able to give examples that back up statements about your character. While friends and family are acceptable referees, it is better for you to select someone who is not immediate family. Their opinion may be considered biased.

What Should a Personal Reference Include?

A personal reference should cover the relationship between the subject and writer, as well as how long you have known each other. It should also include examples of your character, personality, and work ethic. They should aim to focus on two or three of your strongest qualities, providing specific examples to back these up. Lastly, it should include the writer’s contact details, as the employer may wish to get in touch for more information either by phone or email.

Bonus Tip: An excellent character reference may be inspired by the job description of the position being applied for. If you provide this information to your referee, the letter can include information which both sheds a positive light on you and exhibits why you are capable of fulfilling the roles and responsibilities outlined in the job description. Attention to detail here can make a big difference.

If you would like any more information, or for advice on how to write a great reference and cover letter for one of our roles, please get in touch with one of our specialist consultants.