Photo: Aatik Tasneem
Finding the perfect words to say when describing someone’s character can be difficult. It takes plenty of thought, awareness, and a bit of storytelling ability to get it just right.
A character reference letter should not just highlight what type of a person the applicant is, but rather why they’re the right person for the position. It explains a person’s ability to uphold standards, what their values are, and how they interact with others from the frame of reference of a person who knows them well.
If you’re the writer of a reference letter, pay close attention to how you tell the story of your connection to the subject of your letter. Point out not only how you know them, but how your personal interactions and observations are proof that they will be the perfect person for the job they’re applying to.
This will obviously be done differently based on what your actual relationship to the applicant is, but the main idea remains that you should explicitly explain your knowledge of the applicant’s character, personality, and work ethic in order to connect it to their ability to perform the duties of the job which they’re applying to. After all, your description of their character could be the deciding factor when it comes time for a final hiring decision to be made.
Whether you’re on the giving or the receiving side of a reference letter, it’s a good idea to have some solid examples on hand to compare your reference letter to. Let the following sample letters written from the perspective of a former coworker, fellow volunteer, client or customer, former supervisor, and an academic advisor or professor inspire you.