Getting a Job

How to Ask for a Character Reference

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Many job applications require a list of character references, also known as personal references. You should always ask the people you want to list as a reference so they will be prepared to give you an excellent character reference via telephone, email or letter. In this article, you’ll learn what a character reference is, who to ask to be your reference and how to ask for a character reference.  

What is a character reference?

A character reference is a person who can confirm your skills and personality to help a company get a better idea of your personality before they decide to hire you. You may need to provide a list of character references before an interview, on your employment application or after an interview.  A personal reference would not discuss your job performance, but they may discuss your: 

  • General attitude
  • Dependability
  • Ethics
  • Trustworthiness

Who to ask for a character reference

Unlike a professional reference, a character reference should be someone who knows you outside of work. You should choose someone who knows you well. However, it may be best to avoid including references who are close family members or friends. They will likely provide the employer with a biased perspective of your personal characteristics. 

For instance, a character reference could be someone who is your:

  • Neighbor
  • Friend 
  • Distant relative
  • Mentor
  • Teacher

Providing references whom you have volunteered alongside or worked together in an informal setting are also excellent people to add to your reference list. 

How to ask for a character reference

Once you decide on who to ask for a character reference, you will need to decide how to ask for the reference. 

Here are some tips that can help you ask for a character reference:

1. First, decide how you will ask for your character reference

Consider how long you’ve known the person and the typical method of communication you use with them before reaching out to them. Use your best judgment when asking for a reference in person or over the phone. Make sure to provide as many details as possible about the company you are applying to. Asking through email is less personal but it may give them time to consider your request. Rather than automatically assuming they will agree to your request, give them the option to say no.

2. Next, practice what to say for your character reference request

If you are going to ask your reference in-person or over the phone, try practicing your request with someone else. Have the other person role-play multiple responses to your request. This way you may be better prepared to respond to the answers or questions the individuals may have. If you are submitting your request through email, it may be helpful to draft a couple of emails and have someone proofread them before you send the final request.

3. Then, be specific in your character reference request

Make sure your chosen reference knows these four things:

  • How to give the character reference: telephone, email or letter
  • When the reference needs to be completed
  • What job you are applying for
  • What attributes you’d like them to highlight in the reference

4. Explain why you are asking them to be your reference

Providing a reason for why you value your reference’s opinion of you is an excellent way to establish or re-establish a connection with them. They may be more likely to give you a glowing character reference if you provide them a heartfelt explanation of why they are one of your top choices to provide a reference. 

For instance, you could say ‘Since you are excellent with community outreach and management, I thought that the hiring manager at Shirts With a Cause would value your opinion of me.’

5. Then, provide resources when you ask for a character reference

It is possible that the person you are asking to give a reference for you might not have given a reference for anyone else before. Give them ample resources that they can refer to so they can provide the best character reference possible. They may need guidelines on format and content, especially if they are required to draft a reference letter. 

6. Last, thank the person after you request a character reference

When someone provides you with a reference, it is important to thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to help you. You may want to write them a thank you letter or email after the reference is completed. This is a common courtesy to express your gratitude. Also, don’t forget to make them aware of the outcome of the job interviewing process.