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Personal References: What They Are and Who to Choose?

by | May 10, 2021 | Business

A personal reference, or a character reference, is someone who can speak to your traits and soft skills. A hiring manager may ask for a personal reference during an application process.

What is a Personal Reference

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personal reference comes from someone that you have not formally worked with before. This person vouches for your character traits and attests to those soft skills on your resume and cover letter. 

A potential employer hears from a personal reference and gains additional information about you on a personal level. It allows hiring managers to see how you would fit within that company. 

Personal References vs. Professional References

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professional reference will almost always be asked for during a job search. While, a professional reference is typically from previous employers, professors, or formal advisors. 

Most times, a personal reference will not be asked for as a job reference. Therefore, a personal reference letter or contact information should not be given unless specifically asked by a hiring manager or recruiter. 

Who Makes a Good Character Reference 

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Good personal references are co-workers, teachers, mentors, sports team members or coaches, well-known neighbors, or someone you volunteered with or for. 

An academic advisor or family friend could be considered.

Do not choose a close friend, former employer (save that for professional references), significant other, or family members (especially parents or siblings). Those people know your character, but they are not people that a potential employer is interested in speaking with. 

Once you have chosen one or two personal references, get their contact information such as phone number and email. 

With each job, understand what the hiring manager asks for from the personal references. Some want to have a phone call, but others ask for a formal letter of recommendation. 

General Personal Reference Template 

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A personal reference is very brief. If in the form of a persona reference letter, it is usually under a page. If it is a phone call, it is 20 minutes maximum. 

As an applicant, they should inform their personal reference on what the job title is, and what the job description is. They should also be equipped with an understanding of their previous job work and a current resume. 

A character reference letter includes three main sections: relationship, positive qualities, and an official recommendation. 

Paragraph 1 is about the relationship. Include how the two of you met and how long you have known them. 

Paragraph 2 (possibly 3 and 4) includes the applicant’s positive qualities. Examples of this are communication, dependability, work ethic, dedication, and dependability. Then, back them up with specific examples. 

Then, an official recommendation is in the conclusion. This includes that a personal reference highly recommends the job seeker for this position and the prospective employer has their support.

Reference letter sample

Kimberly Sporting

Recruiter at Players Sporting Goods

123 Scholars Rd.

Memphis, TN 37501

Dear Ms. Sporting,

I am writing to recommend John Doe for a position as a sales intern at Players Sporting Goods. 

I knew John since he was a teenager when I was his soccer coach throughout high school. He is highly qualified in sales because of his strong leadership ability. I have witnessed him take on multiple leadership roles throughout his time in high school, and now into college. He has always been the first one to speak up during practice and as a result, he went on to be the head captain of the soccer team. Now, he continues to play an integral role in his university soccer team. 

Because of John’s continuous commitment to the sport, he will continue that commitment into his role as a sales intern at Players Sporting Goods. He would play an integral role in the company, and I am officially recommending him for this position. 


Emily Ravet

For more information on references, applying for jobs, and more, read our blogs on the Scholars website, and tune into The Internship Show for exclusive company information!

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About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.