Employers ask prospective employees for a personal reference or character reference to find out more about their personality, character and people skills. References are often required as part of the job application process. Here’s help deciding who to ask for character references and how to approach them.
Who to Ask for Character References
Character references should come from people who know you well. They should have known you personally for at least a year and be able to speak about your top qualities. Instead of putting too much pressure on yourself to identify the perfect resources right away, relax and jot down some names. Brainstorm potential candidates from the following examples:
- Co-workers or former employers
- Clients or customers
- College professors or academic advisors
- Family friends
- Neighbors or personal acquaintances
- People who have volunteered with you
- High school or college sports coaches
Avoid collecting character references from your spouse or other family members. Employers will consider them biased.
When you narrow down your list of potential candidates, try to create a diverse group. Don’t request all your references from within one organization or friend group. A co-worker might be able to give insight on your work ethic, while people who volunteer with you can attest to your character.
How to Ask for A Reference
The people on your list are ones you hold in high esteem, so asking them for a reference can be intimidating. Your relationship with the person will dictate the best way to ask. It may be best to contact college professors or clients through a letter or email so they have time to think about your request. Let them know whether you’re asking for a reference letter or if prospective employers will contact them directly.
It might feel more natural to ask for references from family friends and personal acquaintances over the phone or when you see them in person.
Be tactful when you make your request. Ask if they feel comfortable providing a reference for your job hunt. You can also ask if they have time in their schedule to write a reference letter or provide a reference over the phone.
Give the person plenty of time to respond. Make it easier to write the letter or respond to inquiries by letting them know what job you’re applying for and what skills that position requires.
Be Sure to Follow Up
After someone provides you with a character reference, follow up with a thank you note. Sit down and create a handwritten message that tells them how much you appreciate them taking the time to help you in your employment search.