A personal reference letter is different from a typical reference letter in that the former is from a person who knows the applicant personally rather than professionally. A personal reference letter can be used in job hunting, focusing the qualities that makes the candidate ideal for the target position, usually for professional employment. Another difference is that a personal reference letter has a more personal and less formal tone than a typical reference letter, such as one from a former employer or professional colleague. Given these differences, special consideration should be taken when preparing or asking for a personal letter of recommendation.
Things You Should Know About a Personal Reference Letter
When to write: A personal letter of recommendation can be used in situations where information is sought about the applicant's character, rather than professional qualifications. For example, a volunteer organization, club, or private society is probably already aware of the applicant's professional qualifications, but seeks more information as to the individual's personality and character.
Principles to follow: When writing a personal reference letter, there are some principles you may need to follow:
One of the most important guidelines to follow is try to write the letter positively. Do not write anything negative about the individual. If you do not feel comfortable doing so, do not agree to write the letter and tell the person who ask you for the letter immediately.
If you need a personal reference letter, when asking a person to write the letter for you, ask them if they would like to see a personal reference letter sample. It might sound odd or , but writing personal reference letter is not always easy, especially for those who are not accustomed to writing such letters. Even if it is not needed, the referee (the person writing the letter) will appreciate the offer.
If the letter is written due to an individual's court proceeding, it could potentially require the referee to appear in court and testify as a character witness. When asking someone to write a personal letter of recommendation for you that will be used in Court, be sure to confirm the referee will be comfortable and available to testify in Court, if requested by the Judge.
Format of Personal Reference Letter
As a general rule of thumb, a personal reference letter should have three sections: the opening, the body, and the closing.
The opening is usually a few sentences long paragraph that explains the referee itself and how the referee knows the individual being written about.
The body contains the substantive portions of the letter, explaining specific experiences, personality traits, qualifications, etc. that represent the subject's positive qualities and why they are being recommended for a given position. Remember, the more specific the positive praises, the more persuasive the letter will be.
The closing is the final paragraph of the letter that the writer's recommendation of the individual. Note that when writing a personal reference letter for an employment position, it is usually best to close with a recommendation that emphasizes the individual's personal traits or the person's fit for the employment position. If you want to reuse the letter, close the letter with emphasizing the individual’s personal traits.
Samples of Personal Reference Letter
Sample 1: Personal reference letter for scholarship
Dear [Insert Name Here]:
I am writing this letter to strongly recommend [Candidate's Name] for your Jackson Smith Science and Engineering Scholarship. [Candidate's Name] has been a student of mine for two years, taking my Physical Science and Advanced Placement Physics classes where he got an A in both classes and expressed tremendous enthusiasm in science. For example, [Candidate's Name] has participated in the school's science fair all four years while in high school (and won three of those years) and is an officer in both the school’s Robotics Club and Rocketry Club.
As the head of this school’s science department, I have seen [Candidate's Name] work hard to learn science and engineering concepts, obtain good grades, and use every opportunity to learn more about science and engineering. I believe that [Candidate's Name] is well deserving of this scholarship and will give him the opportunity to showcase his enthusiasm in science and achieve his goal of working for NASA or JPL.
If you would like additional information or have any questions for me, feel free to contact me.
Sample 2: Personal reference letter from a neighbor
To Whom It May Concern,
I am honored and delighted to write this personal reference letter for [Candidate's Name]. [Candidate's Name] and my daughter are close friends and attend the same school and church.
I have known [Candidate's Name] personally for three years during which I have learned of his work ethic and enthusiasm. For example, when our church was trying to raise money for a mission trip, [Candidate's Name] not only volunteered to lead the fundraising programs, but he attended each one including four-hour car washing and bake sale events that took place on the weekends. [Candidate's Name] gave up his free time (without sacrificing his schoolwork, mind you) to a cause he believed in.
And last summer, when I hired [Candidate's Name] to paint my garage, I noticed that the paint in certain areas did not adhere properly to the wood siding due to my failure to properly sand and remove the old paint. I brought this to [Candidate's Name]'s attention and explained I would pay him for the extra work. He adamantly refused additional payment, stating he was responsible for getting it right and would not accept additional payment to make it right, even though I was the reason he had to do extra work.
I strongly recommend [Candidate's Name] for the position of [Insert position here] due to his enthusiasm, work ethic, and the pride he takes in his work.
Sample 3: Personal reference letter from a business acquaintance
To Whom It May Concern:
I am pleased to write this letter for [Candidate's Name] and have known her for the last 10 years where she has been an employee in my landscaping business.
[Candidate's Name] is an enthusiastic, punctual, and trustworthy individual. For example, she has never been late to any job at a customer’s home or business and on at least two occasions, she returned overpayment to a customer without prompting from either one of her superiors at work or the customer.
[Candidate's Name] has also helped out with administrative tasks in the office without complaint, and is always enthusiastic to contribute to the business. When a team member called in sick last season, [Candidate's Name] volunteered to fill in, even though she had the day off.
I am confident that I can recommend [Candidate's Name] for this employment position. I know she will contribute to your organization, just as she has with my business. If you would like for additional information about [Candidate's Name], feel free to contact me.
- Do not ask for personal reference letter from superiors or colleagues while still working for them. At best, it is impolite. At worst, it can get you fired.
- Unless otherwise required, only one or two personal reference letters should be submitted for a given position.
- If the letters you have requested are not as strong as you would like, do not hesitate to find individuals who can write stronger ones.
- Generally speaking, the following is a list of potential sources of personal reference letters with the strongest ones listed first: most recent superior; a superior from the last few years, usually 5 years or less; significant customer; significant vendor; colleague of equal or higher rank.
- Make your request for a reference letter in real time, either by telephone or in person. That way, you can immediately remind them of some of your best qualities and answer any questions they may have.