Character Reference Request Etiquette
There are a lot of unspoken rules surrounding character references. While it can be difficult to think through every foreseeable issue when asking for a reference, there are some basic rules one can follow:
- Ask in advance. Whether you need a reference for a court date, immigration assistance, a job, or school admission, the best thing you can do for yourself and your reference is to give them time to prepare. It will allow them to collect their thoughts about you and put together something thorough and meaningful. You'll also be catching them before they schedule too many things. A lot of supervisors and professors only take on so many reference letters at a time.
- Pick someone relevant. Make sure you choose someone who is qualified to speak to the qualities and accomplishments you're trying to get across. Don't pick someone who looks good but doesn't know you. On the flipside, if you're applying to school or a job, don't ask a family member or a friend who doesn't know you in a professional capacity.
- Explain what, exactly, you're trying to do. Don't just tell your reference that you're applying to school-tell them that you're trying to get into medical school to become an OB-GYN. Specificity is important, because it allows your reference to focus on qualities about you that are relevant to what you're trying to accomplish.
- Update your reference frequently. If you ask someone to write a character reference for your DUI court date, make sure you keep them apprised of your progress. If you've started or completed rehab, let them know. If you join a community outreach program, that's something they can point to with regards to your progress.
- Be grateful. No matter the outcome, make sure you thank your references individually and specifically. Being your reference has taken up some of their time and mental energy. You can send an email, call them, or send something more personal, like a handwritten letter or a homemade treat.
Index of Character Reference Letter Examples