What NOT to Include in a Character Reference
Character references seem like they should be easy enough. You just highlight the candidate's positive qualities and show why they're qualified for a position or entry into a school. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things you want to avoid when writing your reference letter in order to make it convincing and credible:
- Weaknesses. This is the number one thing to avoid for a reason. While you might think you're showing good faith by painting a balanced picture of the candidate, the truth is that your reader is only expecting you to say good things. If you say bad things without any prompting, it makes it seem like you consider those weaknesses to be prominent and important. Stick to the positive qualities only.
- Too much about yourself. It is important to present yourself with some amount of detail so that the reader knows what sort of credibility and relevance you have to the candidate. But the point of this letter is not you and your accomplishments—it's the candidate. Therefore, stick to what's important about yourself within the confines of this particular letter. Your name, profession, and relationship to the candidate should probably all come up. How long you've known them and in what capacity is important. If you're speaking about the candidate's professional acumen or the importance of their work, it may be prudent to talk about what role you play in that profession and some of your own work. In any other situation, though, your work and accomplishments are not important. You don't need to make yourself into a big deal to impress the reader. Knowing your position in the community or the profession should be enough for them. You should be focused on building up the candidate.
- Aggressive opinions. It's fine to state why you think a candidate would be good for a position, but it's important to keep it mild. "I think Jared would make a great customer service representative because he's infectiously cheerful and friendly to everyone he meets" is a great place for such an opinion, especially because it's backed up by your experience with the candidate. The wrong side of that would be, "You should hire Jared because he's the best at customer service." Not only is "best" a very subjective opinion, but you have no concrete examples and you've ordered the reader to do something.
- Irrelevant qualities. It might be impressive that your candidate can eat 30 hot wings, or beat Minesweeper in less than a minute, or traveled to Indonesia last year. But unless you can find a way to relate it to relevant, positive qualities that make the candidate suited for the applied position, leave it out.
Index of Character Reference Letter Examples