How to Withdraw a Character Reference
You never know how much of an impact a character reference letter is going to have. You should always make sure that you feel completely comfortable and that you're 100% honest whenever you provide a reference letter.
Even if you're careful, though, sometimes you'll find that you didn't have all the information until after your submission. If you need to withdraw a reference, there are some things to think about.
Firstly, the only really effective time to withdraw a reference letter is before the letter has reached its intended audience. Once a decision has been made one way or the other, a withdrawal won't matter very much.
If you need to withdraw a reference from a court case, you should discuss the issue with a lawyer first. If you give the impression that you were lying in your reference, that could be considered perjury, and you could get in a lot of trouble for it. Contact your lawyer or the lawyer of the person whom you referenced and explain that new behavior has made you view this person differently. If a sentence has already been passed and the case is closed, don't bother trying to withdraw the reference. References can only be used one time (so it won't be considered again if the person ends up being a repeat offender), and redacting public court statements after the fact isn't legal in many states.
For the most, though, character references have limited influence on a person's prospects. Employers and recruiters will use a reference as confirmation of the applicant's abilities, social skills, and overall character. Once an applicant has succeeded in receiving citizenship, leniency, a scholarship, housing, or jobs, their behavior will be evaluated within the parameters of their new position. Your reference won't have a lot of weight once the decision has been made.
There are a few exceptions. You may choose to withdraw a character reference letter that was written to help someone gain employment or housing. This isn't a bad idea, because those letters can be used during evaluation periods further down the line. If you withdraw a character reference, don't add negative comments. Simply inform the employer or HR that you'd like to withdraw the reference. If asked, say that there was information you didn't have at the time that has caused you to reconsider the validity of the reference. If you add negative, insulting, or slanderous statements, you could be sued for defamation. Withdrawing your reference will be a clear enough signal without you saying anything else.
Index of Character Reference Letter Examples