So you’ve created a sparkling CV that you reckon is a cut above the rest. You’ve got an interview and you reckon if you play your cards right, that you might even get the job. But wait – they’ve asked you to provide a CV character reference. Who do you turn to? What do you ask? How do you ask?

A CV character reference could be the difference between you landing the job and losing it. So check out our guide, so you know how to request and write one.

What is a CV character reference?

Potential employers will sometimes ask for a character reference as part of the job application process. It’s particularly common for roles that require you to be especially trustworthy (i.e. volunteer sports coach, roles working with children, or junior company positions). A CV character reference differs from a traditional job reference in that it’s not supposed to assess your work performance, but rather offer some insight into what you’re like as a person, and so it usually comes from someone who knows you well.

When you might need to provide one

For people who don’t have a great employment record, graduates, or those who have been out of work for a while, it’s often a good idea to add a character reference to your list of work references. This can help boost your chances of making a good impression with your potential employer.

Who makes a good CV character reference?

Sometimes finding the right person for a CV character reference can be hard. This is because the referrer will need to know you well, but not too well as the employer may suspect a forgery/bias. Often, friends and family aren’t allowed, so other options include:

  • A teacher
  • A mentor
  • A volunteering colleague
  • A previous manager

It may sound obvious, but make sure the reference doesn’t paint you in a bad light! Bad CV character references can ruin your chances of landing your dream job.

Writing and requesting a CV character reference

In some cases an employer may ask for the contact details of someone who is a suitable character reference, and that person may just send the CV character reference directly back to them. In other cases, you might have to reach out to someone yourself and request one.  Here’s what to write in both cases.

If you have to provide a character reference for someone…

Don’t panic – you can follow a template! Remember also that you’re not legally obliged to provide anything. And if you don’t have anything positive to say about the person, consider asking them to find someone else.  If you do fancy writing something though, a format like the one below (from Total Jobs) is a good place to start.

Dear sir/madam [use their name if you have it]

I can confirm that I have known [name of person you’re refereeing for] for [how long].

[Explain how you know them] E.g. I have worked with [XXXX] in the past and found them to be a very hard-working colleague. (s)he is highly organised, has great communication skills and I have always been very impressed with the way that (s)he has approached work.

I highly recommend [name] for any job in your company and I’m sure that (s)he will do a great job. (s)he would be a great asset for any business.

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me for more details.

Yours faithfully [sincerely if you addressed them by name]

[Your name]“

If you need to request a reference…

In the case that you need to reach out directly to someone for a CV character reference, an email/letter like the one below would work well.

Hi [first name]

How are you? I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch – we worked together previously [on a volunteer project]. I’m currently applying for a new role and have been asked to provide some character reference and I was hoping you could help me out with one. I’d really appreciate it.

If that’s ok with you, could you mind providing a number and email address that [potential employer] could contact you on at a later date? They will be calling from [name of company] and they will ask for a few details on where you know me from and my character.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

It’s super important to give off the best impression possible to a potential employer, especially early on in a career. A  CV character reference from someone you know well, or who can sing your praises, can make all the difference, so make sure you’re prepared and have someone to help you land that job.

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