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Character Reference Letter

Is a character reference letter a relic of the past for today's job seeker?

Do hiring managers even bother to read them? Honestly...most career experts advise against them. But I'm not one of them.

If you have an unblemished career history, an impressive track record of accomplishments, and plenty of runway left in your career, you don't need to bother with one.

However...under certain circumstances, a well written, well timed, reference letter could influence a hiring manager to bring you in for an interview, or make you a job offer if they are on the fence about you.

5 Problems a Character Reference Letter Might Smooth Over

  1. You are unemployed, but lost your job because of layoffs and downsizing, or a business closure. In other words, something beyond your control...not because of poor job performance.

    Whenever job seekers are unemployed, prospective employers will often assume you are flawed in some way.

    A glowing personal reference letter from your former boss extolling your qualities and strengths may offset the negatives raised by your unemployment status.

  2. You sense your job interview didn't go as well as you expected. After your interview, send your personal reference letter along with your thank you letter.
  3. You hang up after a telephone interview and feel things just went OK, but could have gone better. Now you are worried you won't be invited in for an on-site interview.
  4. You discover you were one of the first candidates interviewed for a position, but it could take another 3-4 weeks before all the candidates are interviewed and an offer extended.

    A well timed personal reference letter could rekindle positive memories of your interview and tip the scales in your favor.

    It also gives you a trump card to play when nothing seems to be happening, or the hiring process is simply taking too long.

  5. You are one of 2-3 candidates invited back for a second round of interviews. After your second job interview, send your personal reference letter along with your thank you letter.

Pearl of Wisdom: If you say something positive about yourself to a hiring authority, it could very well impress them. But if another influential person says something positive about you, it carries a lot more weight.

6 Character Reference Letter Do's and Don'ts

  1. Avoid asking for letters from company employees or supervisors while you are still working there. It's too risky for you and your sources. You could even get fired if a higher-up finds out about it.
  2. You only need to request one or two letters.
  3. If you get 1 or 2 weak personal reference letters, just don't use them. Thank your references and work on getting 1 or 2 better ones.
  4. The most influential letters are from people ranked as follows:
    • Your most recent supervisor
    • Supervisor from the recent past (5 years or less)
    • Key customer
    • Key supplier or vendor
    • Co-worker of equal rank, especially from another department
  5. Make your request for a reference letter over the phone so you can remind them of 1 or 2 accomplishments.
  6. Here are 3 sample reference letters.

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