A personal reference is a reference provided by someone who knows you personally, as opposed to a professional or academic reference.
Personal references are often used to confirm things about your character and your personal history, rather than your work history or qualifications. They can be useful for employers because they can give them a more well-rounded picture of the person they’re considering hiring.
If you’ve been asked to find a personal reference, consider asking a friend, neighbor, or family member who can attest to your character.
Professional vs Personal References
An employer will usually ask for both professional and personal references when they are considering you for a position. Each type of reference will reveal different parts of your personality to your potential employer.
Here is the difference between professional and personal references:
- Professional references are people who can attest to your work ethic and qualifications.
- Personal references are people who can speak to your character.
Because a professional reference needs to be able to attest to your work in a professional setting, they need to be someone you have worked with. Preferably, it will be a former boss or line manager.
Professional references need to speak more holistically about your character. So, they may have worked with you in a professional setting but they more often just know you outside of a professional setting.
Examples of People who can Provide a Personal Reference
- Longtime Friends
- People you Volunteered With
- A Police Officer or Firefighter you Know
- A Mentor
- A Teacher or Nurse you Know
- A Businessperson you Know
- Family Friends
- A Religious Leader
- A Sports Coach
- A Youth Group Leader
- Your Doctor
- A Neighbor
- Your Landlord
- A Friend’s Parents
What to Include in a Personal Reference
If you have been asked to provide a personal reference, consider whether you can truly vouch for that person’s character. If so, then you might consider including some of the following details.
How Long you have Known the Person – The employer will want to know how long you have known the person, as the longevity of a relationship can be a good indicator that the person can sustain positive relationships. It also adds credibility to your assessment of the person.
How you Know the Person – This is important because it will help the potential employer understand whether you’re a qualified reference. For example, if you only know them as a casual acquaintance, your reference might not hold as much weight.
An Honest Assessment of their Personality – Generally, I only agree to give a personal reference if I can honestly attest to the person’s values and integrity. If you can’t be honest in your praise, consider passing up the opportunity to act as a personal reference.
Examples of the Person’s character in Action – The person asking for the reference would greatly appreciate you including an example of a time when the person demonstrated their character. Furthermore, it can come across as a genuine, high-quality, and thoughtful reference that the future employer would appreciate.
Examples of Personal References
Below are 25 Personal Reference Samples.
- “Carl is a patient man who is always willing to lend a listening ear. I’ve known him for seven years, and in that time he has never once lost his temper or raised his voice in anger. He is the preacher at my church, and he has a way of making even the most complex theological concepts easy to understand.
- “Jordan has been the janitor at my workplace for 18 months. He is always looking for new ways to get to know people around the workplace, and his passion for helping others is evident in everything he does. I highly recommend Carl for any position he may be interested in; he is sure to be an asset to any team. Thank you for taking the time to consider him.”
- “It is with pleasure that I write this letter of reference for Ahmed. I have known him for 12 years, and he is a family friend. In that time, I have always been impressed by his work ethic. He is a hard worker who is always willing to go the extra mile. Ahmed is also a very reliable person.”
- “Gemma is a former colleague of mine. We have known each other for 3 years. The one thing I am most impressed by with Gemma is that she is always on time and takes great care to do things right the first time. This attention to detail has served her well in her personal life and career. Gemma would be an excellent addition to any team, and I highly recommend her.”
- “I have known Jessica for over 10 years. We went to college together and have been good friends since then. I know her to be an honest, reliable, and trustworthy person.”
- “I have had the pleasure of knowing Charlie for two years, during which time we have served together as volunteer firefighters. In that capacity, I have seen firsthand Charlie’s compassion for others. He is always quick to lend a hand, whether it’s helping a fellow firefighter with an equipment issue or providing comfort to a family who has lost their home in a fire. Charlie’s calm demeanor and willingness to help are truly admirable.”
- “I have known John for 5 years as he is my neighbor. He is always willing to help me out and is always friendly and polite. I know him to be an honest and upstanding person.”
- “I have known Sarah for 3 years as she is my daughter’s best friend. I have seen her interact with my daughter and other children and she is always kind, patient, and helpful. I know her to be a responsible and caring person.”
- “I have known Alex for 2 years as he is my son’s baseball coach. He is always positive and encouraging, and my son has really benefited from his coaching. I know him to be a responsible and reliable person.”
- “I have known Jane for 1 year as she is a member of my book club. She is always well-informed and has interesting insights to share. I know her to be an intelligent and articulate person.”
- “I have known Mike for 1 year as he is the manager of my local gym. He is always friendly and helpful, and I know him to be a reliable and trustworthy person.”
- “I very rarely give personal references, but I will make an exception for Liz. She is one of the kindest people I know. People always underestimate her, but I know who she really is – a person with incredible determination and an uncanny ability to beat the odds to acheive her absolute best.”
- “I first met Michelle when she was dogsitting for us when we travelled to Costa Rica. She took great care for our animals, for which we will always be grateful. I’d more than happily have her do it for us again. I know her to be very trustworthy and reliable.”
- “I have known Caroline for 2 weeks as she is the new nanny for my children. She is always cheerful and patient, and I know her to be a responsible and reliable person.”
- “Thomas is my boss and I have worked with him for the past two years. He is always fair and reasonable, and I know him to be a honest and upstanding person.”
- “I have known Karen for 15 years as she is my best friend’s mom. She is always friendly and helpful, and I know her to be a responsible and caring person.”
- “I have known Ryan for 4 years as he is my brother’s best friend. I have seen him interact with my brother and other people, and he is always polite and respectful. I know him to be a responsible and reliable person.”
- “I have known Stephanie for 3 years as she is a member of my church. She is always willing to help out and is always friendly and polite. I know her to be an honest and upstanding person.”
- “I have known Nathan for 2 years as he is my neighbor. He is always willing to help me out and is always friendly and polite. I know him to be a honest and upstanding person.”
- “I have known Emma for 1 year as she is my daughter’s best friend. I have seen her interact with my daughter and other children and she is always kind, patient, and helpful. Whenever she comes over for dinner, she is always polite and respectful. I know her to be a responsible and caring person.”
- “I have known Ann for 3 years as she is my Pilates instructor. She is always upbeat and positive, and I know her to be a responsible and reliable person.”
- “I have known Lisa for 1 year as she is my daughter’s dance instructor. She is always patient and encouraging, and I know her to be a kind and caring person.”
- “I have known Julie for 2 weeks as she has been working with me at the Parents and Teachers committee. She has only been with us for a short time, but she has already made a great impression. She is always well-informed and has interesting insights to share. I know her to be an intelligent and articulate person.”
- “I have known Jacinta for four years through competitive sports, and in that time she has consistently proven herself to be a highly self-motivated individual. Whether it is training for competition or simply striving to improve her personal best, Jacinta is always putting in the extra effort to reach her goals.”
- “Sam and I are swim partners. He is truly dedicated to swimming and this dedication has helped him to achieve great things in his swimming career, and I have no doubt that it will continue to serve him well in whatever endeavours he pursues in the future. I am confident that Sam will be an excellent addition to any team or organisation, and I wholeheartedly recommend him.”
As you can see, personal references can come from a variety of people who know you in different ways. The important thing is that they can attest to your character and speak to your positive qualities.
Personal references are people who can attest to your character, rather than your work history or qualifications. They can be useful for employers because they can give them a more well-rounded picture of the person and their behaviors and attitude.
When asking someone to be your personal reference, make sure to give them a heads up so they know what to expect. And, be sure to thank them afterward! They have done you a great favor.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.