Writing a Character Reference Letter for a Friend [with Sample]

When writing a character reference letter for a friend, it helps to have a clear understanding of what a letter of reference is, how it should be constructed and what should be included. 

A letter of reference is usually written to recommend an individual for a particular position based on their skills and achievements and your personal observation of such skills. 

It should be constructed in a way that is professional and serious, meaning grammar and spelling count. Any obvious errors will diminish the intended impact of your character reference letter.

Know The Specific Purpose Of The Letter

Before writing a letter of reference, have an idea of who will be reading it. A letter of reference should support the points your friend already included on their application and accompanying cover letter. You should also know the exact purpose of the letter. 

A letter of reference is typically included under the following circumstances:

  • Following a job offer before a contract is signed
  • Student applying for an academic course
  • Student applying for academic funding
  • As an enhancement to a resume to provide testimonials conveying positive qualities
  • Prospective tenants to show desirable characteristics

Preparing To Write A Letter Of Reference

Ideally, you should know the candidate (the person you are writing the letter of reference for) fairly well to write an effective letter of reference. You certainly don’t want to lie or fudge the truth. 

Speak about what you know of the person. If, for instance, you’re not really sure of their financial status, focus on other positive aspects of their character.

Structure Of A Letter Of Reference

The structure of a letter of reference depends on the purpose of the letter. However, there are certain common elements any such letter of reference should include. 

Use the business letter format with the recipient’s name and address followed by a salutation, usually “Dear” followed by the name of the recipient. If you do not know who the recipient is, a general “to whom it may concern” is fine. 

The basic structure of a letter of reference should include:

• A brief introduction of who you are and how you know the candidate where you briefly state your relationship with the candidate and any applicable qualifications you have such as being their former co-worker or having taught that individual in class.

• A paragraph confirming any facts you know about the candidate. If it’s a job reference letter, take a look at their cover letter and resume and base your assessment on qualities mentioned in those documents.

• A list of that individuals starting and ending salary, the basic job duties performed and the nature of their work if you’re an employer providing a letter of reference for a workplace friend.

• A list of that individual’s academic performance and grades along with your assessment of their performance in class or while interning for you if you’re writing from an academic perspective.

• Discuss your personal opinion of the candidate’s qualifications. This is where you can honestly say that you would hire the person or that they were a good student.

• Identify a few specific examples to highlight your points along with desirable characteristics. Add some details your friends would like you to include as long as you can honestly agree with them.

• Close on a positive note. Indicate if the recipient may contact you for any additional information or follow-up questions they may have. If so, include your contact info.

Sample Character Reference Letter For A Friend

Jane Smith
XYZ Corporation
999 Park Avenue
New York City, NY 10460

Dear Ms. Smith,

I have known John Bryant for 15 years. We worked together for six years at Smith & Jones before he left to return to school to earn a master’s degree in business. We also became friends outside of work on a casual level.

During the time I have known Mr. Bryant, he has been honest and trustworthy. He is always willing to go above and beyond what is expected of him. He is respectful of his superiors and gets along well with his co-workers.

I recall several occasions when Mr. Bryant would stay late to complete a project that had a deadline. During the time we worked together, he was often given additional responsibilities and assumed a leadership role while encouraging others on his team.

If any additional information is required concerning my association with Mr. Bryant, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Bob Jones

1500 Fifth Avenue
New York City, NY 10460
Email: BJones@Xmail.com

Suggestion: Take a moment to read your letter of reference out loud to fine-tune the flow of the letter. Give your friend a chance to have some input. However, remember everything in the letter needs to an accurate reflection of your friend’s character and qualifications you can personally verify.