The Differences between Character Reference & Employment Reference

References can be written and produced in various ways for a job application. As part of organisations’ hiring processes, two of the most frequently used types are employment references and character reference letters.

These two types of references form a vital component of a company’s background check process, but they have some crucial differences. This guide explains what they are and how organisations can use them to accurately and efficiently evaluate a candidate, thereby helping them make more informed and intelligent hiring decisions.

What is a Character Reference?

A character reference is a personal reference that delves into the candidate’s personality without explicitly looking at their work style. A character letter isn’t always as revealing as an employment reference but can unveil related work experience. The person in question can list family members, friends or associates as personal character references, i.e. someone the applicant is connected to on a personal level, like family, friends or teammates.

What is an Employment Reference?

Employment references should discuss a candidate’s work and professional performance. The elements discussed in this reference include a candidate’s punctuality, experience, teamwork, work ethic and history. This will give an employer more of an insight into what the candidate is like when working.

Differences between Personal and Professional Employment References

Organisations tend to specify whether they conduct professional employment or character and personality references on job advertisements. If they don’t indicate which one they conduct (if at all), it’s wise for you to provide professional references. Most of the time, writing a character reference is only required if the organisation requests one post-interview. 

The key differences between professional and personal references are below:

  • Professional references are people who have worked closely with you for six months or more, within the last seven years. This could be a colleague, supervisor or line manager, or even a client. The reputable professional employment references can speak highly of your habits, performance, work ethic and much more so that your prospective employer can be convinced of your suitability. 
  • Personal references aren’t people you’ve worked with but people who can describe your values, character and integrity. You can decide personal character references from all walks of life, including time spent as friends, at school or volunteering. To avoid any perception of bias, it’s wise to avoid putting family members or partners as references. Instead, put people who you’ve known for a while and can rely on, who can vouch for your good qualities.

Why do Businesses Request Character and Personality References?

Businesses request personal and employment references to develop a more comprehensive understanding of their candidates. In today’s competitive job market, organisations need to ensure they make more efficient and effective decisions on hires, and do so quickly and straightforwardly.

Companies will typically request a reference for the following reasons:

  • To assess your strengths and weaknesses when you work, which can assist in their  understanding of how you perform.
  • To determine whether your style of work would suit the vacancy.
  • To confirm your integrity, ethics, values and character.
  • To understand your interactions with your colleagues, superiors and clients, and by extension, how you’d fit into the company culture.
  • To confirm your employment history. In some cases, a glance at your CV may not be sufficient, and an employer may wish to speak with a former managing director or human resources department to confirm your employment dates, role and responsibilities. Employment history checks may also form a part of an organisations’ broader background screening process for positions in, for example, law enforcement or security.

Advice for Employers

In job interviews, applicants can make bold claims about their personal and professional life. Background checks on an applicant’s employment and education history can go a long way, and references can be the gateway to confirming whether a candidate is a good fit for the position advertised. 

Remember that you are primarily hiring an employee and colleague. First and foremost, that person is there to work for (and with) you, and while they could have a sense of humour and a friendly personality, you need to ensure this isn’t going to detract from the work environment.

This is why it can often be challenging to conduct background screening checks objectively and why employers regularly turn to a third-party background check company. Luckily, Eurocom CI is that impartial, experienced and productive agency that can help.

Pre-Employment Screening Solutions

At Eurocom CI, we provide comprehensive and structured background check packages for our clients. Based on your industry standards, requirements and legal obligations, we have a background screening package that can suit your organisation, covering anything from DBS criminal record checks to AML checks and credit checks in one complete solution and system.

If you require something more bespoke, speak to us today.