Difference between a Personal and Professional Reference

Updated on January 19, 2017

Going to a job interview can be a very stressful experience. First, you need to bring an updated CV or resume that underlines your qualifications for the job. Secondly, you need to say the right things to show how well you would fit in. Finally, you need to have good references. And where do you get those? Keep reading to discover the difference between professional and personal references and how they help in securing your job.

Descriptions

Personal
Interviewer checking the references of a candidate

A personal reference is also known as a “character reference.” It can be drafted by any person who can vouch for your character and who can give the employer insight into your personality. The personal reference helps the interviewer get an idea of how you work with other members of a team and how you interact with other people – something they can’t learn from the interview itself.

Also, the type of person writing your reference matters. For example, if it is a neighbor, the employer will know you take interest in your community. A personal reference can come from a friend, family member, coach, community leader, and many others.

When asking for such a recommendation, make sure to mention what kind of job it is. Also, check to see if the person you are using as a reference is aware of the skills they have to underline.

A professional reference must come from someone you have worked with. It gives the employer an idea of how you are as an employee or colleague. This type of document can weigh more when it comes from people who can assess your work best. This means a manager or a client are usually the best options. This type of reference can cover everything from work ethics to teamwork, depending on what is important to the company.

There is also the case where another professional will include your downsides as well, so that future employers will know what they must work on in their relationship with you. This is another reason why many interviewers will ask for professional references.

Personal vs Professional Reference

So what is the difference between a personal and professional reference?

The personal reference can only vouch for character and can come from any person you know. On the other hand, only someone who has worked with you can give you a professional reference.

While both of them are important for a potential employer, the professional reference is more valuable. Having a manager or a client take the time to write about how good you are at a job means a lot in the eyes of any potential employer.

Also, a personal reference is good for a first job and understandable in the case of someone with no work experience. However, as you move forward in your career and you form relations, you should have such professional references.

Comparison Chart

Personal ReferenceProfessional Reference
Vouches for characterVouches for professional skills
Can be written by any acquaintanceMust be written by someone you worked with
Can be a good addition to any interviewCan help you a lot with your interview
Is acceptable when you are starting outCan be mandatory for higher positions
Coming from someone you know, it will be positiveComing from someone you worked with, it will be more objective