Personal and Professional Recommendations: What’s the Difference? Know the importance of both personal and professional recommendations in your career search

Recommendation letters and references are a significant step in the application, selection and onboarding processes. They let the hiring managers verify information submitted on the resume and also speak to an applicant’s overall professional qualities. A recommendation letter can reveal how others felt about a candidate’s job performance and any problems that may have occurred at previous jobs. Recommendation letters can be written in advance, but many employers prefer a list of contact information that includes both personal and professional recommenders.

What are personal recommendations?

While not often required, personal recommendations can be useful to hiring managers as character references for applicants who are seeking their first professional opportunity. This may include current students, recent high school or college graduates, individuals who have not worked for a period of time, or those changing career fields.

Personal recommendations are provided by someone who knows you in a personal capacity; such as a business contact, customer or client, instructor, professor, or neighbor. These contacts offer information about your character, integrity, and dependability.

What are professional recommendations?

Professional recommendations are used by applicants who have previous experience in a field related to the opportunity they are applying to. Professional recommendations provide evidence to hiring mangers regarding an applicant’s knowledge, work ethic, and performance in a previous experience. It is acceptable to have written letters of performance, but many employers want to correspond directly with the contact and ask questions regarding the applicant’s experience in order to accurately tailor the questions toward their specific needs or environment. Professional recommendations speak to your specific performance on the job and should be from current or former employers. Supervisory contacts as well as co-workers can provide professional recommendations.

Be certain that your contact list includes individuals that can speak directly about your experience. Employers don’t want to speak to the president of the company unless he or she can speak directly about your experience and professional character. It is also important to inform your recommenders that they may be contacted as part of the interview process. Let them know the organization and specific opportunity you are applying to.