How to Ask for a Job Reference

If you’re applying for a job, it’s likely you’ll need a reference. It’s a good idea to get references lined up before you start a job search so that you’ll have a list of people who can recommend you ready to share with prospective employers. Asking for a reference can be an intimidating process. You usually have to reach out to former colleagues. This means contacting people you may not have spoken to in a while and asking them to take time out of their schedule to remember your attributes and speak about them with your potential employers. Here are a few tips for asking for your next reference.

Who to Ask

Former co-workers, managers can all serve as references. Recent graduates can even use professors or volunteer supervisors as references as well. If you have any connections within the company you’re applying to who you think would be able to speak to your abilities, then you should certainly ask if they would be willing to stand as one of your references. Conversely, it is usually a good idea to stay away from personal references, such as friends or family, unless the employer specifically asks for them.

The person giving you a reference may need to write a letter, fill out a questionnaire, respond to an email, or speak to someone from human resources on the phone. If the person doesn’t know you well, it’ll show. A strong endorsement from the right reference can convince an employer that you have the right skills and experience to excel in the job.

Give your References a Heads-Up

Don’t catch your references off-guard! Always choose references who have agreed to provide positive recommendations. The last thing you need when job searching is a negative reference, so be sure you are clear on how your references will endorse you. When asking, you can briefly mention specific qualities and skills of yours that you would like your reference to mention or how your past work experience relates to the new position. If you have any information about how the company will be reaching out to the recommender — phone, email, etc. — you can include those details as well. Here is a sample email to send to your reference:

Subject line: Reference request for [your name]

Dear [Potential reference’s name],

I am currently seeking employment as a [job title you’re applying for] and am hoping you will provide a reference for me. Having worked with you for several years at Company ABC, I believe you can provide potential employers with specific information about my skills that will improve my chances of getting the job.

Attached is my current resume. Please let me know if you need any additional information to act as a reference on my behalf. Thank you so much for considering my request.

Thanks again,
[Your name]
P: 555-555-5555
E: youremail@email.com

It’s that simple!

Thank Your Reference Writer

When you get a new job, don’t forget to send a thank-you note to the individuals who provided you with a reference. Not only will it let your reference giver know that they have helped you. It will also let them know how much you appreciated the job search help.

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