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How to Ask for a Professional Reference (with Examples)

You’re movin’ on up, movin’ on out

Working women

Image courtesy of Gradikaa Aggi

You’ve buffed your resume and you’re ready to take the next step in your career. Once you’ve made the decision to find a new job, it’s time to start thinking about who could serve as a professional reference. 

What is a reference?

A professional reference vouches for your experience, abilities, and work ethic. A potential employer will call or email your references to verify your relationship and to ask them questions about you as a professional.

Whom should I ask to be a reference?

A reference might be a manager, mentor, coworker, or client that you’ve built a strong relationship with. If you’re still in school or a recent graduate, this might be a professor or internship sponsor. Choose someone who can offer real insight into your skills and experience.

It shouldn’t be anyone you’re related to or someone you’ve had a bad professional or academic relationship with (obviously).

Can I ask my current boss to be my reference?

If you want them to know you’re looking for a new job, go for it. If you want to keep your job search quiet for now, ask a discreet coworker or former manager who knows you well. 

How to ask for a reference

Treat this request as you would any professional correspondence. Keep it short and polite, mention anything specific skills you want them to talk about, and give them some information on the jobs you’re applying to. And if you’re keeping your job search on the down low, tell them.

Finally, make sure they have the chance to refuse if they don’t feel comfortable supporting your application.

If they say yes, confirm their contact information (phone and email) and be sure to give them a heads up the moment you know someone will be reaching out.

If they say no, simply thank them for their time and wish them well. No hard feelings, move on.

How to ask for a reference via email 

Hi Termeh,

I hope you’re well. As you may know, I’m looking for a new job, and I’m writing to ask if you’d be willing to serve as a reference for me.

I’m applying for a position as a social media marketer at GHC Limited, where I’d be heading up their social media team. This includes redefining their target audience—a skill of mine I feel you could vouch for.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working at KNC Industries within the social media team, and think you would be able to offer some great insight into my skills. I found working with you on the Instagram rebrand project an enlightening experience.

I’ve included the job description and an updated copy of my resume. Could you let me know if you’re available to be a reference for me?

Also, I’m not talking publicly about my job search. Could you keep this information confidential?

Best wishes,

Jane
202.555.0143

Read more: How to Write an Email Like the Professional You Are

How to ask for a reference over the phone or in person

Remember, on the phone you’re having a conversation. Let the discussion flow naturally.

Hi Salma, it’s Jane Martin. How are you today?

I’m calling to ask a favor of you. I’m on the job hunt, and was wondering if you’d be open to being a reference for me.

I’m applying for jobs in social media marketing, one of them at GHC Limited, where I’d be leading their social media marketing team. I feel like you could speak to my ability to manage projects and budget successfully.

Does this sound like something you’d be comfortable with? If not, I completely understand. I just want to ensure my application is as strong as possible. 

If you’d like some time to think about this, just let me know. I’m happy to give you a call in a day or two to discuss this again.

Read more: How to Respond to: May We Contact This Employer?

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By Katie Nicholls

Contributor

Katie Nicholls is a freelance content writer that loves to make content shine. She finds fun in video gaming, traveling, and riding her motorcycle, and firmly believes that any problem can be solved with a stint playing Stardew Valley or by a long adventure. 

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